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209 All-Stars ready to rock Pumpkin Fair

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209 All-Stars ready to rock Pumpkin Fair

The 209 All-Stars will close out the main stage at the 29th annual Manteca Sunrise Kiwanis Pumpkin Fair on Sunday, October 6. Pictured, from left, is drummer Jim Ayala, bassist Brandon Michael, voc...

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POSTED October 2, 2013 11:10 p.m.

Tim Helbling is a wedding singer.

He’s a bar crooner. He’s a cover artist. He’s a party performer.

And come Sunday, when he and the rest of the 209 All-Stars – the band he’s been playing with for the last five years – take the main stage to close out the 29th Manteca Sunrise Kiwanis Pumpkin Fair, he’ll be just part of an electric group of musicians that strives to give its audience the best experience that it can.

It’s not a bad gig if you can get it.

“We played a couple of years ago and there is always a really good crowd,” Helbling said of the upcoming fair. “It’s good exposure and a chance to get our name out there. Today about half of the shows that we play are private events – the hours are better and there is typically good food and drinks.

“But big public shows like this, especially in Manteca, are always fun. We formed the band here in the Manteca/Lathrop area, so we always have a lot of people that come out to show support. We’re looking forward to it.”

The Virginia native might be able to pin down his state of mind when he first decided to start to start playing music (“I just wanted to play the guitar and write songs like all of my friends”) but classifying the music he plays today might be a little bit more difficult.

The band’s website says that they cover everything from Johnny Cash to Bruno Mars, Metallica to Michael Jackson. They’re constantly working on ways to put a rock-and-roll spin on songs that people wouldn’t expect to hear played with a guitar. But they still crank out some of those familiar tunes that people expect to hear when they come out to a rock show, and the stable of songs is always changing.

On the way to shows, Helbling says, the band will often hear tracks on modern radio that they’ll end up including in their repertoire at some point in the future. Other times they’ll deliberately set out to find new and modern music to make sure that they’re up to speed.

But regardless of the process, nothing really materializes until the group – which consists of Helbling on vocals, Jim Ayala on drums, Rudy Escajeda on saxophone, Justin Jones on guitar and Brandon Michael on bass – steps out onto the stage and lets their creative energy flow together.

“Being a party band is different because I wanted to do something that wasn’t just all classic rock and wasn’t’ just all 90s alternative which was kind of popular when we started,” he said. “It takes a little bit of work to stay up on things – right now we’re trying to figure out how to adapt (French electronic dance music artists) Daft Punk to a rock theme. But you’ve got to keep the girls dancing – you can play just about anything, anywhere but you have to make sure that the girls stay dancing.”

The 209 All-Stars will take the stage – located across from the Manteca Library – at 3 p.m. Sunday afternoon. They’re scheduled to play for two hours.

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