How The Rat Beach Party Evolved

A Surfboard Once Showed up at The Rat!

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March 27th marked my eighth year on Facebook. During my first Facebook year I joined the Rathskeller “The Rat” Boston, MA thread where I encountered many old friends from back in the day. What a true joy to share and relive experiences from back in the days when the club first opened.

During the early years of The Rat Club, I was the manager of a band (Harlow) and not a musician in a band. Having lived in Boston/Cambridge throughout the ’70s, I moved to Portsmouth NH and taught myself how to play guitar and served a couple of terms in NH’s legislature throughout the ’80s. So I missed entirely the Rat scene during the ’80s.

I gave up the legislature to become a Harvard Square street musician (a step up — lol!) and moved back to Cambridge for the ’90s. Here, I created a scene whereby my residence had became a virtual club. We threw weekly musical-spaghetti parties, full of musicians, for nearly a decade. Having become a backbench folksinger, I’d only visit The Rat intermittently during this time period. It was nothing like the early days when Punk Rock was at war with Disco — lol! Then The Rat closed in ‘97.

At the end of the ’90s and after a brief spell in NYC, I eventually settled at Nantasket Beach (Hull, Mass.) for the next Millennium. Delightfully, I put my first rock n’ roll band together at age 62, Heavy Weddle & The PrettyKats. We did two notable gigs: Occupy Boston and The Merry Wanna Ball for the Massachusetts legalize pot lobby organization. But the PrettyKats turned into The PsychoKats and the band broke up — lol!

Rat Beach Party Born

So it was at this time memory conversations began taking hold on the Facebook Rat Thread. Now a musician and finally playing electric guitar, I invited some Rat thread musicians out to my house at the beach for a cookout and a jam party. Suddenly, I realized I had three full bands. Thus, I wrote if I could get five bands I’d arrange to get a beach club where we could perform.

By the next day, five bands were ready to go, so I spoke with the owners of The Red Parrot … and The Rat Beach Party (RBP) was born! In the course of these organizing discussions I hooked up with Matt Gilbert of Harlequin, Joe Viglione “The Count,” Kenne Highland and Jody Moore of The Jumper Cables, Jon Macy of Foxpass and Cindy Daley who was one of the first performers at The Rat.

So now we had the musicians and we had the club — but we needed a cause! I came up with the idea of creating a Rat Musicians Scholarship Fund and, accordingly, we organized a board of directors. Unfortunately, we discovered this could only work if we were able draw in major sponsorship. This did not come to pass. Our treasurer, after two years and having consulted with three different CPA’s, finally concluded we should convert the event into a profit-making venture.

Knowing we were on the right track by keeping the event non-profit and in support of older musicians giving to younger musicians, I disagreed with privatizing the event. But I also knew, based on our analysis, we needed a complete makeover if we were going to proceed and succeed.

Three Steps That Saved The Rat Beach Party:

The first step became making sure we maintained a righteous cause for our event. At this time, my friend, Yvonne Coates, had a very talented musician son who sadly passed away. I was with her when she donated her son’s musical instruments to the Hull High School. It was this act of kindness that inspired me into the concept that we could continue The Rat Beach Party and donate the proceeds to the Hull High School Music Department, with an emphasis special needs musical students would also get assistance.

The second step was changing the venue from The Red Parrot to The C-Note. The owners of The Parrot were very generous and helpful to our cause and we thank them eternally for helping to make an idea into a reality. But the problem was the stage logistics of continuing the event at that location. The Parrot had three rooms, but only one PA system with no stage backline or lighting. For me, as organizer, it was a logistical nightmare trying to set up two solid backlines for so many bands. By the way, the second Rat Beach Party saw 44 bands perform.

The C-Note, located down the street, was the perfect alternative location as it had a capacity of 180 people, a fully equipped backline with drums, amplifiers, stage lighting, a very large dance floor, lots of tables and chairs and a giant circular bar. C-Note owner, Charlie Fruzzetti was very gracious accepting and accommodating our event.

But, the best fate of all, is The C-Note has Greg Campia, a professional soundman. There are musicians and then there are magicians. Greg is a Mugician who has a special knack for making all Rat Club musicians sound very great! So Rat Beach parties numbered Three through Six — featuring 35 to 50 bands — have been performed at The C-Note.

[NOTE: A Rat band becomes eligible to perform at the RBP if a three-piece has at least one renown Rat Club veteran; a four-piece or more must have two musicians who have performed at The Rat Club. We love it when whole bands get back together! We also make rare exceptions for local host bands to perform, and we always welcome youth bands.]

The third step, is also noteworthy. We had to change our concept from not just having older musicians perform for the cause of younger musicians, but rather get the older musicians to actually perform with the younger musicians.

After the first C-Note RBP, owner Charlie offered the first Friday of every month, originally for the Rat musicians, who donated their time at the annual event, to get a paid gig at the club. During the first year of the monthly All-Ages concerts we had the Hull High musicians open the show. They eventually organized into a band called Shipwreck. To open, Shipwreck would perform and be followed by three Rat-related bands. This met with only minimal success as the Rat-related bands were not from the community and, thus, did not have sufficient power to draw a large audience.

So we tweaked it again.

In year two and at present, the monthly 1st Friday concert now has the Hull High musicians opening, followed by a middle school-aged or high school-aged rock band, with a Rat-related band closing the show. Essentially, this means three younger bands and one older band. Proceeds from the door are split in half, with half going to the Hull High Music Dept. and the other half going to the band that plays last. The youth bands performing in between use the event as a concert club showcase opportunity to highlight their bands.

[NOTE: The C-Note atmosphere is a Triple A+ perfect environment to record a live performance!]

We Now Have The Magic Formula

Once we began doing the monthly shows we also began incorporating the younger bands to perform at the Annual Rat Beach Party. At present, about 20% of the RBP performing acts are younger bands. In some instances, we’ve been able to feature father-son/mother-daughter (or combinations therein) shows.

At present there are about two dozen youth bands participating in the monthly and annual concerts. It’s been a true delight watching the younger bands evolve into tightly-performing units. And it’s always great when a new young band comes on the scene and becomes the new rave. It’s like the joy of night and day experienced in music. It’s like every show has become a dawning of a new spring bringing forth summerful joys. Parents and their children dancing together, sharing in the family of Rock n’ Roll!

Several of the youth bands have gone on to perform at radio stations, regional battles of bands (and winning!), and in some instances actually pulling in paid gigs. One of our special bands, formerly known as Last Reach, now known as Grenon, not only got to be opening act for The Fools, but they also competed nationwide, among 36 high school-aged rock bands, at the Rock Hall of Fame in Cleveland. They made it to The Finals and got edged out at the very end of the competition.

Middle school-aged and high school-aged bands got together for two concerts to raise two thousand dollars so The Grenon Band could afford their trip to the Cleveland Hall of Fame Performances.

Regarding the local high school musicians? One of Hull High’s band units went on to compete in a music competition in Washington DC — they brought home the gold medal! For the first time in 30 years, the Hull High Music Department placed musical students into the Massachusetts All-State Band.

To date, The Rat Beach Party annually raises around three thousand dollars for their music program. Door proceeds go to The C-Note which annually writes a check to the Hull High Music Department. We ask for donations at the door, but we exclude nobody — all are welcome!

Conclusion

Amazingly, whenever and wherever former Rat Club musicians perform a bright light shines upon that community! It is also amazing that a band, especially an old one, can perform original material sometimes get paid in 2019 — lol!

Coming up at The C-Note where young musicians will team up with older Rat Club musicians to make a difference:

  • 1st Friday of Every Month Concerts (proceeds split with Hull High Music Dept. and closing Rat-related band)
  • Sunday, May 26th Memorial Opiate Awareness Concert (proceeds go to local grassroots help organization, The Anchor)
  • Labor Day Weekend — The 7th Annual Rat Beach Party (proceeds go to Hull High Music Department)
  • October 10, 11 & 12 — Help People & Animals Concert (proceeds go to social service agency Wellsprings and Hull Seaside Animal Rescue)

NOTE: On June 1st, at The Middle East in Cambridge, former Rat Club standout performer Joe “The Count” Viglione has organized a reunion of Rat Club musicians. This will be an inner city show you won’t wanna miss!

Founder of Climate Change Band; former NH State Rep; Supporter of Bernie Sanders & Standing Rock!

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