Relativity at DJJD on September 11

By Susan Hvistendahl

Photo by Larry Hoffman

Relativity, formed in 1999 by spouses Toby and Sandy Jensen, is one of the longest continually performing bands in the Northfield area, averaging 30 gigs a year before the pandemic. Relativity will be featured in the Entertainment Center at 5th and Water Streets from 7-9pm on September 11 during Defeat of Jesse James Days.

Current members are Toby and Sandy Jensen, with Sandy on vocals, mandolin and guitar, Toby on guitar and vocals and Mike (“Doc”) Hildebrandt on fiddle and mandolin. Joining them for DJJD will be drummer Steve Paoli, in his last appearance before moving to Florida.

Sandy Jensen says, “I’ve been a singer my whole life,” starting in choirs and harmonizing at home with her four sisters in Fairmont, Minnesota. She became one of the Bleacher Girls, an a cappella women’s group that sang during Over & Back shows in Northfield. These popular shows, modeled on A Prairie Home Companion, were held several times a year as benefits from 1991-2005.

Toby Jensen is from Willmar, Minnesota, where he was in a rock ‘n’ roll cover band called Featherstitch at age 15 through high school and into his first year at Hamline. Jensen says he didn’t touch a musical instrument again until Sandy came home one day and announced, “We’re going to start a band” to provide more singing opportunities for her. They recruited Sandy’s identical twin, Linda Wilson, to add her alto to Sandy’s soprano, and their harmonies created the band’s identity early on. The band name “Relativity” reflected their relationships.

After Wilson left in 2014, Relativity continued with guest artists until 2015 when they added Hildebrandt, Faribault physician and Minnesota Rock & Country Hall of Fame inductee, who had been in Over & Back with Sandy. Sandy says, “He brought us to a whole new level, because he is so talented.” Hildebrandt notes, “It has been great fun to play with Toby and Sandy,” as he adapts his classically trained violin playing to the latest in popular music styles. With Hildebrandt on board, Relativity expanded beyond the bar scene, including playing at Cannon River Winery almost 100 times and adding other venues and more corporate and private parties.

Relativity asks for audience requests, handing out a list of 200 songs from a playlist of more than 500, adding and subtracting from the list almost every month to keep things fresh. The music ranges from Fleetwood Mac and Tom Petty to P!nk and Ed Sheeran.

A CD of original songs by Relativity called Are We There Yet? was recorded at Wasner Audio in Northfield as a pandemic project and will be for sale September 11. They describe their songs as “our own unique style, a kind of upbeat acoustic rock.”

With all three members now retired, Relativity hopes to resume a full schedule of performances and looks forward to seeing old fans and making new ones at the DJJD Entertainment Center. The first song will be Small Town Saturday Night. Visit relativitytheband.com for more info.

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