Americana guitar slinger and friends take on Akron music scene


Get Down Bandits

Mark Oprea

Duane Mark is an outlaw, and so are his Bandits.

With just an acoustic guitar and his “whiskey rasp,” Mark is touring the U.S. with his Get Down Bandits, a ragtag group of volunteering guitarists, banjoists and bassists joining Mark along the way. This Saturday, Mark makes a stop at Annabell’s in Akron, his 15th venue on his most recent trek around the country, following stops in Utah, Colorado and Iowa. It’ll be Mark’s first time playing in Ohio.

Playing tunes from his most recent “Friends & Enemies” album, Mark, along with guitarist Jake Shepherd, is spreading sounds of Americana and Southern-styled burly rock across the country. Although Mark will be without past tourmates Reverend Red, a rockabilly group from Lancaster, he’ll continue on his five-day-a-week tour throughout the month of November.

Growing up in Boron, California, a small mining town with a population less than 2,500, Mark was readily exposed to the workingman’s life. Besides “fighting for food” with his three brothers, learning the worth of grueling work from his father, Mark was also exposed to the Southern California 1990s music scene, full of rebellious punk rock and metal. The small-town life, he said, provided only two musical paths.

“They were hardcore listening to metal and country music,” Mark said. “And I mean everybody was listening to it. And I didn’t really side with either.”

One look at Mark’s beard-laden getup, his penchant for flannels and fear-inducing stare, one may think otherwise.

But Mark’s sound is as big as his stage presence. He owes it to the music of Waylon Jennings, The Clash and Elton John for building his foundation as a performer. Come time for his own debut, Mark looked outside the boundaries of Southern California, to guys like Wade Crawford and The White Buffalo. A deviation from the Boron scene never fretted the up-and-coming musician.

“I never really minded that side of life,” Mark said. “And that doesn’t really mean you have to change yourself.”

It did lead to two things: a band and an album.

In 2011, Mark looked to forming a traveling outfit for a trek across the nation. With the “Bandit” moniker in mind, Mark started entertaining other players, hoping to find likable sounds to match the one he felt was a part of him.

“But we failed miserable constantly,” he said. “It was just so disappointing.”

Today, the one-year anniversary of his “Friends & Enemies” album — made possible due to a Kickstarter fundraiser ­— Mark is still looking. He’s touring with a co-op of bandmates, Shepherd being the latest installment. Mark, being the rambling, go-getting musician he is (his last tour played more than 60 gigs in a few months), said that he owes vast connection-making to his familial side, as shaped by his Boron upbringing. 

“The goal is to kind of just build a group of musicians who love to play together,” he said. “We just love the whole part of being a family.”

As far as most partnerships go, Mark said the magic lies in the spontaneity. He said he’s collaborated with banjo players that he ran into at bar gigs, others he took with him from Southern California As far as pairing with Reverend Red, Mark met the group out of a cheese shop when the two were on tour through Mississippi last year. “The Reverend” asked Mark to open up for them that night and that was it.

On Oct. 21, after a 12-show-long run with Reverend Red, Mark parted with the rockabilly group at a train station in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, where both groups played their final show the previous night. Being the family man he is, Mark said the goodbye wasn’t easy, and was almost in tears as their train pulled out of the station.

“I miss him everyday he’s not on the road,” Mark said.

After Annabell’s this Saturday, Mark’s Americana two-piece will bend through Oklahoma, Missouri, and Louisville, Kentucky. Getting “more intense” in its later half, Mark will continue to howl with his “whiskey rasp” until he’s returned to his Southern California home in December.

As far as the sound of his gravelly voice, Mark points to another liquor.

“I’ve actually always been a bourbon guy,” he said. “And it is the best in Kentucky — bar none.”

Contact Mark Oprea at [email protected].