By Ryan O’Connell
Photo by Olivia Vaughn
On a damp fall Monday night at Philly Rising, a packed, yet well-organized open mic night at World Cafe Live in Philadelphia, the Josh and Pete Band are set to go on at 10pm, in the Lightning Round. The hope is that someone drop outs or pulls a no-show – that they’d then be able to play two songs instead of one. They will most likely play “Dances with High Heels.”
Josh Band and Pete Band eat dinner, waiting for the rest of the band to show up. They have been friends forever and band mates since 2000, when they were in high school. They kept the band going through graduation, college, and all the God-awful band names that led to the simple, yet appropriate band name they rock now. The Josh and Pete Band, now based in West Philly, play a style of music best suited as a soundtrack to a Nickelodeon show. Not current Nickelodeon, but 1990’s Nickelodeon- full of cartoons and good times. It’s coffee shop, muppet, theatre music- music that is rich with layered harmonies and easy, groove rhythms. The Josh and Pete Band are nice dudes who play nice dude music. They are a band having fun, hoping to inspire fun, and hopefully someday, make a living being fun.
“We are seriously the most silly band about being the funnest,” Josh Band says. He wants the Josh and Pete Band to be a different kind of band, the antithesis of the mopey Joe’s playing their sad and lonely music. Their goal is to “make sure everyone has a real fun time,” but don’t feel though, that their music should be considered “fluff.” The Beatles were also light hearted in their own way, just as the Beach Boys were serious. There is nothing that says cartoons can’t make you think.
The Lightning Round starts with a rapper and the Josh and Pete Band rally up to get ready. Josh Band makes sure bass player Alon Hafri has enough time to get in costume and Pete Band makes sure he has his crumpled, white cabana hat. The band’s drummer Lem, saddles up to the bar, grabbing one more drink before heading to the stage. They wait until another rapper finishes up before quickly running their gear on to the stage. No one has bailed out and there is only time for one song. One song seems like an injustice, but they are determined to make it work. Hafri sports an ill fitting, red marching band costume and a crown. Lem’s tie is loosened before he begins feeling his way around the stock drum set every band has to use. It’s a tough call, what one song to pick for a show like this. The Josh and Pete Band play “Dance with High Heels” – a little bit of Latin, a little bit of indie rock, a little bit of smooth Oohs and Ahhs from those top notch, three-part harmonies. “She keeps falling over,” they sing.
On their website, you can donate to their cause – pitch in a few bucks to help the band record it’s first album, which it hopes to start next April. The recordings they have now only feature Josh and Pete, as well as a couple of hired guns and tracks and tracks of vocals, about enough to run out of tracks on Pro-tools. Josh estimates that their ideal touring situation would have to require a choir and an orchestra. They’d have to be some more gunslingers though, as he doesn’t foresee adding any permanent members to the band. The last addition to the Josh and Pete Band, Lem, is something of a wild card. But he’s introduced as a wild card, so that helps a little. He’s the oldest member in the band and a practicing dentist out in the ‘burbs. Lem is also the most active musician, dabbling with numerous jazz outfits on the side. But he loves the Josh and Pete Band and has been amazed, since finding them through Craigslist last summer, with the maturity of the band, how musically, they act much older than they are.
“They’re not messing around,” he says before making sure the bartender gets his drink right. “Make sure it’s a double.”
Josh and Pete Band’s one song is tight, performed like champs. The crowd is polite- hard to tell if anyone has been won over. It’s a brief glimpse of the circus as the train speeds through town.
In the end, these are true statements about the Josh and Pete Band:
There are four of them. One wears a crown and one is dentist. Three of them can sing. None of them have a problem with the band name.
And don’t be fooled, they’re not as goofy as they seem.