A rock band at the venerable Caffe Lena, the bastion of folk? Wow, what a culture shock that would be.
Well, the world didn’t end. The Spampinato Brothers’ pedigree goes way back to the sixties, when lead singer and bass player, Joey Spampinato, helped form NRBQ, so it actually makes sense. A band full of music history, in a place that helped make music history.
They started the evening pretty much as expected, their straight-ahead guitar-based rock setting the tone for what would be a great evening of music. Their tradition is very much steeped in sixties style, sometimes almost Beatlesque. In fact, that style of guitar and harmonies helped them do a fine job on a couple of Beatles numbers, such as “You’re Going to Lose That Girl” and “You Can’t Do That.” They moved quickly from song to song without a lot of talking between. Not that they weren’t friendly, it’s just that after their long history, they knew what the audience was looking for, and the nice, but not quite full, house appreciated it.
Joey was joined up front by his brother Johnny, another former member of NRBQ, on vocals and lead guitar. Trading leads and doing a few vocals himself, Aaron Spade rounded out the front. Setting the beat was Jeff Potter, sitting in on drums. He did a great job, especially considering, as Johnny pointed out, he probably has never played many of the songs. He even threw in a harmonica solo while playing drums, I ain’t seen that before.
This truly talented quartet never slowed down (did I point out that Joey has played since the sixties?). Some of the highlights were Aaron on “Route 66” and the encore of “Get Rhythm,” but my favorite was “A Bear Is A Bear Is A Bear.” How can you not love a song that starts out talking about a peanut butter and jelly sandwich? While the venue wasn’t full, there were a fair amount of people, all of whom appeared to be having a blast.
Review and photographs by Ed Conway