By David RudermanJanuary 23, 2013
A wide range of American musical styles were in evidence as the Soldiers' Theatre celebrated the third anniversary of its monthly Music Café program Jan. 19. From traditional jazz and Elvis in the 1950s, through the blues, soul and rock explosions of the '60s, to the hip-hop and punk of today, American musical influence has been alive and kicking around the world, including Italy.
The Music Café, emceed and engineered by Soldiers' Theatre mainstay, Barry Robinson, attracts about an equal number of American and Italian musicians and music fans to its friendly open stage performances, where everyone is welcome to perform, and no one needs to worry about going solo -- someone in the room is sure to back you up on stage.
Italian regulars Sonia Elia and Luciano Prestipino belted funk and rhythm and blues standards. American singers Jonathan and Erica sang pop and soul standards as well. In the course of the evening, there was only one Italian pop song sung on stage.
But there were quite a few Italian players. Punkh (pronounced punch, but with a hint at their preferred sound), made up of guitarist and vocalist Tommaso Capitello, guitarist Lorenzo Dalla Fontana, bassist Antonio Donà and drummer Martino Banella, all middle and high school students, performed two of their punk originals with Italian lyrics.
"Because we like to play punk rock," said Capitello. "I like the kind of music, the energy, because it's a strong music."
The band said they have been particularly influenced by Blink 182 and Sum 41, but mentioned bands such as Linkin Park, Metallica, Green Day, Pink Floyd and AC/DC as well local Veneto band Rumatera as being among their influences.
Capitello said he didn't care too much for the Beatles, but Dalla Fontana conceded that he did like the Rolling Stones.
"I like metal and punk," said Donà.
The teens have been playing together with an evolving crew since 2010. This was their fourth appearance at the Music Café, though with an evolving lineup. They have performed at local parish festivals and the Berta Rock Festival.
An older set of blues-rockers, the Capolinea (Bus Stop) Blues Band also played, performing their own sets and backing up various singers. The band has been a unit for a decade and a half, said guitarist Daniele Bertin. Based on lead singer Enrico Cavuto's choice of material, his vocal style and Union Jack guitar strap, one might think Eric Clapton was a major or early influence.
"In the beginning it was Clapton, maybe B.B. King," said Bertin. "Then the more sophisticated music: Gary Moore, Robert Johnson, Robert Ford, Stevie Ray Vaughn."
In any event, it's the blues for these fellows. "It's the energy. My heart is mostly for jazz, but I'm not so proud to play jazz. I like to play blues. It was my first," said Bertin, who first heard the call of American song as a youngster. "When I was really a child, mostly by records because there were few radio programs," he said.
Along with bassist Cesare Celegon and drummer Elio Paggiaro, the quartet, based in Padova and Noale, near Vicenza, and have played the Music Café a couple of times in the past.
The evening was rounded out with the progressive rock compositions of Steve O'Leary and the folk stylings and blues harp of Gary Johnson.
"Our Music Café nights have been an extremely successful addition to the entertainment program at Soldiers' Theatre," said director Jerry Brees. "We're proud to be able to showcase the amazing musical talents of our community."
Everyone shared in a cake to mark the anniversary, and the players and listeners finally called it a night around 10:30 p.m.
"How many other activities on this post go on for four and a half hours?" asked Robinson.
"Barry Robinson -- without him we couldn't make this great event happen," said Brees.