By George Halas
The Inquisition has been ruminating on the term “cover band,” which for certain musicians and fans is a pejorative.
For others, “tribute” bands who “cover” hit songs by other artists note-for-note are in high demand and often achieve financial success and longevity.
While they don’t play their own stuff and perform compositions by Beethoven, Mahler, Mozart, et al, no one refers to The Chicago Symphony as a cover band…
Now celebrating its 10th year, Vic Ferrari Symphony on The Rocks takes songs made popular by some of the best bands of all-time and, through the original and genius orchestral arrangements of Aaron Zinsmeister, makes them their own in ways that often surpass the originals.
The band released a new album, “Milestones,” of Symphony on The Rocks recordings at their annual three-night showcase at Waverly Beach in late January. If you missed those shows, there will be several opportunities in March to catch a performance and purchase the CD. March 4th at The Meyer Theater in Green Bay, March 11th at The Capitol Civic Center in Manitowoc and on March 24th at The Grand Theater in Wausau, a show which will also feature Mark Wood of The Trans-Siberian Orchestra.
One of the more impressive aspects of the VFSOM performances is the way the band keeps the set list fresh by adding new songs every year. They have added three this season, including “Mr. Blue Sky” by The Electric Light Orchestra, Simon & Garfunkel’s “Sounds of Silence” and “Rosanna” by Toto.
“These are really dynamic songs that get under an audience’s skin and that’s okay,” said Vic Ferrari vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Mike Bailey.
“The Sounds of Silence” will be more of a Disturbed version than a Simon & Garfunkel version with four-part harmonies,” he said. “There have been hundreds of versions of the song and this is ours. We don’t take ourselves too seriously, but sometimes you have to have some serious fun. ‘Rosanna’ is a song we couldn’t have handled 10 years ago. We’re going to have the symphony drummers play the drum parts and it will be the first time that both (drummers/vocalists) Wayne (Peters) and Ron (Kalista) will be up front with me. We’ll probably look like the Three Stooges.”
One of the best musical offerings of 2016 was Vic Ferrari and Steve March-Torme’s “Together Again For The Very First Time,’’ and in response to overwhelming popular demand – including The Inquisition’s – the principals are reprising the show March 10th at 7:30 p.m. at The Grand Opera House in Oshkosh followed by a performance March 25th at The Schauer Center in Hartford.
“I had an absolute riot doing that show last year,” Bailey said. “I had high expectations and the show exceeded them. We’ve added Van Morrison’s ‘Jackie Wilson Said,’ and ‘So Very Hard To Go,’ by Tower of Power to this year’s set list.”
In addition to Vic Ferrari’s considerable instrumental prowess and lush four and five-part vocal harmonies, the show provides fans with significant helpings of March-Torme’s piano and guitar playing as well as his ability to blend seamlessly with the other voices. Last year’s show featured his breathtaking piano solo on the front end of “Lady Madonna,” and his acoustic guitar solo/intro to “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes,” was simply stunning.
The show also features The HD Horns – Ken Skitch, trombone, Tyler Jones, trumpet and Chris Felts, saxophones and flutes.
“The show is great fun for the crowd, and great fun for us,” Skitch said. “It’s a different direction for Steve and Vic Ferrari and we get a chance to write some original horn lines for songs like Kenny Loggin’s ‘I’m Alright.’ There never was a horn line for that song before.”
For tickets to the March 10th show in Oshkosh, call the Grand’s Box Office at 920-424-2350 or toll free at 1-866-96GRAND or go to the website, grandoperahouse.org And for the March 25th show in Hartford visit schauercenter.org
Two of the most important figures in the growth of local original music are taking it to the next level.
Marc Golde, producer, recording engineer, musician, mentor and owner of Rock Garden Studios in Appleton, is gifting the Fox Cities with a new television show.
Golde’s show, Rock Garden Live Presented by Tundraland, launched January 15. Broadcasting across Northeastern Wisconsin, the show features original musical acts with a focus on one band per show. It airs Sunday nights at 10:00 p.m. on CW14.
Golde’s enthusiasm for the Fox Valley music scene is matched by his executive producer, Brian Gottlieb of Tundraland.
“Brian is very passionate about community and the music scene” Gottlieb said. “He does so many things for the community with music scholarships and sponsorships. It’s been great having him on board.”
Golde was inspired in part by shows like “Austin City Limits,” and wants to reach music fans who don’t necessarily like the bar scene, so he is bringing Fox Cities music to television.
“I’m not done with television,” he said with a wry smile. “I think we’re in our last generation of television viewers before things get more personalized. There’s something urgent about a broadcast that isn’t available on the Internet. It’s the same thing as listening to vinyl. It’s a moment of time that’s happening in front of me. That’s the charm. That’s why I wanted to do the TV broadcast.”
“This is our future history,” he added. “I hope that by doing this, it will sustain the art a little longer.”
The Inquisition is a big fan and strong supporter of local original music and would like to join the applause for Golde and Gottlieb, and wish them success in this new venture, adding big thanks to Tundraland for its generous and on-going support of Fox Cities music and art.