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By Collin Breaux

After serving as the opening act at The Coach House for several concerts, local Steely Dan tribute band Kids of Charlemagne is ready to step up as a headliner.

Venue owner Gary Folgner took an interest in the musical act after seeing their performances, and he talked to them about eventually playing as a main act at the San Juan Capistrano concert venue.

“We secured April 14, which is a Thursday,” said guitar player Bill Backal. “We’ve been able to develop a local following.”

Kids of Charlemagne band members are friends with opening act Following Sea, another local band. Backal describes Kids of Charlemagne as a South Orange County-based band.

“Our market is that area,” Backal said. “We play pretty frequently in Dana Point, San Clemente, and San Juan Capistrano.”

Steely Dan fans can enjoy renditions of their classic songs when tribute band Kids of Charlemagne plays at The Coach House on April 14. Photo: Courtesy of Gary Tinnes

The members of Kids of Charlemagne have been playing together for roughly eight years, and performing Steely Dan songs exclusively for the past three years. The members decided to switch things up after people came up to them and asked for more Steely Dan songs.

“That took off,” Backal said. “What’s great is that people who know us are coming to hear Steely Dan.”

Steely Dan is the “big selling point” for their shows and an aspect that has brought a resurgence of audience members in their 20s who come out to sing along—including at a recent gig at Paddy’s Station—another popular venue in San Juan Capistrano.

“We were amazed at how many young people were on the dance floor singing to ‘Josie’ and ‘Black Cow,’ ” Backal said.

Backal is surprised at how many people come out the “woodworks” for their performances, which he attributes to there being a “thirst for good music” in Orange County.

“The most exciting thing for all of us in the band, and why we are successful, is we are trying to please ourselves musically—and it translates into something our audiences enjoy,” Backal said.

Backal described getting to headline at The Coach House as a dream come true, since he’s seen his own musical idols there.

“We get to stand on the same stage as they did. It’s scary, humbling, and exciting,” Backal said. “They really pay homage to music. They have a great sound system. They truly are nice people.”

Collin Breaux

Collin Breaux covers San Juan Capistrano and other South Orange County news as the City Editor for The Capistrano Dispatch. Before moving to California, he covered Hurricane Michael, politics and education in Panama City, Florida. He can be reached by email at                         

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