Taking My Last Bow With First Round

With gratitude as I reflect back, I will miss the friends, fans and fun times in my 2 1/2 year tenure with First Round Band, as the final curtain drops on my drumming career as part of one of the most challenging and fulfilling projects to date.

Well, it is a secret no more that I am leaving the band. It’s been hard to keep a lid on it because, actually, it is rather exciting, not that I am leaving behind my esteemed and respected cohorts, but that I am moving on to some rather exciting projects. It is a move onward, toward something and not away. In fact, I will miss this project dearly. Meanwhile, I am overjoyed to pass the torch to another drummer for whom I have held a great deal of respect over the years, who I have filled in for on numerous occasions and to whom I readily will give over the reins to this intricate and complex position: drummer for First Round Band. And I wish to thank everyone, friends, fans and bandmates for a brilliant quarter of a decade!

I will truly miss the fun times

While I was with the band, it had grown tremendously in material, cohesiveness, showmanship and style and commanded a growing audience which it continues to do to this day. One of the things I will miss most, and what “New Frank” (as I call him quite literally) will surely enjoy, is the compliments from fans after the shows telling us what a great band we are and that they are so impressed with our non-stop medleys and song-to-song performances.

This is pure genius at work, fueled by a band leader who is not just a lead singer in his own right, but an experienced DJ who knows how to mix tempos, keys, etc. and who has managed and led the band to where it is now. In addition to running his rehearsal studio “The Hodge Podge”, he carries the burden of running sound, marketing, composing set lists, new materials and medleys and so much more. This is the work of a true professional.

The friendships in the band…

Much respect and gratitude to my bandmates. We really have a great thing going. We get along pretty well and really enjoy working professionally together. We joke around a lot and have a relationship factor that I have found to be important. I resonate with each member as do we as a group. We click on a variety of levels which is important. Michele is an energetic, dynamic singer. Michael is a seasoned, experienced guitarist and Johnny, well, he an I go way back and he is one of my favorite bass players to lock in with. Carl provides corny humor, comic relief and professional direction. Altogether, this is an act that is hard to follow and not easy to leave behind. As I said, I am not “leaving” this project, I am growing into some new ones.

Couldn’t have selected a better replacement

This was a tough beef to try and find a replacement. About a year or so ago, I attempted to find an understudy. I have done fill-in work for many years but First Round Band and its non-stop, 90-minute-sets show is not something that lends itself to a fill-in. I was unsuccessful at finding someone at the time. Frank Puzillo, of Replica fame, has been a long-time friend, who’s drumming I respect. I had asked him initially but the timing wasn’t right. He was in another band. Early this past February, he was the first call Johnny and I made for a replacement, Johnny a former bandmate of Frank’s, having also played with Replica for many years. The timing was pefect this time. Five minutes after I gave notice, Frank accepted the gig over text! And, 6-8 weeks of rehearsals later, he is taking over!

I took an “in the pocket” approach to drumming with First Round along with an “interpretive” (as opposed to “duplicative”) style of performing the drum parts to the cover songs. Since there were so many medleys of songs, I tried to streamline the playing so it sounded like one drummer was playing all songs, that is, instead of trying to be every drummer and hit every note. Playing in many original bands, this habit dies hard and came in handy with our rock show. Bringing in Frank, I knew that he would add an interesting level to the rhythm section in that I have always been amazed at his ability to duplicate and rock out nearly every single note. It is impressive to say the least and I think it gives the band a new edge to further enhance the overall sound. I know he’s gonna really grow with the band.

Lastly, Frank has one thing I never had: a fill-in drummer for this project! I am leaving on excellent terms and will play fill-ins as needed. So you may see me at a show or two making a cameo performance here and there. Wish I had that luxury!! Bottom line is you are in excellent hands with Puzillo! He freaking rocks!

Thank you everyone for your support

I wish to first express my extreme thanks to my bandmates who have welcomed me with open arms and to Carl, who I have worked with in projects before, who even helped me when I lacked equipment early on. All of these people were so awesome to work with.

As to my personal friends who have supported me and the band by coming out to the shows, I can’t express my gratitude in words, and what it means to have someone show up for even one set. We musicians do this to inspire others. Without an audience, we are playing for ourselves, which has limited value, trust me! So thank you from the depths of my being!

To the fans, you guys are amazing and are so much part of the act it is ridiculous. I have enjoyed entertaining you and keeping you rocking, dancing and shouting for more and your interest, admiration and attention have not gone unnoticed. You are an integral part of the shows. I will miss you but I can promise you I have done my due diligence (as has the rest of the band) to continue to bring you something special and we leave you in Frank Puzillo’s capable hands. He will rock you just as hard. He is the work horse you need behind the drum kit. I promise you this.

On the eve of a doubleheader, one last performance and one first, I am excited to have everyone witness the transition and come rock with me one last time as the First Round Band drummer!

One of my favorite venues (and I do have many) is LaFamiglia in Lake Carmel NY, where the appreciation levels are pretty damn high for us, especially from Margherita, the club owner. This is the setting for Friday night, 24 March 2017, my last hurrah with First Round, at which I am hoping for the biggest hurrah ever! This will crescendo into the final encore and I will have one more go-around with my favorite medleys to play. This will segue into Saturday night where Frank will light it up on his Tama’s in his official full-show debut, a performance I will be attending in support.

I hope to see everyone there and I am humbled by the support I have received and the amount of joy this project has pumped into my life. I will cherish these performances and friendships for years to come. Thank you all!

Thank you First Round Band – it will always be showtime, baby!