Sunday, November 20, 2016

The Good Rats and the lousy tummy

Caught the first set tonight of an acoustic version of The Good Rats at Rudi's Bar & Grill in Patchogue. I think when they play in this formation, they bill themselves as The AcoustiRats, although they weren't actually scheduled to play acoustic tonight -- their drummer took ill. It's the first time I've seen them without Peppi, so it was a bittersweet experience.

For the unfamiliar, Peppi Marchello was the singer/songwriter/main driving force behind The Good Rats from 1964 until his death in 2016. Back in the days when they became a national act, the classic lineup of the Rats consisted of Peppi, John "The Cat" Gatto on guitar, Peppi's brother Mickey Marchello on guitar and backing vocals, Lenny Kotke on bass and Joe Franco on drums. In the mid-'90s, Peppi and his sons Gene Marchello and Stefan Marchello reformed the band as a local bar band, playing pubs throughout the Tri-State area. The classic lineup would usually reform for one or two reunion gigs a year.

I used to catch the Rats a lot in the '90s and '00s, but once Denise and I adopted the kids, I really didn't get out to shows anymore. I always felt bad when Peppi passed in 2013 that I hadn't been to see the band in a few years. We had become friends, starting somewhere around 1995 where he gave me a lift home from one of his gigs. I think he liked me because he knew that I believed and still believe that The Good Rats should have gotten as big or bigger than bands like Rush and Aerosmith, but bad luck and record label politics shot them down.

Gene hasn't played with the Rats since 2008 except for a memorial reunion show, but Stefan continued playing with Peppi until Peppi passed away, and it's Stefan who continues to front the band today.

Like I said, it was a bittersweet experience to see the band without Peppi for the first time. It was even more bittersweet because this past week was the my own father's birthday, the first since he passed away this last summer, so all my feelings about him were mixed together with my feelings about Peppi.

These days, Stefan and the gang mix together classic Good Rats material with covers of bands like Journey and The Foo Fighters (they were still doing this while Peppi was alive). They just released a new album, and while I don't have it yet (it's on order), I think it contains a mix of material that Peppi wrote and never recorded and some things that Stefan wrote himself. I assume when they play a full band show, they probably play some stuff off of that as well.

The set that I did hear sounded good. They opened with "School Days", and played a number of other Rats tunes like "300 Boys" and "Does It Make You Feel Good". They also played some Foo Fighters, some Journey and (God help us) some Whitney Houston (really some Dolly Parton, since she wrote the song and hers was actually the superior version imo).

Now that I've actually gone ahead and seen them for that first time without Peppi, I expect I'll go out again and try to catch the full band sometime soon. I didn't stay last night because a frozen Paula Dean breakfast sandwich wasn't sitting well in my stomach. (Curse you, Paula Dean!). I was also hoping to take my own son with me last night, be opted for the new Harry Potterish movie with his Mom, his sister, his aunt and his cousin instead. Maybe next time.