Regarding the band’s reunion for Move Like This: “I was aware that on half of the new songs, Ben would have done better than I did, but we never wanted anybody from the outside.” — Ric Ocasek, Rolling Stone, March 2011
About his neighbors’ disco party: “It was the same exact beat for forty-five minutes. It could have been fifteen different songs for all I know. I guess they get machines to play it. I’d saw my fingers off before I’d play that stuff.” — Candy-O press kit, 1979
“He is becoming extremely, unpleasantly famous. He wasn’t expecting fame, although he secretly longed for it in his twenties just like everyone else, and now that he has it he’s not sure what to do with it. It’s mostly embarrassing. He checks into the Hotel Le Germain in Toronto, for example, and the young woman at the registration desk tells him what an honor it is to have him staying with them — ‘and if you don’t mind me saying so, I adored that detective film’ — and as always in these situations he isn’t sure what to say, he honestly can’t tell if she really did enjoy the detective film or if she’s just being nice or if she wants to sleep with him or some combination of the above, so he smiles and thanks her, flustered and not sure where to look, takes the key card and feels her gaze on his back as he walks to the elevators. Trying to look purposeful, also trying to convey the impression that he hasn’t noticed and doesn’t care that half the population of the lobby is staring at him.
“Once in the room he sits on the bed, relieved to be alone and unlooked-at but feeling as he always does in these moments a little disoriented, obscurely deflated, a bit at a loss…”
–Emily St. John Mandel, Station Eleven
If the number of people who play air guitar against their knee while they drive is any indicator, gazillions of us wish we could recreate the incredible music of our favorite artists. To stand on a stage and be *that* cool — even for five minutes — is the stuff of fantasies for most, but these guys make it their reality.
“We’re not a look-alike band and probably never will be. We’re not 20 anymore and we don’t think that wigs will work for us, so we’re focusing more on getting the sound right,” keyboard player Lars Altvater says. “We want to deliver an authentic experience that recreates the sound of The Cars as close as possible.”
And that’s exactly what local tribute band Moving In Stereo did on March 10, 2017, when they headlined the House of Blues in Cleveland, Ohio. With a set list that included “Just What I Needed,” “Since I Held You,” and “You Might Think,” these five guys had the crowd dancing in the palm of their collective hand. The stage crew was tight, the energy in the audience was crazy, and the band was on their game. From beginning to end, the place was rocking.
Matt Fuller, the bass player, describes their encore: “Opening that show was a great local tribute to Tom Petty called Shadow of Doubt. We’d never played with them before… they were really great guys and put on a great show. We asked them to come out and sing “Good Times Roll” with us and they were absolutely in to it!” They brought the house down.
Playing such an historic venue was a dream come true for all five members of this tribute band. Drummer Noah Patera says, “Having seen many of my favorite bands playing there, I was completely humbled to have an opportunity to play on that stage. It was an experience I will never forget.”
A little over three years in the making, the members of Moving In Stereo have combined their passion and talent to put them on the map. In addition to Lars on keyboards, Matt on bass and lead vocals, and Noah on drums, the group is rounded out with Bob Heazlit on lead guitar, and Danny Ayala on lead vocals and rhythm guitar. They all agree that their meeting was serendipitous… and a little unusual.
The Craigslist ad was titled: “Something/Anything” – a plea sent out by Matt for a musical connection. Having played in various original and cover bands through the years, by 2013 he was looking for a new project, something “musically fun, something I grew up with.” Matt and his childhood friend (and guitar player) Bob, had been kicking around a variety of ideas with little success.
Meanwhile, in the same town but unknown to either Matt or Bob, keyboard player Lars was having his own rock and roll issues. “Noah and I played in an 80s band together that started to fall apart. We were trying to get another band started, but we didn’t find the right people and we couldn’t get anything going.” He, too, employed Craigslist as a means of finding what he wanted: he posted an ad looking for musicians to form a tribute band for The Cars. The response? “Noah answered. He had no idea it was me,” Lars laughs.
Lars did see Matt’s ad, however, and called him up. The two met for beers and felt a compatibility, so Matt called Bob and invited him to join them at the bar. Bob explains, “We’re talking and I’m going on and on about my dark vision for this original project. So Lars says, ‘Well, my neighbor Noah is a drummer and we’re trying to put together a Cars tribute band.’ Matt and I look at each other, pause for a moment, and say, ‘Well, that’s kind of genius.’”
So right then and there the three musicians agreed on some Cars’ songs to learn to play (“Just What I Needed,” “Bye Bye Love,” and “You’re All I’ve Got Tonight”), and then set a date for a run through.
The guys met at Noah’s house and started jamming, and the verdict was immediate and unanimous. “As the first strains of “Just What I Needed” rang out, it was apparent that musically this was going to be very good. It was The Cars. Bonus? These were really good guys,” Bob observed.
Because all of them were big fans of The Cars, the four fell easily into the roles they filled: Matt covering Benjamin, Noah as David on the drums, Lars playing out Greg, and Bob as a right-handed Elliot. Now all they needed was someone to represent Ric. Though none of the guys tried to imitate the physical look of the Cars’ members, they knew that talent as well as stage presences would be important in finding this last piece of the puzzle.
Bob reflects, “Spoiled with how easily the four of us came together, none of us knew how difficult it was going to be to find Ric. I don’t know why we were so surprised. Ric really is the icon in The Cars. Taking nothing away from Ben (whom I prefer vocally), when people think of The Cars, the vision of Ric’s gaunt face, wispy black hair and shades to match is the face you see in your mind. Finding a guy to play that character should have been hard, and it was.”
Initially Pat Grieshammer took the spot. An easy going guy with tons of experience and talent, Moving In Stereo was able to polish their set list and start playing gigs. Unfortunately, Pat moved on to another band and it looked like this Cars tribute band was going to stall… until Danny Ayala came on the scene. “I’ve always been a huge fan of The Cars’ music. Lars tried a few times to bring me into the project in the early going, but it was just bad timing for me because of other projects I was involved in,” Danny explains.
Matt says of the change, “It was a perfect fit: he was a huge Cars fan, he wanted to put in the work necessary to make the project successful, and he’s a GREAT guy. As soon as we walked on stage with him we knew it was right… so did the audience!”
Once their lineup was complete, growth came quickly, and their like-minded attitude toward honoring The Cars has contributed to their success. “One thing that we wanted to establish early on is that we are not a traditional ‘bar band.’ We love playing everything from The Cars, but your typical bar crowd wants variety. We’re playing The Cars, like it or leave it!” Matt laughs.
Bob adds, “These songs demand focus, and playing them as note-perfect as you can while preserving the feel and spirit of the music: that is and will continue to be the first priority. The next step is to really develop the stage show, the lighting, the props; to deliver the experience of what it was like to be a at Cars’ show in the 80s. In that sense we’ve really only scratched the surface.”
Along those lines, the guys try to recreate the look of the band in clothing and instrumentation… but that can be pretty expensive. Matt says, “We get as close as we can without having to sell our houses!”
The five guys in the band are united in their vision for Moving In Stereo. Bob lays it out this way: “The goal of the band is fun. Plain and simple. Fun for the audience. Fun for us. The way you achieve that is to honor these great songs and performances, and replicate them to the best of your ability and never settle for ‘well, it’s close.’ When we learn these songs we research sheet music, isolated guitar tracks, live footage… info on the gear they used, the effects they used, the samples they used. Ultimately, I would hope that we do a good enough job that if [the original Cars members] ever became aware of us they would appreciate what we are doing and say, ‘Wow, that’s really cool.’”
The band is already working on their concert calendar for this summer – but you won’t just see them in any old place. “We carefully consider the shows we book. We want to make sure we’re playing the type of shows that can deliver that concert experience, more than background music for someone playing pool and having a couple beers,” Bob explains.
Matt agrees. “We partner up with other similar tribute acts and make it an event. We give folks a night of great music! All of the Cars’ fans come out and they sing along and they cheer when we play things like “Since I Held You”… it’s a pretty great experience.”
If you’re in Ohio, don’t miss the opportunity to experience Moving In Stereo live. Check out their website for their current show schedule. Also follow Moving In Stereo on Facebook here, and on Twitter here.
(All photos by Mat Luschek Photography; used with permission)
Today marks one year since I created this blog. I clearly remember my resolve to start it. I needed a place to get out all of my thoughts and feelings about Benjamin without having to worry about how others would react. And I had been researching him and The Cars for a couple of months at that point, and I had a burning desire to categorize and sort the info.
In fact, it was my husband who unwittingly gave me the idea. One day we were driving to town (about an hour away) and I was going on and on about how the band would work on a new song, with Ric maybe making a demo and then all of the guys adding their parts, blah blah blah, when Ken jokingly commented, “You know, you should teach a class on these guys.” Well, that’s all it took to get these good times rolling.
I confess I’ve been surprised at how important this blog has been to me. I’ve enjoyed it so much! And I’m going to tell you why… in true Sweetpurplejune fashion: with a numbered list! Haha! And at the bottom I’ll list some nerdy stats. Here we go (in off-the-top-of-my-head order):
- It gives me unending pleasure to go back and read through it, not because I think I’m “all that,” but because it so perfectly represents who I am and my personal journey with Benjamin.
- I feel like I’ve come to know Benjamin so much better. Do I think I’ve learned all there is to know? Not even close! (Aren’t we all waiting eagerly for Joe Milliken’s biography???) But I feel like I’ve moved from being entirely possessed by his good looks, to appreciating more of what made him tick as a man and a musician (and yes, still his good looks).
- I am in awe of the precious relationships I’ve found… people who have started out as readers and who are now so dear to me! They have enriched my life immeasurably.
- I also treasure the friendships I’ve formed with those sweet people who have been willing to help me out; sharing their talents, answering questions, giving advice, and slogging through research with me. The time they spend is always an invaluable gift to me, never taken lightly.
- I’ve rediscovered my love for writing. I was always a big scribbler through high school and college, but then, you know, life happened and marriage and kids… and it had been many years since I put pen to paper for something that didn’t involve lesson plans or tetanus shots. That feeling of pouring my heart into a 1,500 word article and being proud of the result? Off the charts!
- Going hand-in-hand with writing is the opportunity to research. I love jumping on an idea or question and following it over hills and dales to find the answers I’m looking for (and often some surprises along the way). Plus, I’ve learned so much about things I’ve never thought to explore before, like copyright law (!), monitor mixing, the history of video production, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Whew — very enlightening.
- I’m picking up all sorts of other skills along the way, too: making gifs, creating video clips, crafting interview questions, and tip-toeing through Facebook drama fields.
- This blog has helped my through my MLC (mid-life crisis). Or wait… maybe it’s actually been my MLC? Haha! Entering the season of life where I’ve got kids graduating and gray hair popping up everywhere (on me AND my husband!) had me looking around for something to fill the void, to renew and refresh my energies. This blog has been just the thing.
- Not only have I gotten to know more about Benjamin, but I’ve come to love and respect each member of The Cars so much. Their history, group dynamics, and individual talents are constant sources of fascination for me; may I never come to the end of them!
- Because of many of my dear “Benj world” friends, I’ve been introduced to, and rediscovered, a LOT of great music!
“And I’m doing just what I like to do…”
So here’s to another year of discovery, my fellow Cars’ fans and Benjamin lovers! Looking forward to more rock-and-roll adventures with all of you. ♥♥
Stats for my first year:
Total posts (including this one): 160; total visitors: 8,282; total views: 27,561
Most countries reached in one day: 14
My first post: Just What I Needed
The one post that has 0 views: the lyrics for Cool Fool.
It’s not often that we get to hear what goes on before and after a concert. I’m thrilled and grateful that I had the opportunity to peek behind the curtain of this special show, thanks to David Curry, Chuck Nolan, and Jeff Viele.
Viele’s Planet was a popular adult bar and concert venue in Springfield, Illinois, from July of 1994 to October of 2006. The owner, Jeff Viele, specialized in booking original music acts, and also sometimes catered to younger music enthusiasts by hosting non-alcoholic, all-ages shows for the local community. The location accommodated about 400 people, and featured a stage and a long dance floor area as well as patron seating. Through the years, artists such as AFI, Mojo Nixon, and Metal Church played there. And guess who else? That’s right, our favorite guy!
Jeff Viele contacted Orr’s management when his good friend, Chuck Nolan, began campaigning to get Benjamin to come for a show. Chuck was (and is) a huge Cars fan, and he had met Benjamin during a show in Quincy, Illinois, in 1997. Chuck invested a lot of time and energy in getting to see one of his rock heroes play live in Springfield. Between Jeff and Chuck, arrangements were made for Benjamin to perform at Viele’s Planet on August 16, 1998.
Preparations leading up to the day of the event involved collecting the supplies and equipment required on Benjamin’s professional rider. Included on this list was a drum set. Benjamin’s management was very detailed about the specifications they wanted. Chuck contacted a local music store, brought in the faxed specs, and was assured that the owner would have it all available on the day of the show. Chuck stayed on top of things, phoning the store the week of the performance to make sure everything was coming along.
“We show up the day of the show, and the owner is acting like he hadn’t thought about any of this since the first time we spoke! He’s like, ‘Uh, uh… oh! Here’s some sub-Kmart-level drum kit you guys can have tonight.’ Unbelievable!” Chuck groans. “Here I am greeting rock royalty, my childhood hero with my tail between my legs! It was obvious this substandard drum kit wasn’t going to work.” He’s able to laugh about it now. “Thankfully, I had made some calls, and my friends in a band called The Love Hogs (who were scheduled to open) were in possession of a great drum kit and they came through for us. Heart attack averted!”
August 16th arrived. Around 3 pm, Benjamin walked into Viele’s, looking like a classic biker dude, with his sleeveless black t-shirt and his shaggy blonde hair flowing from under the bandana tied around his head. He and his tour manager, David Tedeschi, took a seat at the bar while Jeff bustled about getting ready for the night. Chuck soon joined them. They made small talk about where Benjamin lived, his kids, and his motorcycles. Chuck had designed some huge subway flyers to promote the show, and they caught Benjamin’s eye in the bar. He was so impressed that he asked if he could have a couple to take home to frame and put in his children’s rooms. Of course, they let him.
While Benjamin’s road crew was getting things set up on the stage, Chuck had plenty of time to chat with Benjamin. They got to talking about Benjamin’s set list, and Chuck mentioned some of the deeper cuts that he’d enjoy hearing Ben perform, like “Down Boys” and “Think It Over.” Ben responded that he’d love to play other Cars’ songs, but he only had permission to do certain numbers.
They also talked quite a bit about The Cars and the possibility of a reunion. Chuck tried delicately to approach the subject of the band’s break up, but “like a true gentleman, Benjamin would not go into specifics.” Chuck does remember that after a few moments of quiet contemplation, Benjamin said something along the lines of, “You know, I want you to know something. I was never mad at any of the other guys. Ric is the only one I had a beef with at the time, and honestly, I’m not even mad at him anymore.” (Please remember that Chuck is paraphrasing to the best of his memory; it’s not gospel.)
With the band and the soundman finished setting up, Benjamin did his vocal sound check as well as the sound check for the drums. Click here to see RARE and amazing footage of Benjamin playing the drums for “Just What I Needed” — shared by Chuck Nolan and uploaded by Dave Curry. (Thank you SO much, Chuck!) Once they got the technicalities squared away Benjamin and his team headed back to the hotel to rest before dinner.
In addition to the bar’s own advertising, Viele’s had teamed up with local classic rock station WYMG to heavily publicize Benjamin’s performance. The radio station invited Ben out to the Illinois State Fair where they were promoting him and the show. After dinner, Jeff and Chuck drove Benjamin out to the fairgrounds. The parking was terrible and they had bit of a walk ahead of them. Jeff was worried that they wouldn’t get Benjamin to his location on time, but luckily Jeff recognized a guy zipping around in a golf cart. The friend gladly agreed to let the guys hitch a ride to the Miller beer tent, where Benjamin arrived for his interview as scheduled.
In the meantime, Dave Curry and his good friend Tom arrived at Viele’s around 7 pm. (Both men had also met Benjamin in 1997 at the Quincy show.) Tom had made arrangements to hand off a copy of the book Frozen Fire to David Tedeschi. The two spent the next several hours with Tedeschi and some of the other crew members, thumbing through the book and chatting easily about the early days of The Cars. Dave remembers, “Tom and I had recently found a warehouse online that had copies of the book very cheap, so we had purchased multiple copies. Well, all of the crew guys wanted one. I had more than a dozen at my apartment (which was five minutes away) so I went back home and got them. I even got a copy for Benjamin.”
Before long, folks started arriving for the show. “Regarding the turnout, I’m sorry to say it wasn’t good,” Chuck laments. “We had booked it on the last night of the Illinois State Fair. Springfield’s music scene is, for the most part, apathetic but on a State Fair night, your average middle-aged Cars’ fan was probably home passed out, with a belly full of corn dogs!” Estimates for the show range from 50 to 100 people. “I never heard Jeff Viele complain, either,” Chuck continues. “I think the memories were priceless to him.”
It was nearly 11:00 pm when Benjamin and his band took the stage at Viele’s Planet. The ORR band was made up of Rich Bartlett on lead guitar, Tom Hambridge on drums, Chris Lannon on bass, Tommy West on keyboards, and Benjamin on rhythm guitar.
Chuck describes the experience. “The band members were top-notch professionals, and to hear that voice in your local watering hole was very surreal! Rich Bartlett was particularly impressive, hitting all of Elliot’s signature phrasings, but adding his individual sense of flair. I thought Ben picked great songs from The Lace, and the live delivery had even more heart than the LP.” In spite of the small turnout, Chuck says, “Overall it was like seeing an arena level show with a private party vibe. Everyone there was a true fan.”
Video clips of most of the show are available on Youtube (link below); it was filmed by the late Pat Egizi. Here is the set list:
- Too Hot To Stop
- Just What I Needed
- I’m Coming Home Tonight
- Candy O
- Let’s Go
- Even Angels Fall
- Moving In Stereo
- Bye Bye Love
- Encore: Stay The Night, I Am
As we often see with his late 1990s shows, Benjamin played it ‘fast and loose’ with the lyrics. You can tell he is having fun with it, bantering with the audience. During his performance of Iggy Pop’s “Funtime” he sings, “Last night Chuck was down in the lab talking to Dracula and his crew…” Chuck got a kick out of that, of course!
After the show Benjamin and the crew headed downstairs, which served as a kind of ‘dressing room’ for the band. Dave, Tom and Chuck all hung out there, too. Benjamin sat on the couch with a beer, signing autographs and chatting with people. Dave was able to talk with him for a while. Ben’s pleasure was obvious when Dave offered him the copy of Frozen Fire, in which Dave had written, “Benjamin — Thanks for coming our way. Dave Curry, Springfield, IL.” Benjamin carefully tucked into his black leather shoulder bag nearby.
He signed Dave’s copy of The Lace, and Dave also asked if he would autograph a couple of the promo fliers for his nieces. Ben signed the first one using a black pen, which didn’t show up very well. He apologized and was going to switch to a pen with silver ink instead, but Dave explained with good humor that his nieces were eight-year-old twins, and that it would be near-pandemonium if Dave brought two fliers that were not identical. Benjamin kind of laughed and shook his head, and he happily obliged.
Both Dave and Chuck remember that Benjamin enjoyed talking about his son. “He was a proud father, showing everyone a picture of his son,” Chuck recalls. Dave confirms with a laugh, “He had pictures of Ben Jr. that he took out and showed me. Lots of Power Rangers and Ninja Turtles on that kid, as I remember.”
They both also recognized the sincere kindness and humility in Benjamin’s character. Dave had acted as a guest DJ on a local radio show earlier in the year, and he related to Benjamin that as part of his set he played a few songs from The Lace. Benjamin surprise was genuine, and his “thank you” was both humble and sincere.
Chuck remembers that at the end of the night “Ben shook my hand and said ‘ciao’ in that deep, resonate voice… Not an iota of rock star attitude in him, a good guy.”
It was after 3am when Jeff Viele finally locked up and left his bar. He headed over to a local late-night diner called Mr. Ted’s. Now this place was a little rough, as you can imagine… it was the catch-all eatery for everyone leaving the bars and trying to sober up before heading home. There was one particular fry cook that was a bit surly and would engage in yelling matches with the clientele.
For whatever reason, it turned out that this night was Jeff’s turn to bump heads with the cook, and as they were exchanging loud insults with one another the door to the restaurant opened and low and behold, who should be standing there? That’s right: “It was Benjamin and his manager. They took one look around the place and you could tell by their expressions they were NOT impressed… they turned right back around and walked out,” Jeff laughs. “That was embarrassing!”
There is nothing like getting to the last mile of a tough 10-mile run and having this song hit my ears — I love it! It’s one of my favorites from Cap’n Swing. But those lyrics? HELP! This has been the hardest song for me to translate (which is why I saved it for last – haha!). It’s even worse because you think you hear things but it doesn’t make sense, and because Ric is Ric you can’t even say, “He would never write that…” He would write anything! Haha! So yes, I need help. Please feel free to take a listen and let me know what you hear. And please, don’t miss Benjamin’s amazing background vocals on the third and fourth verses… oh my!
City Lights by Cap’n Swing
City lights, swinging scenes and money machines
Well, they’ll drain you from the pain
Yeah, oh, I’m singing at the Sea Stars on the slippery boulevard
You see there’s something wrong, there’s always something wrong
You do see there’s something wrong, (that’s right) there’s always something wrong
Well I was given the come on, and I was paid with dead lights
And I was feeling like dynamite
I was pulling a look tonight
I can’t see my reflection, I can’t hear your rejection, I can’t feel your reception, I can’t hear your rejection
For one thing, there’s always something wrong, I gotta fix it up; there’s always something wrong, I gotta fix it, fix this.
You had to frown at the picture
You had a telephone romance
You had a suit that was made of stone
And you had it coming in love pants
You had it tucked in a black box you pulled it out for your sister
You hear the dial, it went vroom vroom
You closed your eyes and you kissed her
You better open your crystal eyes, you better open your crystal eyes
You better open your crystal eyes, you better open your crystal eyes
Well I was dancing on sunsets and you golden girls with your shirts wet
Rockabilly, I’ll take chain
We were just sitting around in the silver rain
The war, it was crashing on TV
And television at CB’s
And I said, everybody was so high, everybody was so high, everybody was so high, everybody was so high
You say you want to get out of here
With your big fingers and ginger peel (??? appeal)
I think those kids would pop a tear
Everything ain’t too clear
I said, you know there’s not much I’m willing to think
I don’t know how you feelin’ but
I know you feel so… so fine
Superior contributors to the lifespan of etheria
Some mutants, they work… ???
You better open your crystal eyes, you better open your crystal eyes
You better open your crystal eyes, you better open your crystal eyes
You know I just can’t hear your symphony, and I can’t look at your tragedy, I can’t sing to your harmony; I can’t even see your pornography. I can’t even relate to your artistry, that’s pretty bad
I just want to be set free