Fat Chance marks four decades of rock

The list of former group members is only exceeded by the now-defunct (or demolished) venues they used to play.

Four decades later, however, Fat Chance is still coverin’ rock and roll classics on the Olympic Peninsula.

Longtime bassist/vocalist John Christensen said the band’s origin story dates back to about 1979, when guitarist/vocalist Max Fernandes connected with Christensen through a mutual friend and the pair started practicing. About three years later, in 1982, guitarist/vocalist Jeff Joaquin and Doc Gardner joined the mix — Fat Chance’s unofficial start.

Since then, the lineup has been pretty much the same with the exception of about five drummers. Along the way, however, the band has joined up with dozens of other musicians for combos and guest spots, including Leo Rising, Andy Maupin, Paul Elliott, Jeff Green, Craig Thornberg, Gene Stashuk, Glee Jones, Kent Keller and two of John’s family: Dee Christensen his wife, and Marc Porlier, his son.

“We all get along like a big family, even the guys who quit,” Christensen said. “It’s like a baseball team: You’re always part of the team.”

Fat Chance is on the bill at Olympic Cellars Winery’s 2022 Summer Series, hitting the outdoor stage at 7 p.m. on Saturday, July 23 (rain or shine) at 255410 U.S. Highway 101. Tickets to see the group, a regular at the winery’s series are $20 and available at OlympicCellars.com.

As in previous years, the series sees a portion of proceeds to go nonprofits; Fat Chance’s show will benefit Serenity House of Clallam County.

“[A] great place to play and wonderful people to work with,” Christensen said.

Over the years, Fat Chance provided rock classics and a few originals across the region, from bars and outdoor stages to birthday parties, fundraisers and more.

The group recorded a pair of albums: “Like It Was Before” in 2003 and “Closin’ In” in 2008, produced by Stashuk, lead singer and guitarist for Red 7, a short-lived side project for Genesis bassist/guitarist Mike Rutherford. But for the most part, Fat Chance’s fans and others want to hear familiar songs they can dance and sing with.

“People ask for old time rock ‘n’ roll; they don’t ask us for our songs,” Christensen said. A set list from 30 years ago, he joked, looks pretty similar to ones they use today.

Over the decades, Fat Chance has built a certain fan base. Christensen recalls performing for a fan’s prom, then his wedding, and years later his daughter’s wedding.

The list of clubs and venues Fat Chance once called their work homes but are now long gone is long, including The Old Sequim Depot, Aggies, Harringtons, Bear Creek Tavern, Walpurgis, Henry Yee’s, Castaways, Willy’s, Whistling Oyster, Antlers, vagabond, Hangup Tavern, Family Kitchen, Corner House, Red Ranch and the Blue Marlin.

The band played a wedding at The Empress Hotel in Victoria, B.C., for bikers out in the woods near Humptulips, and the 1950s-themed “When We were Sixteen” fundraiser for the then-named Sequim Museum and Arts Center in the late 1980s.

Christensen recalls a show the group once played at the grain elevator in downtown Sequim, and by night’s end grain husks covered their amplifiers.

The group also flew by chartered jet to Bellingham for a show, playing with the Kingsmen of “Louie Louie” fame, Christensen recalled; they had to take the seats out of the plane to fit all the band equiment.

The group got so popular at one point they played 17 days in one month at a particular venue, Christensen said. But the band — currently featuring Chirstensen, Fernandes, Joaquin, Bob Hopkins and Mark Owens — plays eight to 10 shows a year. Some band members are retired, others are still punching clocks.

“Physically we’re all in pretty good shape,” Christensen said. “We don’t try to oversaturate the area. When people see us, it’s kind of special.”

He said the group never really expected to try to become touring musicians.

“I don’t think I could ever be a (career) musician),” Christensen said. “I like being at home.”

For more about Fat Chance, visit thefatchanceband.com.

Check out Fat Chance in concert here and here.

Fat Chance in concert

When: 7 p.m. Saturday, July 23 (rain or shine)

Where: Olympic Cellars Winery, 255410 U.S. Highway 101

Tickets: $20, at OlympicCellars.com