The Mountain Times

°F Thu, April 17, 2014

Central Vermont's Most Popular Weekly Newspaper

Rockin’ the Region with The Nerds

Sunday, Jan. 20-KILLINGTON-Cover bands come and go but only the super talented last forever and that is The Nerds. These four guys, Spaz on vocal/bass, Mongo on keyboards/vocals, Stretch on guitar/vocals and Biff on drums are monster musicians and that is why they are America's Rock & Roll Phenomenon or "fun-onemon" as they like to say.  You have the first of only two opportunities to see them this season on Jan. 20 at the Pickle Barrel Nightclub.

The Nerds have been playing in Killington for over 20 years and each show is unique and filled with high energy. The band got their name from a Saturday Night Live sketch, not the movie. Their show is largely influenced by Monty Python, David Letterman's love of the absurd and Howard Stern's disregard for tact. The Nerds attribute their growing fan base to the fact that people are tired of the same old thing. The Nerds intentionally do things differently. There isn't a genre of music that they don't play and their song parodies are the best I've seen.

8-Rockin '-1.17--266435_10150279310038064_3000954_o

The Nerds started slowly infiltrating the Jersey Shore, although they were from Hudson County. They played in Old Bridge, Neptune and Seaside Heights and knew that greatness was just around the corner. When they played The Osprey and Joe Pops, two clubs it put them on the map. Lines started forming around the block to see their craziness and they were only in their third year.

By their seventh year they did what no cover band had ever done, play the world famous Carnegie Hall. And it wasn't as a supporting act, it was just them headlining. It was amazing also because they sold out all 2,800 seats.

To promote the show, they appeared on Good Morning America and had Howard Stern do a live commercial for them on his show. "Stuttering John" (John Melendez, who was a regular on-air personality on The Howard Stern Show, known for asking impertinent questions of celebrities with his stuttering) liked them so much that he played a few gigs with them and a few years later they played his wedding. After that, they were highly sought after to play weddings. They played weddings as they do clubs, in 'Nerd attire,' which was well-liked by their fans but much to the disgust of many parents.

8-Rockin '-1.17--272647_10150308468748064_1312079_o

In 1994 they released their first CD, "Poultry in Motion" of original and live cover music. In 1995 they became one of the first bands on the internet with band photos and schedules.

By late '95' they were blowing up. Not only were they playing the Jersey Shore but places from LA to Whistler, Canada to the Bahamas. Large Corporations were hiring them to do their conferences and galas. July 4, 2000 they played the South Street Seaport to a crowd of over 12,000 people. It was a crazy scene with throngs of fans and lines of police trying to control them. There was an onslaught of new cover bands playing alternative-grunge but they stuck to their guns and played a little of everything else. You might hear Neil Diamond, Michael Jackson, Blink 182 or even Engelbert Humperdinck. In the fall of 2000, they got the huge honor of hosting MTV's Ultimate Cover Band Contest as the house band. Bands competed in an elimination style contest and they performed throughout each show.

Besides MTV, they have appeared on The View, Carson Daly and many others long since gone. They have shared a stage with Sheryl Crow, Hootie & the Blowfish, Train, Earth, Wind & Fire, The Go-Go's and many more. They have performed for countless political figures and have been joined on stage by many sport figures from the NY Giants, NY Jets, NY Yankees, Nascar Champions and even some rock stars like Jon Bon Jovi and Dickie Betts. One winter at the Wobbly Barn, Doug Flutie came up on stage and sat in on drums.

They love what they do and are able to do it all while raising families. They're all married and each has two sons, except for Stretch who has three. In total, they've released seven albums with their latest, "Viva La Evolucion." They typically play 200-250 shows per year and have played nearly 28 years together. They have built an act, a brotherhood, a team and a business model that works.

Looking back, they say the owe it all to Steve Tarkanish, their 5th Nerd, original manager and owner of S.T.A.R.S. Productions, who came up with the idea at a barbeque. He said, "Why don't you put a band together and call yourselves 'The Nerds' and play soulful music. The irony of it will be fantastic." Well, fantastic is an understatement.