You know I’m not exaggerating when I say that every time the song “Moving In Stereo” is mentioned in rock circles, at least half a dozen people (guys, usually) will enthusiastically reference Phoebe Cates and Fast Times at Ridgemont High. And even though I grew up right in the heart of the 80s, I never saw the film. I was only 12 when it came out and though I’d heard people doing their Spicoli impressions all up into college, I just never had the desire to see it.
Now of course, I’ve been familiar with the scene where Cates comes up out of the pool and gives her little treat to Brad, and yes, I understand the iconic imagery paired with such a badass rock riff as The Cars deliver, but because I loved the song long before I was aware of that connection with the film, I knew “Moving In Stereo” could, and should stand on its own. Yeah, I got pretty snooty about it.
And so every time someone would say to me, “Oh my gosh, you’ve NEVER seen Fast Times at Ridgemont High???” (read that in a boorish man voice but know that I’m really referring to my podcast partner) I became more and more determined never to jump down from my pompous perch and watch it.
But then… Lately I’ve been gathering video clips of the television shows and movies where The Cars make some kind of mark, and adding them in a playlist on YouTube. As a completist, avoiding Fast Times wasn’t an option, so I figured it was about time to just get it done. I checked out the DVD from my library and asked my 19yo daughter to join me; I figured if nothing else, the movie would be super dated and she and I could just enjoy making fun of it.
Um, yeah. That didn’t really happen…
I’m not going to beat around the bush: this movie is terrible. TERRIBLE.
There is no discernible, interesting storyline to follow…
… and certainly no depth of character to attach to.
Spicoli is funny but completely underutilized, and his ‘revelation’ is forced (though I give him some bonus points for his checkerboard (aka Panorama) Vans).
Boring… floundering… heinous, even.
And the greater crimes? Underage nudity.
Shocking apathy for the subjects of teen pregnancy, teen abortion, and statutory rape.
A shameful casualness with regard to losing one’s virginity, multiple sexual partners, and the tenants of healthy relationships.
Am I the only one who feels this way?
Now be clear: I’m not shunning this film strictly for moral reasons. I watch lots of movies with a spectrum of questionable behavior and I have no problem enjoying it in the context of a great plot and charismatic acting. But that was not this… This was a bunch of 20-year-olds pretending to be vapid high school kids with a few boob scenes thrown in for cheap thrills, and nothing intelligent holding it together. It’s just embarrassing.
Am I a prude? Too old-fashioned? Is it because I’m a woman? Or maybe I’m just… old? Perhaps. Yes, I might have felt differently watching it as a single, ‘frozen fire’ 17-year-old, as opposed to a mother of four kids pushing 50, but somehow I don’t think so. My daughter, too, was bored stiff and frustrated with the banality of the whole thing.
So, just so you know? Whenever the pairing of MIS and Fast Times is put to me for comment, my answer will continue to be an emphatic (and now educated) ‘ugh’ and an eye roll.
Hang on… Sarah is demanding the keyboard…
Okay, this is the aforementioned daughter speaking. I volunteered to write a review, but quickly realized I remembered almost nothing about the film itself. In fact, the only thing that stood out in my mind was Spicoli’s pizza disaster towards the end there… and yes, I had to ask Mom to remember the character’s name. The whole experience was a bit of a blur. There was one consistent thought revolving in my otherwise uninterested brain: “I have to work tomorrow. I don’t have time for this! Wait, what’s going on now?” (Spoiler: nothing.)
All in all, my final thoughts are these- this movie rates a triple-A in my book, meaning:
An Absolute nightmare.
Can’t even remember the name of the train wreck. Excuse me- ‘movie’.
Well, there you have it.
What say you, Fanorama? Are we way off base on this or is it a slam dunk? Find me on Facebook or share in the comments!
Here’s my photo journal of my time in Boston celebrating Let’s Go! Benjamin Orr and The Cars. The event itself was a sold-out-smash filled with rocking music, incredible surprises, and a guest list that sent me over the moon. Surrounding that, I had the time of my life in the same city where my Benjamin lived and worked.
I admit to siphoning a few photos from my friends’ Facebook posts. I hope no one minds! I was too hyper and/or forgetful to capture all I wanted. Photographers include Joe Milliken, Natalie Gaber, Kurt Gaber, David Curry, Eric Barao, Ralph Fatello, Peter Van Ness, Denise Fields, Christine Coughlin, and Mike Baratta. I appreciate you all!
Okay… here we go!
Leaving for the airport Wednesday night, my daughter Liz surprised me with some encouraging words and sage advice. Oh, and snacks, too. Such a sweet kiddo!!
On my way to the airport I stopped to pick up my new business cards, featuring a great design by @night_spots. I love them!
Arrived Thursday morning, got my rental car and made my way to the hotel, where I was able to check in early. First thing I did? Got Turbocharge plugged into the big screen and mourned the fact that one of my heroes, David Juskow, wasn’t coming to Boston. I also found out that I was going to miss seeing my dear friend, Dante Tomaselli. I had to take a few minutes to absorb those disappointments. I showered, changed my outfit, and painted my toenails before meeting my dear friend, Nicole, for the first time! I wish I had snapped a photo of us when we first met; we were both so very excited! We talked a mile a minute and had to explain to the waitress why we still hadn’t decided on our orders when she came by for the umpteenth time.
After a brief but tasty lunch and chick chat, I headed back to the hotel to meet Joe, and then guess what? Nicole treated me and Joe to an elegant dinner at The Top of the Hub! What an amazing time we had! The conversation just flowed as we talked about Boston, the book, and the pros and cons of letting our kids play sports. We missed out on most of the view as it was very foggy outside, but we hardly cared, we were enjoying each other so much. The one blemish on the evening was that Nicole’s love, Mike, couldn’t come due to an unexpected meeting at work. Fortunately, I knew I would finally get to meet him on Saturday night.
Fat and sassy from our scrumptious dinner with Nicole, Joe and I met filmmaker Eric Green (writer and director of the documentary Live on the V: The Story of V66) at The Pour House for drinks and an interview for Eric’s pop culture blog. It was an honor for me to hang out with him, and we all had a blast! We chatted for a bit, recorded the interview between him and Joe, and then chatted some more. He is so interesting, intelligent, and funny, I felt like I could have talked to him forever.
Friday morning was busy with visiting and prep, but in the early afternoon Joe and I were able to find the former location of The Rat (before determining that we were at the wrong location for dinner with Judith Orr. Haha! Luckily she wanted to change restaurants anyway, so it all worked out.). As you see, I’m wearing my red pants in honor of Ben.
Inside the Eastern Standard there is a very cool poster commemorating the former Rat venue. It was a surreal feeling to be standing on the ground where so much rock-and-roll history took place.
Joe and I enjoyed a yummy dinner at Bertucci’s on Friday night with beautiful Jude and her sweet friend, Christine. We shared stories and laughs and lots of huckleberry taffy, and it was really a precious time for me. I like Judith SO much; she’s hilarious and open, and such a happy person. I had hoped to get together with her at least one more time before I left but aside from seeing her at the book event, I wasn’t able to meet up with her again; time just got away from me. She lives in my timezone, though, so I’m optimistic we’ll see each other before too long.
After dinner we headed back to the hotel in time to catch the screening of Turbocharge with this group of crazy kids! I never get tired of watching this hilarious film. I couldn’t help but miss David Juskow, though; he had been wavering on whether to come to Boston to join us for the weekend but in the end, he just wasn’t able to make it. Still, our little group had a great time hanging out together (Alan’s wife, Denise, was there, too; she took the pic for us).
Thank goodness my podcast partner-in-crime and I met for coffee in the mornings so we could make time to act like ding dongs. Dave and I found ourselves going separate ways much of the weekend so it was great to have that daily check-in. I am eternally grateful for our easy, funny, relaxed friendship. I don’t know what I’d do without him!
On Saturday morning during coffee, Dave invited me to head to Rockport with him, Kurt, and Natalie, and I convinced Joe to come, too. I’m so glad we went! Here I am outside of David Robinson’s shop. We parked nearby but the place was closed when we walked past, darn it! Oh well. It was a beautiful sunny day, and I was eager to explore the area and see what Rockport was all about.
Boats aplenty at Rockport Harbor!
Lots of cute art galleries, jewelry shops, candlemakers… and a stinky lobster place! Haha!
Stopped to enjoy the street action with Olive and Ash, the ‘brother and sister Juggle Crew.’ Heck yeah! I have a soft spot in my heart for kids who take the initiative and put effort into carving their path.
The view of the Atlantic Ocean from Bearskin Neck.
The view of Back Harbor.
Perfect day! Kurt’s wife, Natalie, is an absolute treasure. She’s so patient with all of us Cars fans and always has her camera snapping away for us. She’s witty and observant, and so very kind! It was a treat to hang out and do some casual shopping with this sweet, quiet, lovely lady.
Rockport is such an adorable little town. We walked out to Bear’s Neck and back, grabbing some yummy ice cream on our return stroll. Mine was chocolate peanut butter. Mmmm!
There’s just never enough time to spend, you know? But I am so grateful… It’s amazing to me that I have actually met these amazing friends in person, and on multiple occasions! I truly love these guys (and Nat, too, who is behind the camera!).
So, when we walked back toward the car and passed David Robinson’s shop, guess who was sitting out on the porch, shooting the breeze with friends? That’s riiiiiiight! THE David Robinson! Dave, Kurt, and I all tell the details of this ultra-cool turn of events on episode 55 of the NiGHT THOUGHTS podcast, but suffice it to say, I was so very happy to spend time with him. And he remembered meeting me in Cleveland! It still makes me all quivery with delight to think about it.
Though we knew beforehand that David would be coming to the book event with friends, it was great for me and Joe to confirm plans with him in person and make sure he was all set. I know Joe really enjoyed getting to connect with him, too, since it had been a few years since he interviewed David for the book.
This is the beautiful piece I bought, a necklace handmade by David Robinson.
A sample of David Robinson’s favorite music. Can you even imagine how cool it was to talk tunes with him like just a bunch of friends hanging out? I mean, when we first came upon him my knees were weak, but by this point I was pretty relaxed because he just put us all at ease. I don’t think it was until we were buckling in the car to head back to Peabody that the full force of happiness really hit me again.
We spent about an hour and a half enjoying David’s company. He was kind, cool, and funny, and said very nice things to us (and yes, his hands were warm!). Terrific memories with some of my favorite people in the world.
The event poster outside of 9 Wallis. I’m pretty proud of my design, if you don’t mind me saying. I’m thankful to Joe for giving me so much creative freedom, and for my son, Nick, who pulled Ben out of that Robert Post photo for me. Since it’s about 3 feet high and on stiff signboard there was no way I could fly it home with me, but Joe’s holding mine with his. Yay!
Our little merch table. I love the items Joe and I put together. We’ve got a few leftover; we’ll be making them available for purchase on Facebook.
It was an honor to have the incredibly talented Kathy Sullivan join us at the party, and we were thrilled to have her set up her fabulous artwork, including two amazing portraits of Ben… and a third one that I didn’t know about yet. I’ll definitely do a separate post about her just for this blog, but I did have the pleasure of interviewing her for an SRO article and writing an abbreviated review for my sister blog, Read~Rock~Review.
Many of you might know of Brett Milano from The Cars’ final interview in 2000, or from the liner notes he’s penned for a couple of the band’s post-heyday releases. He is also a long-time journalist and author of four music-related books, too! The moderated discussion he led with Joe to kick off the night was a nice, relaxed conversation. These two were great together! Our dear friends, The Covinos, filmed this part of the show and I’ve uploaded it to the book’s YouTube channel. Link below!
Before Moving In Stereo took the stage, I had the privilege of introducing them to David Robinson in the green room. Again, he was so low-key and funny, and took his time chatting with everyone, joking around, and wishing them luck. David’s girlfriend, Nancy, was so sweet, too. I wish I had thought to get a picture with her. As a side note, before I escorted David and Nancy back to their seats I did show them my Panorama shoes — David loved them!
Moving in Stereo – The Ultimate Musical Tribute to The Cars! These guys rocked the club for 75 minutes — and I do mean ROCKED. I received so many compliments from people during and after the show about the band’s performance, not just from Cars fans, but from Ben’s family and friends as well as from the other notable musicians that were in the audience. I’m so proud of our boys!
The whole band delivered a high-energy, tight, magnetic show!
I was totally taken off guard when Joe called me up on the stage before the band’s encore, and even more surprised when he revealed for the first time publicly how I came to be involved with the book. I’m not always aware of my facial expressions; thank goodness David Curry reminded me to SMILE.
Joe had a special gift for me as his way of thanking me for my dedication to the book project. You can’t imagine my shock and pleasure when he presented me with a stunning portrait he had commissioned from Kathy Sullivan just for me: our beautiful Benjamin from Musikladen. My sweet friend, Nicole, was in on it, too, and knew it was coming, so she captured it on video. Check out the link at the end of this article!
Kathy Sullivan’s remarkable portrait. And see the purple wave of spirit and stars behind him? It’s a beautiful inclusion of the ‘sweetpurplejune’ connection. This treasured gift moves me every time I look at it, which is about 100 times a day.
Me with my beautiful and treasured friend, Nicole! It was a dream come true to finally meet her face to face after nearly three years of social media connection!
I was thrilled to meet and spend time with author Brett Milano, whom I have long admired. I even remembered to have him sign my copy of his book, The Sound of Our Town.
I’m afraid I was a little starstruck when I saw legendary drummer and producer Hirsh Gardner making his way across the venue. What a treat to meet him! And he was nice enough to rock out with me and even share his yummy drink. Haha!
I’m sure I took singer/songwriter Eric Barao by surprise when I leapt into his arms as soon as I recognized him; I was just so happy to finally meet him in person! I feel like I’ve known him forever. And what a good sport he was to bring Ric Ocasek’s jacket for me to try on! LOL
It was such an honor to have these three ladies in attendance: Diane Page, Judith Orr, and Kris Orr. Such precious women in Ben’s life, and so instrumental in helping Joe tell Ben’s story. I was thankful to spend time with Diane and Judith but unfortunately I didn’t get to formally meet Kris. Please excuse Kurt’s photo bomb. LOL
Hanging out with the Babaloo girls, Becky, Marla, and Kim! These ladies came from the far corners to celebrate Ben with us and I’m so thankful!
I had the pleasure of connecting with The VINNY Band frontman Ralph Fatello during the planning stages of this event, and I went right down the rabbit hole! His music is great, his photography is stellar, and he is such a kind and gracious man. The icing? He invited a couple of his very good friends to join him and his wife to our little party, and boom! David Robinson was on the guest list! Thank you so much, Ralph!
P.S. Ralph told me after the event that the vibe and venue has inspired him to start planning for something he’s put off for far too long: A reunion of The VINNY Band! Active between 1976 and 1984, The VINNY Band was an all-original group that played extensively in Boston and New England, and toured through South America and the Caribbean. All of their recordings were produced by our very own David Robinson. Follow them on Facebook to make sure you don’t miss the details!
It was such a delight to finally meet Paroo, and she was kind enough to share her beautiful story about her encounter with Ben. SO precious!
I’ve been social media friends with Kurt for so long I feel like I’ve known him all my life. Still shaking my head that we’ve met in person as often as we have — three times now! Just can’t decide if I think of him as my big brother or as my little brother. Haha!
We love these guys SO much! Hard-working, hard-rocking, and some of the kindest and funniest men in the business. And the BEST Cars tribute band ever! Moving In Stereo was the perfect choice to join us in celebrating Ben in Boston.
I was completely aware of the magnitude of this moment for Joe. Incredible. Plus I also love that David is examining Eric Barao’s new solo CD and that he has a print of Kathy Sullivan’s portrait of Ben. Ralph Fatello on the right adds even more coolness to this already epic photo.
So thankful Peter Van Ness, the owner of our venue, 9 Wallis, took a chance with this greenie and our little show! He rolled the dice, showed me the ropes, and kept me laughing. I think we’re both pretty happy with the results! Thank you a million times, Peter; so grateful to call you my friend!
Hostess-with-the-mostest, Vickie Van Ness! From crowd control to keeping track of my tab, Vickie kept everything running smoothly all night long! And I think she’s the one that invented the drink special for the night. It was called The Drive, and it was dangerously delicious!
As many of you know by now, working on this book has been a life-changing experience, on so many levels. Editing, proofreading, publishing, marketing, organizing events… I’ve learned so much and had so much fun! I’ll forever be grateful to Joe for letting me in on this project, and for sharing Ben with me in a way that no one else could.
My sense of style: Ocasek jacket and Panorama shoes. Still hyper and happy at the end of the night. It took me a few hours to come down from the adrenaline high.
On Sunday I headed back to downtown Boston to try to capture the views that I missed on Thursday night. From the observation deck at the top of the Prudential building, there are the city blocks where they lived and worked… Ben, Ric, David, Greg, and Elliot making the music that changed my life (and many others’) forever. Boston will always have a precious place in my heart!
So many greats have walked in and out of that school, including our own Elliot Easton and Greg Hawkes.
The ultimate rock-and-roll hotel! Unfortunately the Cars room was occupied and I was unable to tour it, but still a very cool place, nonetheless. Next time!
On the Verb’s wall of famous patrons….
There’s Greg! Can you find him? I am determined to stay here at least one night in my life!
Another Cars mention on the wall of The Verb Hotel.
Goodbye, my beautiful Boston! I hope to see you again! ❤
A couple of extras:
Here are those YouTube videos of the book discussion and Joe presenting me with my special gift. Enjoy! ❤
And here’s the link to the podcast episode where I give more deets of the trip:
Hello, friends! Just a quick post this morning as I got a great question from a reader (thank you, MV!). Having heard the isolated track that I posted in my article about “Just What I Needed,” she was curious and eager to find out if more such gems existed. I do know of a few, so I thought I’d post them all in one place to make it easier for all of us to enjoy the deliciousness of Ben’s vocals.
Here’s that initial one. It was posted by Jose Mirelli on Vimeo, and it includes Ben’s bass track and Elliot’s guitar solo:
Jose has two more on his Vimeo page: “All Mixed Up” and “Bye Bye Love.” I love the one for “Bye Bye Love” so much that I wrote a little gush about it. Haha! Again, these uploads are both vocals and bass:
There is also a Youtube channel that has taken songs from The Cars’ first album and broken them down into isolated tracks. The only ones on there (right now) with Ben’s vocals are “Just What I Needed,” “Bye Bye Love,” and “Moving In Stereo.” These are literally *only* vocals, so you have to wait through the silence at the beginning of each track. Don’t give up — these are fabulous!
UPDATE: Here’s another, thanks to reader COrrvettes80He03Me: the isolated vocal track of “Drive.” This is so tender and lovely. I can’t help but imagine Ben singing this to his young son as a bedtime lullaby.
Ah, sweet Ben! I never get tired of his voice.
The reader who asked about this was pointing out that with the recovery of the Candy-O monitor mixes, certainly the capability of creating more of these kinds of audios is out there. Of course, we all wish that the vocal tracks would be released from EVERY song Ben recorded! To put on headphones and have him crooning right into my ears is such a divine experience, and believe me, I partake regularly. And now you can, too!
If you liked this article, you might also enjoy the post I did where I listed all of the songs I know of that Ben sang lead on. You can find it here: Benjamin: Lead Vocal List.
I’m groggy, lying in my bed Sunday morning. I have to check out of my hotel in half an hour but I don’t want to start a new day. How could Saturday night have flown by so quickly? Images keep flooding my mind, little snippets of conversations to replay, impressions to sort and kind words to tuck away in my heart… elements of a gift. And Ben… so much Ben in the air!
If I could just turn back the clock and experience the night of January 12 all over again.
Admittedly, I almost get off on the wrong foot. I take a few wrong turns trying to get to the venue and I’m about 15 minutes late; it is a relief to finally see the shining logo of the Music Box Supper Club beckoning me in the dusk. I whisper, “Okay Ben, here we go,” as I give a little tug on my memorial pendant.
From the minute I pull into the valet lot my mind is going over the to-do list: scope out the concert hall, find the production team, preview the slideshow, time cues, guest list adjustments… Heading up the stairs and ah, there’s Joe! Yay, Neil and Diane are here! Hugs all around. Wait, where is David Spero? On his way? Got it.
The guys from Moving In Stereo are here, too! I make sure to give Matt Fuller, the bassist and co-vocalist for the band, an extra-tight hug. I am so grateful for all he did to connect us with Colleen, the owner of the venue, and to secure the gig for tonight. He’s been on board since the first hint of the event and was invaluable in my planning. I am introduced to drummer Bryan Beyer and keyboardist Joshua Hartman who are both filling in tonight. Noah Patera is unable to be here on his drums, but it turns out that Lars Altvater’s prior commitment has been cancelled. Rather than pull Josh off the keys, though, Lars chooses to spend the evening taking photographs and mingling. Like the other members of the band, Lars is the definition of class and professionalism. Rhythm guitarist and co-vocalist Danny Ayala and lead guitarist Bob Heazlit greet us with huge smiles and hearty hugs, too. I am so happy to see these talented men again!
Leaving the band to finish their dinners, Joe and I go check out the concert hall. The space is terrific: a nice-sized stage with plenty of room for the video to be shown on both the left and right of it. Tables fan out into the large seating area, and a well-equipped bar is conveniently off to the right. The servers are bustling around getting ready for their night as we preview the video setup — it’s excellent!
Ah, here’s David Spero. Okay, up on the stage, figuring out logistics. I see people are starting to trickle in. Do I know them? Are they from the Fanorama? But I don’t want to be awkward and stare, and oh yes, I need to grab drinks for Joe and David, find a portable mike for the Q&A session, and figure out where the Mac’s Backs Books rep is going to set up — oh hey, she’s here and has it all under control. I should have known. Suzanne from Mac’s Backs Books has these events down to a science and is a joy to work with. Perfect!
Before I know it the place is filling up. I’m so giddy to greet my beloved friends and to make connections with others I’ve only known in text. Lots of hugs and happiness everywhere; the place is crackling with energy. And it’s already time to pull Joe from the foyer where he’s been signing books and get him to his position on the stage. But first… the green room. We need to refocus. I give Joe a minute of quiet to breathe, to settle down and plant his feet. We both need it, actually.
Now I cue the production guys, the house lights go down, and David Spero welcomes the guests. The video plays off perfectly and Ben’s presence fills the room. We see him grow from infant to teen to rock star, moving through the success and difficulty in his life, his unmistakable charisma intact. I can’t help but seek out the faces of those who knew Ben best to catch their reactions; my heart swells as I see their approval and happiness. I feel like creating this tribute with photos and music is one of the gifts I offer for the event and I am thankful it seems well received.
People continue to arrive as David introduces Joe and the two begin their talk like old buddies. All eyes are on them. The first of two of ‘the most beautiful moments of the night’ happens when David asks Ben’s former bandmates to stand and be recognized. A handful of men rise from around the room, and the crowd answers with hearty applause. Joe makes sure to mention Chris Kamburoff (Mixed Emotions) by name, who couldn’t be here because of health issues, and encourages Chris’s son, Ashton, to stand in his father’s place. More applause… and tears, too. Precious.
We take a few questions from the audience but the time has evaporated and I give David Spero the ‘five minutes’ signal. He wraps it up like a pro, and it’s time for me to escort Joe back out to the foyer. As we wind our way through the crowd people are shaking Joe’s hand, clapping him on the back, congratulating him. His smile is huge. Moving In Stereo is taking command of the stage and the slideshow is playing again for those who missed it as we make our way out to the table, where a line of people are already waiting for a signature.
I wish I could be in two places at once, both sitting beside Joe hearing all of the amazing Benjamin stories people are sharing with him as he signs their books and poses for pictures, and simultaneously rocking out near the stage to the pulsing sounds of the greatest Cars tribute band ever. Instead I go back and forth between Joe in the foyer and the guests in the concert hall, trying to greet everyone without being a creeper… I just want to hug each one and tell them how grateful I am that they came and that they have made my night so special just by showing up.
Throughout the evening I witness so many ways that this show has brought people together. I overhear happy exclamations of, “Hey man! It’s so great to see you again!”, observe pockets of social media friends meeting and hugging, am asked to take group photos of tablemates. Two Cleveland radio legends carve out time for a chat and an interview together. Fans stop me to ask about my Benjamin Orr t-shirt, and I am able to lead them right to the artist in the audience. The grandson of one of Ben’s early friends is a fledgling guitar player, and after the show I take him to meet the members of Moving In Stereo, where they talk about Les Pauls and check out the view from the stage. And I have the privilege of meeting people who read my blog or listen to the podcast and hear their words of encouragement. It is all so dear to me!
I am also fortunate to encounter people who are important bricks in the tower of Cleveland rock history: Harry Harwat, Dante Rossi, Wayne Weston, Joe Kurilec, John Gardina, David Spero… ordinary looking people that you might pass on the street, but who played such foundational roles in Benjamin’s success, and I know that this night is also for them; it is about their legacy, too. I’m honored to have them sign my copy of the book.
And the band… THE BAND! I catch snippets of songs as I’m moving about, enjoying my favorites like “Let’s Go,” “Gimme Some Slack,” and “It’s All I Can Do.” From time to time I stop at the table where my dear friends Kurt, Nat, and Dave are, and we look at each other and gush, “these guys ROCK!” but I don’t really get a chance to focus on the show until a bit later when Joe has a break in the autograph action and he’s able to come join the party. We rock out to “Good Times Roll” and “Just What I Needed” and people are dancing and singing along and the room is packed… it’s so awesome! Even with two stand-ins the music is so tight and true and my adrenaline soars even higher.
Toward the end of the band’s hour-and-a-half set, the second of ‘the two most beautiful moments of the night’ takes place. One of Ben’s former bandmates, Mixed Emotions bassist John “Johnny Joe” Gardina, has come to the event. It takes some persuading, but he is finally convinced to join Moving In Stereo onstage for an encore performance of “Drive.” It’s so touching to see the smile on the face of this talented and humble man as he picks out the bassline to one of the most memorable songs Benjamin Orr ever sang. The way he stands toward the back like Ben used to, and how he adds his own flair to the melody, and shyly accepts the cheers of the crowd… All these little things reflect how much Johnny Joe loves and honors Ben. It is both tender and badass at once, and a highly fitting way to end the night.
Now maybe you already know this about me: I’m not a professional publicist. I am a homeschooling mom with four kids and I’m a bit of an organizational freak, so while I know how to boss people around and get things done, I’ve never put together a shindig this big. Joe took quite a gamble, placing the responsibility of this event in my hands. And I know this night is not about me, not in the slightest. But I gotta tell you, as I look around at about 300 people partying over Ben and the book, I feel pretty proud of myself. No catastrophes, no resorting to Plan Bs, no disappointments, and Joe is rosy-cheeked with happiness. A definite success.
The cherry on top? One of my writing heroes, accomplished Cleveland author Deanna Adams, is in attendance, and when I meet her she praises me loudly for all the work I’ve done promoting Let’s Go!, and she announces that she wants me to be the public relations coordinator for her next book. I won’t hold her to that second part of it, but I take it as a very sweet and meaningful compliment, and I feel it deeply.
The lights come up but the connections continue. More introductions are made, hellos and goodbyes, group photos. My voice is a bit hoarse, but I can’t stop smiling. It’s all been so lovely! As Joe and I prepared for this night, I kept telling him, “Don’t be nervous. These people just want to party with you. You’ve already given them your gift.” And now I realize, as I run my fingers over my Benjamin Orr memorial pendant (as I’ve done so often this evening), that this party itself was full of gifts, too, that every attendee generously gave to us.
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 presence 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)
I’ve said it before (and I’m sure I’ll say it again!), that Benjamin is the perfect person to sing Ric’s lyrics. That man could belt out any string of nonsense and you’d be convinced that it was your life’s motto. I’m not exactly sure what I’m supposed to be connecting with when I sing, “Life’s the same, I’m moving in stereo; life’s the same, except for my shoes…” but if Benjamin believes it then so do I, and I warble along with intensity. (Yeah, I’m not a very good singer.)
Showing up as the 8th track on the 1978 debut album The Cars, ‘Moving In Stereo’ is right up there on my list of the most forceful and effective rock numbers the band ever recorded, and listening to it can be a surreal experience. I highly encourage headphones, and if you can manage it, find a dark place away from distractions. Better yet, head out for a late night or early morning run (before the sun comes up) with this playing in your ears (but be safe about it); it is a powerful experience.
The song starts out with that futuristic synth lead-in, carrying you off toward the heavens, and then the rhythm guitar snags your ankle and anchors you in the sky. You become cloaked in Benjamin’s beautiful voice, flowing from ear to ear, as Greg continues to beguile you with his gentle notes.
All of a sudden the drums, bass, and lead guitar jump in with a hard, pulsating beat that you cannot resist. All six elements are working together to encapsulate you… You are surrounded, invaded, immersed in this swirling twirl of dense, hypnotic sounds that seem to carry you higher and higher, and you feel like you could actually lose yourself forever in this musical continuum… until Benjamin’s incredible bass run hauls you back into the atmosphere and his seductive vocals attempt to soften your return to the ground.
Somehow it still comes as a shock, though, when the song ends and you find that, well, life’s the same… you were just moving in stereo.
As an aside, I have a feeling that the producer, Roy Thomas Baker, knew what a hard landing it could be at the end of this song, and that’s probably why he chose to have it blend perfectly into the beginning of track 9, ‘All Mixed Up’… a stunning ballad that warrants its own write-up at a later date.
Another noteworthy tidbit is that this song is one of only four for which Greg Hawkes received a writing credit (the others being “This Could Be Love,” “It’s Not the Night,” and “Go Away.”); all other songs written solely by Ric, of course.
And now, for your viewing pleasure… a 1978 performance of ‘Moving In Stereo’ that was included on the 2006 Unlocked DVD.
As you know, I can never get enough of Benjamin and he is over-the-top-hot in this video (the blonde hair and the black leather; the way he works that bass at 3:38 makes me crazy), but when Elliot takes center stage about half way through I get a little ga-ga. That teasing smile as he plays with Ric at 2:35 — delicious! Of course, the poor guy gets caught up in his cord there for a minute afterward, but it was worth it to see him up front. As they always do when playing live, the band locks into each other and delivers a terrific performance.