Woody’s ESP and Alter Ego Delivers The Music

Alter Ego.png

Submitted by Bill Delingat

How many times have you been in a conversation and someone asked “Hey, whatever happened to…?” If you were talking about music and some of your favourite hitmakers of the past, chances are they are playing the Conference and Convention Circuit.

Corporate conventions have become a multi-million dollar yearly industry, serving the new business sessions, awards ceremonies, the medical/scientific and educational world with new product launches, exhibits, seminars and speaker forums. Major hotels offer full services to the inbound attendees and facilities such as the Metro Toronto Convention Centre offers millions of square feet of display area and state of the art ballrooms for these sessions and special events.

The guests are wined and dined at the closing Gala Dinner while the hosting company’s speakers take the podium. You never know at some of these events who will appear, it could be Gladys Knight and the Pips, Blue Rodeo or even Stevie Wonder who  has rocked the house at some of these private functions. Unless you were invited you wouldn’t even know the stars were in town. One person that does know and is a common figure often seen rushing from the green room, backstage, up to the sound board or waiting for a limousine to arrive is Elwood Saracuse, better known as Woody.

ESP, Elwood Saracuse Productions is one of the top producers of corporate and private events, supplying Canadian and International Headliners from music, comedy, specialty artists and even Circus acts.

Woody and Lionel RitchieWoody and Lionel RitchieSaracuse has a strong musical past working as National Tour Director: for Music Shoppe International touring with bands across Canada like BTO, Rush, Alice Cooper, Ted Nuggent as well as  British artists like Supertramp in support of their latest album releases.  Saracuse has also produced events world wide including the first “non political event” at the Kremlin and even held a party in the Top Gun Hanger at Miramar Air Force Base.

We had a chance to speak with Saracuse at a recent convention in Toronto where he was producing a show with ESP’s newest and hippest party band “Alter Ego.”

CB: Audiences of all ages are embracing the legends that made the hits and are on tour again, bands like the Who, Bon Jovi and now the Stones. What type of act or artists do you get the most requests for?
Saracuse: Certainly everybody would love to have legends like The Rolling Stones or Bon Jovi at their parties, but these stadium bands are not affordable to the corporate market. For a headliner at their function, a lot of my corporate clients ask for more current recording acts such as Train, Black-Eyed Peas and Adele, or Canadian acts that have had a string of hits such as Burton Cummings or Barenaked Ladies. The corporate buyers are also very sensitive about image and therefore want acts that are scandal free with clean lyrics. Generally they want acts that are high energy rather than low key. I rarely get inquiries for hip hop, jazz, country or teen stars.

Alter Ego and 'Lady GaGa' TributeAlter Ego and 'Lady GaGa' TributeCB:  We noticed that your “hippest party band “is actually home grown and is produced by a Canadian, Stephanie Tremblay in Montreal Quebec. The cast features 5 female singers and dancers, 2 male singers and only 3 musicians. They ripped through a set of music from all eras of rock and pop and take on the persona of the artists they are performing with over 90 costume changes. They dazzled the audience with hit after hit at neck breaking speed. It was quite the experience to be part of and like a good magician they drew the audience into their illusion more so than say a tribute act that would do only one performer. Alter Ego gave the audience a great cross mix of music from Michael Jackson to Billy Idol.  They also seemed to have a very slick and streamlined stage presence with a lack of stage equipment and a little help from the new electronic age to keep up with their fast paced show. Can you tell us a bit more about this and do you see this as the way for bands to go in the future?
Saracuse: My expertise is in booking entertainment for corporate events. For a party band to be successful in that market, it needs to be as entertaining as it is musically competent. Alter Ego is my top party band and they have certainly figured out the format to keep an audience on the dance floor. Today's audiences have a short attention span and they want to see things moving at a fast and exciting pace with medleys instead of full songs, multiple costume changes, full choreography, and great sound and lights. The song list has to be a variety of high energy hit tunes from the 70's, 80's and 90's that everybody recognizes with an emphasis on hits from the last 5 years. Forget the slow songs, keep the energy flowing. Alter Ego delivers all this and more.  Alter Ego also embraces wireless technology with the use of in-ear monitors, wireless mics, etc. The guitars play directly through the sound system with no amps on stage. There are no mic cords, mic stands, or monitors on stage. Some of the higher end party bands are following this lead and I believe more will follow.

Elwood 'Woody' SaracruseElwood 'Woody' SaracruseCB: We were impressed with Alter Egos repertoire and I had seen them before and I did notice the set changed which is great that they kept their song list current adding in the latest Lady Gaga and LMFAO as an example. They definitely had the dance floor hoppin’ and visually it was more like watching a Las Vegas production than just seeing a band, playing all the chart toppers hits. You have such a history of International events behind you and an incredible rooster of entertainment as well from the late James Brown to Blue Rodeo, what would you say was the number one event for you that stands out above the rest?
Saracuse: That's an easy one. Nothing can compare to the grand opening of the first McDonald's Restaurant in Moscow in 1991 in terms of historical significance and international press coverage. McDonald's Canada spearheaded this and they have been a long time client of mine. To represent Canada we took The Canadian Brass. Besides the Grand Opening we did a week's worth of events including the first non-political Gala ever held at the Kremlin with 15 different entertainment groups.

CB: That is amazing and very impressive. I would never have guessed that one. Lastly, what do you like to listen to and do you have a favorite artist?
Saracuse: Because I've booked such a wide spectrum of artists, I've developed an appreciation for a variety of music including folk, heavy metal, R&B, reggae, classical, and commercial pop. I probably listen to the funky stuff more than anything else - Tower of Power, Earth Wind & Fire, George Clinton (I booked George Clinton & the Parliament Funkadelic to play at my High School). My favourite artist of all time is James Brown who I first saw at Maple Leaf Gardens when I was 14 years old.

CB: Yes the Godfather what a performer he was and will always be remembered, as generation after generation listen and learn from the past and reinvent the music for others to hear into the future. Shows like “Alter Ego” are in away a salute to these artists and it was great to see how the audience got mesmerized by their performance and cheered on for more.
Saracuse: People always love to be entertained. That is what music and live shows are all about. I couldn’t ask for a better way to earn a living.