A “surprise” phone call last week helped Rob Pizapio and The Phoenix Band land one of their biggest gigs Sept. 30 at the storied club The Stanhope House.
“I got home from the office and I'm getting ready to eat. “The guy calls and he said, 'I have your card and I was told to book you guys,'” the Belleville native and Phoenix Band bassist said. “That's definitely an amazing place.”
Through that chance call, The Phoenix Band – which also includes Cliff Ladosz (vocals/guitar), John Bowden (lead guitar/vocals), Ted* Malin (keyboards/vocals) and Bobby Palino (drums) – will get to play a club that calls itself “The Last Great American Roadhouse” after playing host to luminaries like Paul Butterfield, Buddy Guy and The Fabulous Thunderbirds.
Since forming in 2004, The Phoenix Band has channeled legends of classic rock in crowd-pleasing performances at clubs across North Jersey. However, they are not a cover band, Pizapio says pointedly, but a “tribute to rock music.”
Although they use lasers, lights and even smoke as part of their show, their interpretations of rock songs from yesteryear are what have made them so enduringly popular through the years at Belleville's JK's Boathouse and Bogey's in Clifton.
“The 60's and 70's were so creative, from Jimi Hendrix to all the guys who came from Britain – The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, they took the world by storm,” Pizapio said.
Ladosz's vocal versatility enables the band to pay tribute to those artists and more. His chameleon-like vocal versatility has helped them seamlessly add new songs to the setlist such as “Sweet Melissa” by The Allman Brothers, “Down on Main Street” by Bob Seger and “Tell Me Why” and “Ticket to Ride” by The Beatles. This also extends to covers of blues-rock tunes like “Hard to Handle” by The Black Crowes and outright rockers such as Ozzy Osbourne's “Crazy Train”.
“We usually go by what people ask for,” Pizapio said. “If we get enough requests, we'll learn the song.”
With many of these classic songs, The Phoenix Band adds its own signature stylings by improvising guitar parts or vocals. As proof, Pizapio pointed out that they rewrote the ending of “Knocking on Heaven's Door,” a Bob Dylan tune later covered by Guns N' Roses.
However, with the bandmates scattered all over North Jersey – only Pizapio still lives in Belleville – and having different work and family responsiblities, the bassist said, “We never rehearse.” And yet, the Phoenix Band pieces together the parts they learned individually as a tight collective unit on stage.
“These guys are pros,” Pizapio said. “They can do anything. Everybody's timing is amazing.”
Timing worked in The Phoenix Band's favor in getting them booked at The Stanhope House, one of the band's biggest gigs to date.
“We try to give them the best show we can,” Pizapio said. “We give 110 percent.”
*Correction: An incorrect first name was originally given for Malin.