Fat City Reprise: The Return of the Virtuoso

Let’s get one thing straight: I don’t write music reviews. I’m a musician and writer, but I’ve always thought it a waste of time to comment on what anyone else was doing. But then along came this band, Fat City Reprise, who from out of nowhere (otherwise known as Philadelphia) blazed into Los Angeles and took us all by storm. And I had to sit up and shout, “Someone get me my laptop!” I have to tell the world that these guys are that good.

Just when you thought virtuoso rock has been MIA since the 80s, here come the Fantastic Philly Four who are poised to wrestle the mainstream music scene back from kiddie pop and I-got-shot-in-da-club digital thumping. In fact, their sound is so unique, I’m having trouble classifying it. I’m tempted to say “Hard rock meets Honky Tonk” but that doesn’t really do it. There are traces of funk and Fats Domino and Led
Zeppelin, but it’s re-imagined for the 21st century. You can dance your ass off to it, or just stand with your jaw on the floor as these guys turn their instruments into putty. Even those of us with serious rods up our patooties (like yours truly, when sober) can’t help but tap some body part along with the beat. And anyone with a trained ear will appreciate Fat City’s intensely rhythmic and original songwriting – not to mention the virtuosity of the performers.

Shredding on guitar like we haven’t seen since – oh, Slash? – is Nick Anastasi. Both his strong, rhythmic strumming and intensely creative solos threaten to steal the show. But he’s a wise enough musician not to take that bait. And so, his equally strong rhythm section shines just as brightly. Case in point: Mike Vivas, who gives the term “walking bass” a whole new meaning. Not only are his energetic and ornate bass lines a delight, but that dude can strut!

Drummer Jay Miraglia looks so unassuming – dare I say shy? – you’d expect him to be more comfortable behind a calculator than a drum kit. But then, he lets it rip and even those dancing to his groove stop and take notice. Is that a drummer behind those cymbals or Lighting Man?

And last but not least, frontman and keyboardist Frankie Pedano rounds out the show with commanding piano riffs and clear, even vocals that compliment – without upstaging – the virtuosity of the accompaniment. Where so many rock singers are shrill, Frankie’s even vibrato and pureness of tone is a welcome relief. Intensely melodic lines are not really the Fat City style (rhythm being the more prominent factor), but
that’s OK. Frankie’s vocals seem best suited as really tasty icing on the cake.

And then there’s the “nice guy” factor. I was so blown away after the show, I had to give the band my profuse praise. Their response? “Well, our moms think we’re good.” Are you kidding me? “False modesty!”, I wanted to scream, but the thing is, I know it’s not. You can just feel it: these guys are actually cool. And while I still contend they must know how brilliant they are, the fact that they appreciate
compliments from lil ol’ me spoke volumes about their future. I believe that only truly open minds push art to its limits. And I expect Fat City Reprise to be a major player in rock’s evolution.

My only gripe is that their CD doesn’t wholly capture the power they have in live performance. Those sick guitar solos aren’t nearly as pronounced, nor are the kickin’ arpeggios of Vivas’ bass. And the vocals seem slightly overpowered by the ensemble. But whatever. In my book, that’s a minor problem to have in the era of digital enhancement and over-correction. Isn’t it nice to know that these guys can really play? So seriously listen to me: Run, don’t even think about walking, to your local bar, pub, live music establishment to see Fat City Reprise before these guys are out-selling Hannah Montana, and those vultures known as scalpers are all over it. If you don’t, I’ll get to say, “I told you so.” – Kelly Maglia

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