This is the latest in a series profiling Pikes Peak region bands

Were it not for an invitation to play at his 30-year high school reunion, Charlie Searle’s band, Ashtonz, might have remained a distant memory.

The pop/rock/country/blues band formed at Evergreen High School in 1980, taking its name from a student with the surname “Ashton.” The inside joke with this fellow, who is OK with the band’s name, was “Don’t be an ‘Ashtone,’” a term of “nonendearment,” Searle said.

As fate would have it, Searle got the gig and brought the band back together to play his 30th high school reunion. “We resurrected the name then,” he said.

“If the high school reunion committee would’ve said, ‘Nah, we’ll use a DJ,’ I probably would’ve put my guitar away for good. I hadn’t played for 22 years. It was scary but fun to be on stage again,” he said.

The band didn’t perform again for another two years, taking the stage at the invitation of Palmer Lake’s Speedtrap and then the 2012 New Year’s Eve Alcoholics Anonymous “Alcothon” at Sacred Heart Church in Colorado Springs, a 24-hour sobriety event.

“After that, we kept getting invited out to play. We were supposed to play maybe one time a month, but it has gone beyond that — in a good way. Our goal is to not take it all too seriously. We’re having fun,” Searle said. “We haven’t had any drama.”

Some of the band’s original members didn’t want to have regular weekly gigs and took a step back, he said. The current lineup is Searle on guitar/vocals; Nathan Gillis on mandolin and guitar; Randy Simonoff on drums; and Paul-David Almond on bass, guitar and vocals. Searle says he has many musicians on speed dial in case he needs more people to fill gigs.

“One of the great blessings is that a lot of good friends came out of it. The biggest plus is the relationships with people, the connections made,” Searle said.

“The personal connections are a big deal for us, being able to interact with people we know and love.”

This year the band has booked 50 shows, playing a mix of cover songs and originals. They have a repertoire of 650 songs.

“We take someone else’s song and make it our own,” Searle said. This means adding creative lyrics to classic rock songs such as Eric Clapton’s “Cocaine” to make what Searle calls a “halfway-in-between” cover song with the lyrics updated in this case to, “If you want to wake up, you got to brew a cup ... caffeine/If you’re starting to sink, just grab an energy drink ... caffeine/Almost high, almost high, almost high ... on caffeine.”

Ashtonz makes a point to not play the same venues too often. It plays the most at Back East Bar and Grill in Monument, Speedtrap in Palmer Lake and Western Jubilee Recording Co. in Colorado Springs.

“I want to keep the quantity of the shows as is, raise the quality. It would start feeling like work if we played every night. I don’t want it to get to the point where I don’t look forward to it,” Searle said.

He is looking for Ashtonz to play more outreach shows like the Alcothon, bringing their music to prisons and recovery centers.

“We want to give people hope and entertainment at the same time.”

Contact the writer, 476-1602.

Features Reporter/Special Sections Editor

Michelle is a features reporter and editor of The Gazette's annual Best of the Springs and FYI magazines. A Penn State journalism graduate, she joined the Gazette in 2015.

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