The Gents — a band of former Coast Guard members who have been “playing classic rock since before it was classic,” they say — will provide the music for the festival’s Street Dance on Tuesday, July 29.
“What a great time,” band member Steve Schember said. “To come back to your old hometown — how can it be any better than that?”
The Gents consist of two captains, an admiral, two commanders and a football player. Their name came from the rigorous life of underclass cadets at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, as the bandmates were frequently commanded by their superiors to “Listen up, gents!”
Schember is a 1963 graduate of Grand Haven High School, where he played the sousaphone and drums in the school band. He went on to graduate from the Coast Guard Academy, where he played football, but an injury prevented him from military service. He is now a retired lawyer living in Sarasota, Fla.
While in the academy, Schember was drafted by The Gents and began playing in the rec hall for cadets and their dates. The band quickly gained popularity for their upbeat tunes.
“I play guitar, harmonica and mostly backup vocals,” Schember said. “However, it’s part of my contract that I get to sing all the Mick Jagger songs and all the Bob Dylan songs.”
The side job carried The Gents through the next three years at the academy before they went on hiatus for 35 years as band members spread across the country.
At the academy’s Class of 1967 40th reunion, Schember reunited with his bandmates. Word got out about the rock ‘n’ roll band, eventually leading them to being invited to play at the upcoming Coast Guard Festival event on Washington Avenue. It will be their biggest crowd by far.
The band’s set list has barely changed and they still perform songs that Schember and his classmates would dance to when they were in school.
“We have been just amazed at the response we’ve gotten from the younger crowd,” Schember said. “It’s a concert for all ages. I think everyone will know (the songs).”