Mary's Place Bar


Cosmic Donkey

Although shrouded in mystery, the name, Cosmic Donkey, is actually a slang term for a "Zafu" meditation pillow. With an original and eclectic sense of fusion that appeals to all ages, Donkey weaves an intricate tapestry of traditional bluegrass, folk, jazz, and swing. This band always strives to create an original sound that ventures beyond the established boundaries of acoustic music.

The Band:

Christopher Strand, Mandolin

A working muralist and historic renovator, Chris began his musical pursuits at seventeen when he first picked up a guitar. It was four years later when he decided to turn his attention to the mandolin and bluegrass. Between 1997 and 2000 he performed with several acts including 4 Peace, The Got No Mountain Boys, and Pistol Pete's Acoustic Gypsies. Strand has organized and played numerous acoustic gigs and open stages across the country from Houston, TX to Louisville, KY and currently resides and works from the Dragon's Den Studios at 619 7th St. Rockford, IL.

Influences: Bill Monroe, Frank Zappa, Jaime Mainsfield, Sam Bush, and Johnny Statts.

Russel Piccirilli, Banjo

While most young musicians are drawn to the the rock star glamour that goes along with the guitar, Russ says he spontaneously picked up the banjo on a whim at eighteen. By the next year he was playing out regularly with Pistol Pete's Acoustic Gypsies and several other collaborative projects. In 2002 he formed Cosmic Donkey with Strand and Sadona and really began to flourish as a picker. Piccirilli currently lives and plays in Rockford, IL where he attends NIU in pursuit of a psychology degree.

Influences: Bela Fleck, Django Reinhardt, Jerry Garcia, David Grisman, and of course, Earl Scruggs.

Steve Kelly, Guitar

Not many guitar players can say they crafted their own instrument. Steve can. A working guitar builder, Kelly's obsession with the six string began at 14 with his first axe and a large dose of heavy metal. At twenty he formed his first real band, Motherload, and three years later was an integral part of the "Greatest Unknown Band in the Midwest," Outer Proportion. Aside from offering Steve his first chance to write his own music, playing with O.P. introduced him to the Mary's Place Open Stage, where he first met and played with the other members of Cosmic Donkey. Late in 2003 Steve was invited to join the Donkey on guitar, an opportunity Steve says, "[This] is by far the coolest musical experience I've had. Buckle up folks, this ass kicks!" Kelly currently works and resides in Rockford, IL and plays guitar for Cosmic Donkey, The Bizarro Beat Circus, and General Evil.

Influences: "Anything I've heard that didn't suck, and Django Reinhardt."

John Bocce,Contra Bass - Bocce was inspired to play the Contra Bass after a chance meeting with a disabled gypsy street performer, while on holiday in San Sebastian. After a 30 minute impromptu jam on the boardwalk John was invited to fill in for an ailing bass player at a full blown olde world wedding party. The troupe of wandering troubadours was so impressed with Bocce's performance they welcomed him into their "family" with a raucous celebration that very night. John spent the next month immersed in the gypsy performer's vagabond lifestyle, learning their music, magic and secrets. Upon returning to the United States Bocce resumed his work a day life and attempted to forget his time as a true bohemian, but the call of the gypsy life was too strong. He spent several months restlessly sitting in on various jam sessions until another chance encounter introduced him to a new band of gypsies, known as Cosmic Donkey. John was officially adopted into their family in January of 2005.

Influences: Art Blakey, Elvin Jones, Dannie Richmond, Sam Woodyard

Free MP3: Another Pint

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