Natick musician Chris Wagner and Modern Day Idols play CD release show at The Square Root in Roslindale Sept. 18 – MetroWest Daily News

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When a big celebration is right around the corner – say, a release show for a new CD –and it gets postponed at the last minute, a cloud of disappointment hangs in the air. When the postponement stretches out beyond a year, it can be downright frustrating. But when that show date is finally rescheduled, that same air is filled with excitement. 
That’s what’s going on with the band Modern Day Idols. Their self-titled second album – a follow-up to their 2013 debut “Almost Glad to See You” – was set for release and an accompanying show on March 27, 2020. Then the pandemic hit, clubs were closed and, even though the album became available digitally back then, it wasn’t until now that they could finally have an official release gig. It’s set for Sept. 18 at The Square Root in Roslindale. 
“Things were pretty quiet for the better part of the year,” said Natick singer-guitarist-writer Chris Wagner, who formed the band in 2011 and is the lone remaining founding member. “I spent some time working on music, hoping things might pick up, and over the past nine months, I’ve got some fleshed-out, barebones, but pretty solid versions of four new songs.” 
The musical road that got Wagner to those songs and this band has been a lengthy, twisting one. 
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Growing up in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, he took piano lessons, but lost interest in them. He thought he might like guitar, but his parents suggested that he wait until his hands were big enough to properly play one. So, instead of playing music, he listened to a lot of it. A neighbor turned him on to KISS, he picked up a Beatles greatest hits album, he discovered the Who and the Kinks. 
“I always liked melodic rock,” he said. “And I’ve always liked to sing. I joined the chorus when I was in high school, but I wasn’t really interested in choral music. At that time, I was really into the Who, and I liked singing along to them, but I got frustrated because I couldn’t sing like Roger Daltrey. Then I started taking vocal lessons.” 
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When he was 17, he started a band called Low Budget which did, among other songs, some Who covers. And he stuck to singing. Toward the end of college, he was the vocalist in another band, performing mostly original music that was written by his bandmates. 
“When that project didn’t work out, I realized that if I wanted to have some control over what I did, I needed to able to play an instrument and write my own songs,” he said. “So, I started taking guitar lessons and soon I was writing songs. Then I progressed from doing open mics and solo acoustic showcases, and I went from there.” 
He was in a duo with a bass player, then a pop rock band called Topheavy and, a decade ago, he started Modern Day Idols. 
“My tastes progressed over the years,” said Wagner. “After the Who and the Kinks, I got into the Replacements and early Goo Goo Dolls. Later it was Cheap Trick, Gin Blossoms and the Knack. I think a lot of the Topheavy stuff was informed by some of those groups. After that band, I took some time off and realized I needed to open myself up to listening to some other things. So, I tried some ’90s Brit pop and some old country – a lot of different genres. But it all sort of stemmed from a melodic short song format. And the songs that Modern Day Idols would do started coming together. 
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“When we were making ‘Almost Glad to See You,’ our producer Craig Small was the lead guitarist on the record. But afterward, it was hard to find somebody who could match what he was doing, so we carried on for a while as a trio. A friend filled in for a year, but later, when the original lineup stalled, and I was planning on taking a break, I started taking lessons from my friend Tony Savarino. I was talking with him about how hard it was to find the right people for a band, and he knew some people. So, I started playing with the bass player Tom Lada and the drummer Steve Hart. We were playing shows and developing songs, and we recorded some of it. And now Tony is playing lead guitar with us.” 
Because the band’s sound has changed over the years, Wagner thought for a moment before coming up with a current description of it. 
“We call it rock,” he said. “But it definitely has melodic, pop elements. So, I refer to it as pop rock, and sometimes as power pop.” 
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As far as those new songs he’s been working on, he said, “The way I hear it, one is a bit more of a Kinksy rocker. One has a ’70s power pop feel to it. Another has some Brit-pop influence. A couple are midtempos. One’s a quiet, almost pseudo-country kind of song.” 
Wagner isn’t sure if any of the new songs will be performance-ready for the upcoming show, but the band will be featuring most of the songs from the newest album. 
“We’ll also be playing stuff from ‘Almost Glad to See You’ and there’s a chance that we’ll play an unreleased original,” he said. Then he added, “And we always like to throw in one cover. In the past we’ve covered the Replacements, Cheap Trick, Paul McCartney & Wings, and the Bay City Rollers. It just has to be a song that we feel strongly about.” 
Modern Day Idols play a CD release show at The Square Root in Roslindale on Sept. 18, starting at 8:30 p.m. Sean McLaughlin will be filling in on bass, and guest keyboardist is Jeff Calder. Also on the bill are Fireking and Trusty Sidekick. Cover charge is $10, but seating is limited and masks are required. Live stream admission is $6.86. Please check for remaining tickets at 
Ed Symkus can be reached at 


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