Local Band, Manhassen, Strikes a Chord Its Homegrown Cover Band

Manhassen strikes a fun chord as a homegrown cover band.
Catch Manhassen on the patio at Floyd's Bar, Victoria, from 8:30 p.m.–12:30 a.m. June 30.

An engineer, an entrepreneur and a couple of account managers walk into a bar …

Since 2014, cover band Manhassen has performed at area venues. “[The name] started as a joke because we were a bunch of guys from a gym in Chanhassen, but then we were either too lazy to change it, or it started to grow on us,” says Derek Bush, lead vocals and guitar player. “At some point, it just became us.”

The band took shape after Bush (Chanhassen), lead guitar player Mitch Patrick (Chaska) and bass and keyboard player Mike Johander (Tonka Bay) met at Bring It Studios/CrossFit—Chanhassen. Bush invited some of the gym guys over to grill out at his house. “Mitch saw my guitars on the wall, picked one up and started shredding ... We played way, way too long that night,” says Bush They started getting together to “jam on acoustics here and there," and wrote a few original songs.

Johander, who had band experience and owned a music studio for a time, discovered Bush and Patrick were musicians. “We were floored that we’d all known each other but hadn’t talked about music.  Mike had all the gear for rehearsals—drum set, every instrument imaginable, sound board, recording tech, monitors and a gym in his basement that now also doubles as our rehearsal studio,” Bush says.

The guys performed during a CrossFit workout session. “It forced us to learn some songs.  Mike got Jordon Honeck (Maple Grove) to agree to be our drummer for the gym event,” Bush says. “We thought we’d learn 10 songs or so for a 30-45 minute set, and we ended up gelling so well and having so much fun we learned hours of music together.” The performance turned into a party that lasted over three hours.

The next performance was at the Chanhassen American Legion for Bush’s wife’s birthday. “It was a riot. The place was packed with about 200 of our best friends,” he says.  Another show followed at The Suburban, Excelsior. That evening’s success was measured in shot glasses—“They ran out of Fireball that night,” Bush says.

Since band members all have “day jobs” and families, gigs are limited to about six a year in places like Floyd’s Bar, Excelsior Brewing and The Suburban. They also performed at the Minneapolis Hotel for a corporate event. Laura Honeck (Maple Grove) plays percussion, and Britt Ringstrom (Excelsior) dips in with vocals from time to time.

“We have crazy friends, who look at our gigs as date night,” Bush says. Performances can draw nearly 150 friends and fellow gym-mates. “It’s like Six Degrees of Manhassen, where everyone has some connection in some way and that makes for a lot of fun,” he says. Patrick describes the typical audience member as, “married with 2.5 kids, owns a golden retriever, drives a minivan and lives in the wonderful communities in the Southwest Metro—but still remembers what it's like to rock out and relive the '90s via Pearl Jam and Foo Fighters’ greatest hits.”

“People are funny,” Bush says. “What they don’t know is that we are much more sober than them, usually, and can see absolutely everything that is going on in the bar even though we are performing.  We have a great view from the stage, watching everyone having fun and starting to kind of progress in their own way from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. is a riot.  It’s live theater for us.”  
Expect to hear a mix of “Metallica to the Backstreet Boys and basically everything in between,” Bush says. “And we put our own spin on stuff like Phil Collins (People love the lead up to the drum solo in Phil Collins’ In the Air Tonight.  Always a classic show moment), Lionel Richie and even, very respectfully, Prince.” He says, “Our collective goal is to play music guys like and the girls can dance to. We try to play to our strengths like driving guitar and fast drums, and our bass player is really good.”

Playing to strengths is the easy part. “It is very exposing to get up in front of a crowd and try your best to entertain them,” Bush says. “It can be a set-up for some intense criticism, especially in a bar scene, but the opposite has happened.” He goes on to say, “I think we are all pretty passionate people, although very different.  Fitness, music and family brought us together and, when you open yourself up to what life has to offer and to people with good energy, even if they are different from you, good things happen.”

For Patrick, playing guitar is deeply gratifying. “There is nothing that compares to playing live music and looking out in the crowd and seeing people genuinely connecting and in the moment with you,” he says. “Being in a band and playing live music is absolutely as fun as you would think it would be.”

“We are in this to have fun, bring joy to ourselves and our extended community and not take it too seriously, although we care deeply about being a good band,” Bush says. “We do it because we love it, and love our people, even if we are just a few jug heads from the gym.”
When Bush was a kid growing up on a Southwestern Minnesota farm, he listened to a lot of country music. Think the Highwaymen, John Anderson, Don Williams and Chris LeDoux. “Then I found Metallica, AC/DC, Guns N’ Roses, etc.,” he says. The lid was off. “Then it was the massive Nirvana and Pearl Jam thing,” he says. “Alice in Chains really moved me.  You have to take it in doses though.  The music and lyrics are so dark and gut-wrenching.  Gorgeous, but sad.” Like most passions, you date around before you find true love. “Then came Foo Fighters’ The Colour and the Shape, and that was what I felt like rock should be for me,” Bush says. “I have a bit of a Dave Grohl crush, and I don’t care who knows it.”

“My musical hero is Eddie Vedder,” Patrick says. “The lyrics, the melodies, the voice, the energy, the unique style and his genuine rock star image is to me as absolutely as good as it gets.”

When he was in high school, Patrick’s uncle gave him a copy of The Song Remains the Same (1976), a Led Zeppelin documentary. “Once I saw Jimmy Page in that video playing at Madison Square Garden, I knew I wanted to play guitar and, more specifically, play a Gibson Les Paul,” he says.