From the glitz and glamour of performing 6 years professionally in Las Vegas to the wide open spaces of Southern Idaho, Jason Lugo, Southern Idaho Living’s co-owner and publisher is making a full circle in the music world. After a 16-year absence from the stage, Lugo and his self-titled band bring to Idaho a fusion of modern country and rock music that is in demand.
Playing in club, restaurants and special events throughout the Magic Valley with upcoming dates as opening acts for country artists including Montgomery Gentry & David Nail, the Jason Lugo Band is quickly drawing an ever-growing fan base.
After playing at Canyon Crest in Twin Falls for only a matter of months, the band packed its lounge so consistently they were moved to the main restaurant on a bigger stage with more room for expanding crowds.
Though Lugo has always lived by his motto “follow your bliss,” music was not always his passion.
Raised in Draper, Utah, Lugo spent summers as a teenager on his uncle’s 3000 acre ranch. Mark Hansen ran 720 acres of hay and worked a 200 pair cow/calf operation near Fairfield, Idaho. Each summer Lugo found refuge working in hay fields, riding horses and running cattle. Lugo even spent the last semester of his junior year in Fairfield just to be there when spring came. Learning to shoe horses, ride motorbikes and brand cattle, Lugo’s uncle taught him to work hard. “He was my hero,” Lugo admits.
It was his dream to one day own a ranch and raise quarter horses. However, a chance encounter with an old guitar once strummed by his uncle in a band of his own, left Lugo wanting more.
At 20-years-old Lugo traveled to Boise, Idaho with friends to attend a sold-out concert by legendary country group Alabama.
Seeing the bright lights and excitement of the fans, Lugo would later recall, “I was suppose to stay over that night at a friend’s, but I wanted to drive all the way back to Fairfield to get my guitar. I started playing and didn’t quit until sometime the next day…what I saw Alabama do to that crowd, I wanted real bad.”
Selling his horses, guns and custom made saddle, Lugo moved home to Utah to join his first band. Hoping to take his career further, however, he remained there only a year before moving on to the city of neon nights, Las Vegas. There, country rock group Jason Lugo and Blue Roan was born. Gathering speed for six years the band played regularly at many casinos, built a strong following during the National Finals Rodeo and opened for big names including Toby Keith, Steve Warner, Bryan White and Sawyer Brown.
In 1996, a newly married Lugo returned to Utah with his bride, Lori. Although he began a new band, his focused shifted to working with graphic design. While Lugo continued to live and work in Utah, he and Lori vacationed in Idaho with their two children, Haylie and Zack on the calm waters of the Snake River near Declo, Idaho where they eventually set up residence. With new priorities in life, music slipped into the mist.
After years of never picking up his guitar, Lugo agreed to perform three songs at the 2010 Rupert 4th of July celebration. The familiar rush of being on stage had surfaced again and Lugo realized what a necessary component music was for his life. He then began a search for members who would eventually become the Jason Lugo Band.
“I’d forgotten how much I really love performing on stage with a great band,” Lugo recalled. “It’s so good for the soul and a much needed therapy that helps me balance out my stressful business schedule.”
When setting out to find musicians he was at first a little skeptical of finding the caliber of musicians he was used to working with in Vegas.
“I never dreamed that I’d find such great musicians literally right here in my own back yard,” Lugo laughed.
He knew that gathering good band members who work and blend together is key to the enjoyment and success of his band.
“A band has to have the right fit,” Lugo observed. “Without that solid foundation you can’t build a good show.”
And the Jason Lugo Band most definitely has a solid fit. Their backgrounds are diverse, but each band member lends their own precise talent and sound.
Self-proclaimed rock-and-roll guy, Andy Lindquist, adds a bit of an edge to the band on drums and vocals. Originally from Wisconsin, Lindquist now lives in Bliss where he works construction building homes. When playing, Lindquist enjoys the dynamic that accompanies the band’s high talent level.
“We get to focus on just having fun, not worrying about outshining each other,” he said. “It’s just about getting crowd response. You could be the best musician in the world, but if no one’s there to hear it, it doesn’t matter.”
For keyboard player, Keith Brown, music means something a little different.
“Playing is like my councilor. No matter what my day has been like, I can sit down to play and things get better.”
And rightly so, the piano has been a part of Brown’s life since his parents purchased one from the back of a truck in a parking lot. Shortly after his mother took a job as a school bus driver just to pay for his lessons.
“I really owe it all to them,” Brown recalled gratefully.
At 29, Forrest Knight, dubbed “Spider” for his intricate finger work, incorporates the bass line for the Jason Lugo Band. For him, it’s simply the love of music that keeps him driven.
“I’d like to take music as far as it will let me,” Knight notes. “I think we’re all looking forward to what’s next.”
Rounding out the band is Mark Williams with lead guitar. Raised in California Williams spent several years playing in a traveling band in Arizona before coming to Idaho. Owner of 20/20 Produce, Williams lives in Rupert and provides a solid modern-country-rock style to the band’s sound.