The Atari Age

The Atari Age

This band of seasoned musicians recreates the sounds of the 1980’s; a day when Ronald Reagan was President, M-TV first aired, CDs emerged, Acid Washed jeans were "cool" and alternative music was called "New Wave". This period has resurfaced in today's entertainment industry. VH-1 has multiple segments echoing the 80's Video Generation, radio stations across the U.S. feature artists from the 1980’s in daily "flashback" programs while 2010 is the year of the '80s remake at the multiplex.

The Atari Age members have achieved "headline status" in both nightclubs and concert venues throughout the Midwest. The founding members, after a brief hiatus, have reunited in the winter of 2009 to wave the 80's flag. As a tribute, the band is booking a high profile campaign of events in 2010.

In the corporate setting, the band is experienced in private gatherings, wedding receptions and holiday parties.

The Atari Age’s stage show creates a party atmosphere filled with fun college and high school memories. Throughout a performance, the band changes lead vocalists and plays special requests from the 80’s. Musical selections although diverse in style, all share the "common thread" of success during the 80's decade.

The Atari Age: no Space Invaders, just the best music of the 80’s!

Band Members

Randy Kobat – Drums
Randy has been playing the Chicago music scene since he was 12 as a fill in drummer for his Dad’s jazz combo.  Originally a percussion major at Northern Illinois University, Randy had the pleasure of studying with some of the world’s finest percussionists.  While in college he also played extensively with Mr. Meyers and marched snare with the DCI champion Madison Scouts in the 1987 season.  Credits after college include all original projects No Resistance and Edge of Society.  Randy filled in with The Reagan Years, an 80’s tribute band, while living in the Washington DC area in 2006.  In addition to The Atari Age, Randy is currently marching snare with The Crystal Lake Strikers marching drumline; voted a fan favorite at the State Street Thanksgiving Day Parade in 2008 and 2009, and plays monthly with the Praise team at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Palatine, IL.  Randy has played in some of the Midwest’s top venues – from intimate clubs to stadiums filled with 90,000 people.

Jim Murphy – Guitar
Pushing the limits of traditional guitar playing has long been a past time for Jim.  Inspired by Andy Summers of the Police, and U2s the Edge, Jim seeks to move beyond traditional rock guitar playing by utilizing programmable guitar systems.  While attending Northern Illinois University, Jim was a featured soloist for the wind symphony performing works by Lenard Bernstein.   Jim was also a go to guitarist for the studio recording classes at NIU, and worked as a session guitarist for Real Music, and Bobby Thomas.   After college he was in the original rock acts No Resistance and Edge of Society.  Jim has been sighted working with Elvis Presley in Graceland The Band, but this has never been confirmed.  He was also in Chicago’s ultimate R.E.M. cover band .M.E.R.M.E.R playing regularly at the Cubby Bear, and other venues in Chicago.

Paul McKinney – Guitar/Vocals
Paul has played guitar and sang for over 30 years.  His formal training includes studying at Harper College in Palatine, IL and while there performing in the Classical Guitar ensemble.  He has played many styles, including Bluegrass, Ska, Reggae, Fingerstyle, Ragtime, Classical and Jazz. As a member of the premier Milwaukee Ska /Reggae band The Invaders, Paul recorded 3 Albums and enjoyed local and regional success, playing venues such as Summerfest, The Rave/Eagles Ball Room, House Of Blues, Metro, Wild Hare and also touring the East Coast and Midwest.  While in The Invaders Paul won 2 WAMI (Wisconsin Area Music Awards) and was privileged to share the stage with such bands as No Doubt, The Specials, The English Beat, and The Mighty Mighty Boss Tones.  Paul spent time living in Chapel Hill NC where he taught guitar full time, quickly building up a roster of 30+ students, and recording and touring with Regatta 69 and Reggae artist Kimbute. Since moving back to Chicago, Paul has fronted The Paul McKinney Group.  Nominated 6 straight years as Top Acoustic Band in Suburban Nitelife Magazine, The Paul McKinney Group has played in many Chicago venues including Durty Nellies, Abbey Pub, and JJ Kelly’s. PMG recorded a six song CD of Paul’s original compositions in 2007 called The Coachouse Tapes which has met with favorable reviews in the Illinois Entertainer and elsewhere. In addition to The Atari Age and PMG, Paul is currently playing in the Praise Band and with Acoustic Praise teams at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Palatine, IL.

Shawn Johnson – Keyboard/Vocals

A musician from age 6, Shawn has been playing music for 30 years, originally studying music in college.  Since beginning as a piano player, Shawn has diversified to specializing in multiple keyboard techniques.  Very rarely is he seen on stage with fewer than three keyboards.  He has played with a wide variety of Rockford area bands since the mid-1990’s, beginning with the original Christian rock group Paradise Found, RAMI-winner Slate, and sitting in with a half dozen other local groups with varying styles.  He has played with the Rock Valley College Big Bands, doubling on piano and lead alto sax as needed.  Other groups included the classic rock bands Curb Right and RAMI-winner The Missing Links.  Shawn founded the RAMI-nominated 1980’s pop/rock band RetroActiv- a band that began the 1980’s revival in the Rockford area in the early 2000’s and packed dozens of locales in the city.  Shawn has also played with Cammi’s NRG and U Know Who, performing at Taste of Chicago and the prestigious Green Tie Gala.  He strives for accuracy and precision in his tones- a difficult feat with the synthesized music of the 80’s but one he pulls off with great success.  In the private sector, Shawn has had the privilege of working with the Rockford Ice Hogs- the AHL affiliate of the Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks as well as helping the Ice Hogs to win a league championship in 2007.  He collects vintage Transformers toys as a hobby, and proudly displays over 1,200 figures dating from 1983 and from a half dozen countries.

Bill Kappas – Bass/Vocals
Bill is an accomplished bassist with over 25 years of experience.  He has been in or filled in for numerous bands and his playing style lends itself to classic rock, 80's music, modern rock, and both country and western.  Influenced by Adam Clayton, Flea, Bill Wyman, Stanley Clark and Nathan East, Bill brings a solid bass groove to the music that The Atari Age plays.  Bill has played most of the major venues in the greater Chicago land area as well as the Democratic National Convention, Summer Fest, The Little 500 at Indiana University-Bloomington, events at Purdue University and Notre Dame University.  Previous note worthy bands were Tulsa, The Nice, Safe Harbor, Ever After, and Dillinger.   His nickname in high school was "The Piston". 

Beth Ruehrdanz – Vocals
Beth's vocal versatility has given her opportunities to sing for a myriad of groups, including madrigal, supper club/lounge acts, contemporary Christian worship, and rock.  In addition to The Atari Age, Beth is currently lead singer for two lounge acts, SwingSets and The Moonlighters, and sings with the Praise team at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Palatine, IL.  Although Beth has no formal training, she believes that mimicking the vocal style of the lady at church when she was five years old has served her well.  Singing along to The Carpenter's "This Song's for You" album that she won for the Pollution Poster Contest in third grade hasn't hurt either (Thanks for trading me for the David Cassidy album, Vanessa).  Beth was slightly miffed at receiving a GPS as a gift, will tell you exactly what she thinks, is defined by her family, and faithfully walks her Labradoodle, Toby.  Before she leaves this world, she wants to see the Indian ruins in Mexico.  Beth is a hidden gem in the Chicago music scene.

Jim Mahr – Vocals
Music has been a part of Jim's life since a young age when he was forced to join choir by his Mother Kathleen (of course, for this he is eternally grateful!)... Jim has been singing in bands since high school where he was lead vocalist for the group Triad. Singing the songs of his musical heroes (Led Zeppelin, Rush, Yes, Heart to name a few...) soon became a passion that has indeed stayed with him to present day.   Jim was lead vocalist and lyricist for the group Arch Angel from the mid 80's to early 90's. Arch Angel enjoyed some success in regards to popularity and even some airplay in the Illinois/Wisconsin area. This inspired the group to move to Hollywood and "go for it"!  Jim enjoyed some success with the group in California as well, receiving some local airplay and gracing the stages of the infamous "Sunset Strip" clubs the Roxy as well as the Whisky A Go-Go and Gazarrie's.  Jim has appeared several times in local productions of "Jesus Christ Superstar" in which he has played the parts of both Jesus and Judas (not at the same time of course).  Jim also has studied Opera under Maria D'Albert in Chicago and has performed several Arias under her direction at the Theater Building on Michigan Ave.  Other groups Jim has performed with in the new millennium include Deja Groove, Lindholm, Close to the Edge (a Yes tribute band) ARENA and most recently Backstage Pass.

Ken Loebel – Keyboards and background vocals:
So – you weren’t there to see the masters of the 80’s live? Ken’s goal is to deliver a performance in the clubs in the spirit of the 80’s masters that he grew up seeing live in concert, and in a way that makes patrons feel like they are getting quality entertainment and an escape from the daily grind. After seeing the live shows from Cheap Trick, Styx, Heart, Journey, Kansas, Billy Joel, Elton John, Springsteen, The Pretenders, Pat Benetar and every other concert that came through town, Ken developed the passion for enjoying live performances as a fan and he tries to deliver high energy rock, textured keyboard music and acoustic piano in the show that live music fans will appreciate. He has performed in clubs since age 16 in bands ranging from blues, Classic Rock, 70’s and 80’s power rock and 80’s club dance bands. The back stage is his home away from home. Originally from Milwaukee, he grew up where music was a part of the culture of the city with local success stories such as Jerry Harrison, Pat McCurdy, Violent Femmes, Daryl Stuermer, and the BoDeans all taking place at the time he joined the club scene. When he wasn’t playing in clubs, he was selling keyboards to the professionals or working in music promotion or radio. Ken enjoys the live experience and the energy created when artists bring their talents together on stage, and has also enjoys the studio experience, having a self-produced CD on I-tunes (25 East Jackson), featuring Jay Moynihan on sax, a local artist who toured internationally with Buddy Guy. Ken also performs with the local classic rock band Gallery in the Chicago area, and is involved in a music startup venture called World Music League, to help promote Indie Artists. Ken studied finance, marketing and minored in music at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.