The Beatles â€¦ The Rolling Stones â€¦ Hendrix â€¦ Motown â€¦ Woodstock… These are some of the musical touchstones that defined a generation. They still inspire the people who experienced them first-hand, especially those who became musicians. One such group of musicians is Local Flavor. The newly formed quartet debuts at the Music in the Park series in Berryville this evening. Their motto: Local Flavor – All the Right Ingredients for a Good Time. Their specialty: Rock & Roll with a hearty side of Soul and R&B.
For a new band, they have substantial musical history under their belt. Some members rocked out in teen bands. Another learned his chops in a renowned jazz club. The four lads who appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show were a catalyst. Another found inspiration at Woodstock.
Meet the Band
“Mike Carducci, Pisan.” is how Mike introduces himself, with a nod to his Italian heritage. He is the drummer – the keeper of the beat – and one of its younger members. Even so, he recalls seeing Ringo on the Ed Sullivan Show. “He looked so happy playing the drums. This was just after Kennedy had been shot and everyone was so down.” Carducci immediately made plans to be a drummer. He declined his parent’s offer to buy him a starter drum kit. He saved money and eventually bought the best kit he could afford. What happened to that old drum kit? He still plays it today. Carducci has had several brushes with fame. He played drums for George Benson in the mid-1970s at a Pittsburgh jazz club called Walt Harper’s Attic. Carducci was 16 at the time. He once sat in with Blood, Sweat, & Tears. Fellow band member Robin Braithwaite teased, “My daughter says he’s a god because he knows the guys in Journey.”
Robin Braithwaite appreciates the band’s name, Local Flavor. She is a chef in Clarke but as a vocalist she adds sizzle to R&B classics like Ain’t Too Proud to Beg and Heat Wave. Her warm alto is truly captivating. Carducci recommended a song to her called Ruins by Melissa Etheridge. “I like Melissa Etheridge,” explained Carducci. “Hearing Robin, I thought, you know a lot of Melissa Etheridge goes really high and Robin doesn’t have that range but this song just fits in her pocket.” Additional selections from the band’s song list highlight the variety of styles Braithwaite covers: Cinnamon Girl, Dancing in the Street, Pink Cadillac, as well as slower, more soulful tunes like Cry Love, Stand by Me, and Walk On By.
If you’ve heard of Olds-Kool or Mostly Naked Music, you’ve heard of Robert Friedensen. He plays guitar and bass in Olds-Kool and did acoustic covers in Mostly Naked Music. For Local Flavor he focuses on bass. His influences: “Neil Young, and of course the Beatles. I was young enough to get caught up in that. I started playing guitars when I was 12 or 13 years old and spent my teen years in bands. Then there’s Hendrix, of course, and the list goes on. Regarding Robert’s talent, Carducci notes, “He’s a very, very good guitar player but he’s a total kick-butt bass player. I remember the first thing he ever said to me when I went to Olds-Kool, â€˜I’m really not a bass player’. We played a couple songs and I said, â€˜Yeah, you are.’ He’s probably in the top two or three bass players I’ve ever played with.” “That still totally blows me away,” replied Friedensen, “Because I’m still finding my way around on it.”
Guitar player Vic Compitello’s remodeled basement with comfortable couches and flat screen tv is the band’s rehearsal space. Things weren’t always so swank for the group. Braithwaite recalls, “We were upstairs in the garage and I would come after work and they’d already be playing. As soon as I got up to the door, they’d hit the garage door opener. It would open up and they’d all be standing there smiling, playing away.”
Vic and Robert first conceived the idea of Local Flavor. Robert explained, “We met at the Round Hill Bluegrass and Folk jam and realized that we enjoyed playing the same stuff, the same songs – that were not bluegrass.” Compitello has been a guitarist all his life and knows his way around a Strat. “I like Skynyrd and Allman Brothers,” Compitello said modestly. If he chose to, he could mirror the riffs of famous guitarists from Chuck Berry to Duane Allmann. But Compitello explained his philosophy, “To a degree you need to have some of the essence of the original, I think, but then it’s also the musicianship that kicks in, too. I don’t think anyone can perfectly duplicate something. Then it’s not as fun. We do this for fun.” Oh, yeah, ask him about his adventures at Woodstock sometime.
The fun factor is only one of the important elements that set Local Flavor apart from numerous Boomers who can still be heard rocking out in basements across the nation. Compitello explained, “One good thing is that we all get along. When you have good chemistry in a band, you have good chemistry on a team, you have good chemistry at work – everything just flows.” Carducci agreed, “We’re not looking to make it – that was forty years ago. We’re just looking for people to dance.” Nevertheless, Robert got in the last word, “It would still be pretty cool if some concert came to town and we wound up opening for them…”
You can catch their performance Friday June 18th beginning at 6:30pm in the gazebo at Rose Hill Park in downtown Berryville. The music series continues with new musical talent each Friday evening through September. Be there or be square, music lovers.
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