Band to rock out

The Burbank-bred band BlueLight takes seriously the saying, “The band that plays together, stays together.”

Two of the core members of the rock band, Michael Hastings and Dennis O’Donnell, are coming together for a fourth time to perform O’Donnell’s original songs on July 20 at the Starlight Bowl. They will open for California Transit Authority.

BlueLight adds a hometown feeling to the Starlight Bowl season, said Garth Nelson, former deputy director of Recreation Services for Burbank Park, Recreation and Community Services, who left the post Tuesday.

“It’s great to have some local entertainers sharing their talents in their hometown,” Nelson said.

Hastings, a former Burbank mayor and city councilman from 1986 to 1993, plays the drums. O’Donnell is the guitarist and singer/songwriter.

Hastings, O’Donnell and Art Repola started playing music together back in seventh and eighth grade in Burbank while attending St. Finbar School in Burbank, Hastings said.

Repola, the lead guitarist, is executive vice president for the Walt Disney Company in special effects. He is producing the Jonas Brothers movie along with Bruce Hendricks, another lead guitarist with the band, who is directing the movie.

Repola and Hendricks will not be joining the group this time because of the movie obligations, Hastings said.

“Alan Maginni is taking their place and he is a phenomenal musician,” Hastings said.

Regulars with the group are keyboard player and a singer/songwriter Baxter Robertson, who has played with Christie McVie of Fleetwood Mac fame, and bass player Kevin Chown, a touring musician who is also in high demand for studio work, Hastings said.

In the early days, Hastings, O’Donnell and Repola played for dances at Bellarmine-Jefferson and Providence high schools, Hastings said.

“When we went off to college, Dennis is the only one who pursued music and played with Thin Lizzy, Chaka Kahn and Super Tramp during the 1970s and ‘80s,” Hastings said.

After the touring ended, O’Donnell said he came back to Burbank to raise his children.

“I ran into Michael and Art and we got reacquainted,” O’Donnell said.

“We hadn’t been playing together for 30 years. Playing music together again was something we started in lieu of poker. We started as a cover band 15 years ago.”

But when they began sprinkling in O’Donnell’s original songs, the tunes caught on, Hastings said.

“Hundreds of his songs will hold up to any out there,” Hastings said.

“People say ‘I know that song,’ and they haven’t heard them, but there is a familiarity to music and the lyrics. People hear them and think they are hit songs. They can relate to what a great lyricist Dennis is.”

The music has been the common thread that has kept the band together, O’Donnell said.

“When Michael and I first met all we did is laugh,” he said.

“We didn’t see each other for 25 years because of the way our paths went.”

That kindred spirit brought them back together, Hastings said.

“Playing together again, we’re hanging onto to it,” he said. “It’s what we’ll probably retire to.”

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