A quarter century ago, a young Tim Easton stumbled upon J.P. Olsen performing old-school country tunes at Bernie's.

A quarter century ago, a young Tim Easton stumbled upon J.P. Olsen performing old-school country tunes at Bernie's.

"I wrote a song that night," Easton said. "I really started to put my mind to it after that."

Fifteen years later, Easton had become a world-renowned rough-and-tumble folk-rocker when a New Albany teenager named Aaron Lee Tasjan discovered his music. Perusing the liner notes of Easton's records, Tasjan noticed several songs were penned by one J.P. Olsen, moving Tasjan to dig into Olsen's recordings with short-lived Columbus combo The Beetkeepers.

Tasjan headed to New York a few years later and began playing guitar for big names like Semi Precious Weapons, New York Dolls and Kevn Kinney. On a European tour with Kinney, Tasjan played some shows with Easton and struck up a friendship.

"He just wanted to play music and hang out basically," Tasjan said. "And we did."

Back in New York, Tasjan started a joke-y folk-rock cover band called The Madison Square Gardeners, which included fellow Ohio expats Mark Stepro, John Kengla and Rob Heath. Their gigs at tiny East Village bar Banjo Jim's became a minor local sensation. When Tasjan hit his songwriting stride, the group started playing originals, touring widely and occasionally collaborating with Easton.

One night, Easton was in New York for a show and asked Tasjan and Stepro to sit in. Olsen, who had relocated to Brooklyn, attended the show and befriended the Gardeners.

With that, the mutual admiration society reached full bloom. A slew of collaborations ensued, including Olsen's first recordings in two decades. He had been busy working as a journalist, producing films for TV and directing the prison documentary "Narcotic Farm," but Easton and the Gardeners nudged him to put music on the front burner.

"That record would not have happened if it weren't for Tim," Olsen said. "Encouragement from guys like Aaron and Mark and other guys in the Gardeners - it's made a difference."

Working under the alias The Malefactors of Great Wealth, Olsen recorded half the EP with Easton in Joshua Tree, California. Back in New York, Tasjan got Anton Fier (The Feelies, The Lounge Lizards, The Golden Palominos) to finish producing Olsen's record.

"Aaron and Mark both play all over that EP," Olsen said. "And now we've been spending even more time working on music."

Tasjan and Stepro are producing Olsen's next project, his first full-length album since the Beetkeepers days. They also were part of Easton's band for his new "Beat the Band" LP, his first album of road-tested material since 1998's "Special 20" and the first since then to be self-released.

They'll all be in Columbus this weekend for a two-night stand at Rumba Cafe and a ComFest set at 1 p.m. Sunday. Easton headlines Friday's show, and the Gardeners headline on Saturday.