After the final notes of a jam-heavy version of “Mustang Sally” rang out through the Majestic Theater Friday, two bands stood together on stage – many members drenched in sweat, smiling, and listening to the cheers of the crowd.
However, only one of the groups could be named the night’s winner of the first annual “Docs Who Rock” competition to benefit the United Way. And that honor belonged to the amusingly-named SutureSelf.
Featuring the talents of – Dr. Thomas Higgins (keyboards, vocals), Thomas Hayowyk (drums, vocals), Dr. Stephen Lieberman (bass), Dr. Michael Picchioni (lead guitar, vocals), Dr. David Desilets (rhythm guitar, vocals) and Dr. Peter Butler (percussion) – SutureSelf had performed a variety of classic rock songs during its audience-rousing set earlier in the evening, including “Long Train Running” by the Doobie Brothers, “Kid Charlemagne” by Steely Dan and “Walking in Memphis” by Marc Cohn.
Some of the 200 plus fans on hand even started dancing in the aisles during SutureSelf’s time on stage, and Picchioni briefly joined several revelers in between displays of his guitar pyrotechnics. Especially of note was his playing on the band’s finale, “Black Magic Woman” by Santana, where he recreated the original track’s fiery licks with tremendous accuracy. Desilets too added to the cut’s Latin flavor by accenting the sound with a guiro, after he had earlier wowed the crowd with his harmonica playing pulled from his diverse bag of musical tricks. But he wasn’t the only doctor with significant chops.
Watch SutureSelf perform a cover of “Soul Man” by Sam and Dave here:
As the last name on the program, Plan B pulled out all the stops during its appearance at the Majestic. Consisting of members – Dr. John Romanelli (lead and rhythm guitar, backing vocals, and trumpet) Toby Turschman (lead vocals, percussion) Matt Carson (lead and rhythm guitar, backing vocals) Guy Lorbert (keyboards) Sean Driscoll (bass, backing vocals) and Mark Fortin (drums) – the band has established an exciting local reputation, appearing in the pages of the Valley Advocate, at Club Meadows in Longmeadow and at the Waterfront in Holyoke. But its members knew they had a tough act to follow.
Opening with the song “Working for the Weekend” by Loverboy, Plan B urged those in attendance to remember that it was Friday and that dancing was openly encouraged. Again, several members of the crowd took the band at its word and began grooving in the aisles and next to the stage. However due to its heavier sound the group also provided ear plugs to those who weren’t prepared for the roar of ‘80s hits like “Crazy Train” by Ozzy Osbourne, “Runaway” by Bon Jovi and “Jump" by Van Halen.
Romanelli and Carson earned several large ovations for trading riffs like professionals, and could be seen completely enjoying themselves playing songs each had probably listened to thousands of times before. Turschman, for his part, worked the crowd like an able frontman, especially during perhaps the group’s highlight run-through of “My Sharona” by the Knack, which was suggested to be included in the band’s set list by bassist Driscoll, who said, “Chicks would dig it.”
Watch Plan B perform a cover of “Big Shot” by Billy Joel here:
Finally, after winding down with “Separate Ways (World Apart)” by Journey, Plan B was joined in the spotlight by the members of SutureSelf as well as solo vocalist Dr. Linda Conty, who had performed at the start of the night. While waiting for the judges on hand to decide who won the “band competition,” the musicians picked up any spare instrument available as everyone wailed away on a celebratory take of “Mustang Sally,” that even featured Romanelli trading solos this time with a trumpet instead of a guitar.
Nearly ten minutes and many solos later, the judges (Ray Kelly, assistant managing editor, Arts and Entertainment for The Republican, Dave Lempke of the local band Union Jack, and Rock 102/Lazer 99.3 promotions manager Alex Byrne) decided that SutureSelf was the night’s winner by a margin of only two votes.
But according to guitarist Michael Picchioni a trophy wasn’t the evening’s final say on who deserved an award.
“I think the real winner tonight was the United Way,” he said.
Don’t forget to follow the Northeast Underground on YouTube and Twitter to view additional videos from “Docs Who Rock” and much more: