Five Firsts: Tony Califano of Fairview Avenue

Tony CalifanoNAME: Tony Califano

1. THE FIRST ALBUM I EVER BOUGHT WAS … I think I went 50/50 with my dad on Tom Cochrane’s “Mad Mad World,” which had “Life is a Highway” on it. But I think around that same time I got Pearl Jam’s “Ten” on cassette for a birthday present (circa fourth grade). Actually, most of my early tapes were probably gifts. One that I really wore out was the “Forrest Gump” soundtrack. That had some great stuff on it – Hendrix, Randy Newman, Jefferson Airplane, “Freebird!”

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2. THE FIRST CONCERT THAT I EVER SAW WAS … Sharon, Lois & Bram. The Elephant Show on tour, at SPAC. I was probably six years old, so I don’t remember much to be honest, but there are pictures to document this significant moment. The first concert I remember wanting to go to was the Allman Brothers Band at SPAC in 1998. Went with my dad, sat in the balcony. It was a big deal for me.

Played: My grandfather had a big Yamaha organ, from the days when instruments were also furniture. So I used to bang on that as a very little kid. When I have a home, I hope it can be a piece of furniture for me as well.
Owned: Well, my parents bought me a saxophone in fourth grade to be in the school band. But the first instrument I actually owned myself was a crappy little black electric guitar, bought at Daddy’s Junky Music for $60. I think the name on the headstock was “Gremlin.” It had one humbucker, volume/tone controls and a tiny little strat-style body. I played it an awful lot though. Then I disassembled it to try and make some sort of frankenstein instrument with another guitar and ended up just rendering both of them useless.

4. THE FIRST SONG THAT I EVER PERFORMED IN PUBLIC WAS … “Lollipop” in kindergarten. Mrs. Fiddler, our piano-playing classroom helper, used to sing with us, and we all had to perform a solo during the time that we were “star of the week.” Once I learned guitar, the first thing I performed for other people was James Taylor’s “Country Road” at a family cookout, probably about eighth grade or so.

5. THE FIRST BAND I WAS EVER IN WAS … Shifty. Tenth grade. Bass, drums, two guitars. Pretty much a jamband, I guess. 15-year-old Tony was far too sophisticated to be in a garage band. We did a bunch of my originals and covers as diverse as Alice Cooper’s “Is It My Body” (via Gov’t Mule) and Gershwin’s “Cuban Overture” (via Voorheesville High Sschool Band). Also, “Play that Funky Music (White Boy)” and “Low Rider.” Our first gig was at a coffeehouse in the Christ the King Gym in Guilderland. I wore pleather pants and a button-down shirt that was my dad’s, circa 1978. It was all too wonderfully innocent and youthful to even be embarrassing now…

Tony Califano and his Fairview Avenue bandmates have just released their self-titled debut album. Read our review here. You can catch the band in performance at the Moon & River Cafe in Schenectady with Whoa Nelly! at 7pm Friday, and at Emack & Bolio’s in Guilderland at 7pm on Friday, July 9.

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