Mr. Tibbs; Candlelight Equinox Festival

A band that spends any time on the road has its share of horror stories that only the interstate can provide. Before it relocated to Northeast Ohio from Athens, Georgia, in 1997 and changed its name from Funkomatic, Mr. Tibbs was a well-traveled act that played as many as 250 dates a year. The band still plays out of town, but not with the blind ferocity of the past. "We got incredibly tight," says singer and bass player Ted Pecchio of the road days, "but it didn't let us grow."

Pecchio says the band's van went through no less than a dozen engines and transmissions. The worst Triple-A moment was probably experienced in a North Carolina holler. The engine blew, and less-than-expedient mechanics took three days to repair the vehicle. The band was trapped in a truck stop with a pinball machine that hiccuped phrases "Ride the whirlpool!" and "Man overboard!" incessantly. "That was awful," Pecchio says. "But everybody kept in really good spirits. You've got your pants down, and you've just got to deal with it."

Needless to say, the van broke down again not long after the band finally rolled out of town.

Pecchio moved from Ohio to Georgia after his parents divorced when he was seven. Ted's father is Daniel Pecchio, who played with Glass Harp and the Michael Stanley Band. A big fan of Sly and the Family Stone and James Brown, father introduced son to funk. Pecchio met Foley, the band's keyboardist and other singer, at an Athens studio ten years ago. They formed Funkomatic in 1994.

Fronted by a 260-pound black singer, Funkomatic won over crowds with thick grooves and gimmicky stage show. They slid into leather pants and wore tutus on their heads; their nipples were covered with duct tape. Pecchio says that the band's moderate success on the college circuit was beginning to typecast Funkomatic as just another good-time funk band. "Originally, our goal was to drop the funk bomb from beginning to end," he says. "Funk is really a nasty, dirty word. It's a happy thing, but it's gritty at the same time."

Pecchio, Foley, and the rest of the band moved to Ohio and changed the name. They were worried that Funkomatic would signal that "we were an Afro-wearin', gold-chain swingin' suit band. I didn't have much time for that." Pecchio and Foley now handle the singing. The name Mr. Tibbs is homage to Sidney Poitier, who played a character named Tibbs in two movies. "There's a classic scene in one of the movies where someone says he's less than a man because he's black," Pecchio says. "He stands up and retorts, 'They call me Mister Tibbs.'"

Mr. Tibbs--currently rounded out by Leroy on guitar, Oscar on drums, and Andy Stephan and Matt Corey on sax--has settled into a comfortable routine. The band plays the Robin Hood in Kent every Wednesday, the Euclid Tavern every Thursday, and out of town on the weekends. Sundays in the spring and summer are reserved for open-pit barbecues and savage whiffle ball games in the yard outside the band's house in Macedonia.

This week's shows double as CD release parties for the groovalicious and soulful Bring Back the Robot. The first song, "Sex in the Waffle House," is a track that bands that have ever traveled south of the Ohio River should relate to. Pecchio might not be the lord of the highway that he was, but he's still making music full-time. "I've got a girlfriend," he says. "But I've got no life."

Area singer/songwriters will trade the whir of espresso machines for the crash of beer bottles at the Candlelight Equinox Festival Sunday, March 21 at Peabody's DownUnder. Pepper Acton put together the show to give solo artists a chance to play in a club setting. Acton, Alexis Antes, Margo O'Breslin, Cathryn Beeks, and Tracey Marie will perform.

"I like doing the coffeehouse circuit," Antes says, "but it's a lot different to play the clubs. Sometimes people are in [coffeehouses] just having a quick cup of coffee, running in and out, playing board games."

If you miss the show, visit Beeks at her new vintage clothing store on Madison Avenue in Lakewood. Uncommon Thredz will stock used clothing and accessories and other assorted recyclables. The store, which should open in early April, will also sell local CDs and host in-store acoustic shows.

Ohio Musicians Services, formed out of the rubble of the Cleveland Music Group, is off to a rocky start. The association's first fund-raiser/membership drive, a twelve-hour band marathon scheduled for March 13, had to be canceled out of concern that underage musicians wouldn't be allowed inside Fat Pat's, a bar in Parma.

Ohio Musicians Services (OhMS) President Pam Frame says that the group has a mission similar to that of the Cleveland Music Group (CMG): to educate local musicians about the business end. CMG held forums, distributed a newsletter, and put out compilation CDs. But Frame says that CMG lost its way, and membership dwindled from three hundred bands and artists to thirty. "In the past," she says, "the Cleveland Music Group got stuck in a rut with just alternative music. We're getting back to representing all genres of music."

With a new name and a new board in place, OhMS hopes to replenish its membership roles and better serve its members. It costs $30 a year to belong, but it's still a little hazy what that buys. OhMS's first seminar, how to package your band, is scheduled for March 30, but the panel had yet to be confirmed when I spoke to Frame last week. "I'm still learning," she says. "Every day is a learning curve."

For more info, e-mail Ohio Musicians Services at [email protected].

Sammy Hagar continues to fashion himself as something of a hard-rocking Jimmy Buffett. The Red One delighted a small but appreciative invitation-only crowd at the Cleveland Hard Rock Cafe March 11. Hagar took the stage and said, "I guess the first question is, Where's my tequila?" He and his band, the Waboritas, then sipped from cocktails spiked with the blue-colored tequila Hagar endorses. They opened with "Cabo Wabo," the Van Hagar song and name of his bar in Mexico. I half-expected Hagar to announce his ridiculously boyish outfit of shorts and tank top was from the Sammy Line, available at finer retail establishments just in time for spring break.

The hour-plus set was, undoubtedly, a precursor to future summer tours. Hagar whipped through old tunes ("Rock Candy," "I Can't Drive 55"), Van Halen stuff ("Why Can't This Be Love," "Right Now"), and some pretty lame-sounding new stuff. The shameless product placements and frat-party covers ("Wild Thing"?) were annoying, but Hagar and friends didn't mail it in. A good sport, Hagar didn't get uptight about anyone's disposable camera. Spying a woman in the audience talking on her cell phone, he asked for the device and began speaking to the other party. And he apologized for a "sad-ass" opening pitch he threw at Jacobs Field on a previous visit: "I damn near hit somebody on third base."

March 12 the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame invited local media to gaze at the signatures of the new inductees. A short, short video retrospective of the artists was shown. During his clip, Class of '99er Billy Joel, naturally, tried to suggest what a rocker he is. Ugh. Will the man ever be satisfied with being a good pop singer/songwriter?...Because too many other bands use the name, Guttersnipe shall now be known as Victory Flag...Sponge will hold a press conference and perform a handful of acoustic numbers at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, March 23 at the North Olmsted Guitar Center. Sponge has a record, New Pop Sunday, coming out and lends a song to Guitar Center's unsigned band compilation.

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