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When you think of Festa Italiana, one of the country's largest tributes to Italian heritage and culture, what do you think of? The food, perhaps, from cannoli to pasta and so much more? Or maybe the sports and culture, including bocce, futsal, gondolas? And what of the music, from classical opera to Italian pop and all sorts of Italian-influenced entertainment in between?
And how could you mention Italy without classic rockers Boston and Styx? Wait a second ...
"There isn’t anything particularly Italian about any of it," laughed David Victor, who worked and played guitars and vocals with the "More Than a Feeling" rockers from around 2010 until 2014. Now, he fronts Bostyx, a tribute group playing the best of both beloved bands.
And while Victor and Bostyx may not be able to provide Festa much in terms of Italian heritage and culture (the closest the frontman could think of to a connection was that he played with Boston on the same grounds in 2012, which doesn't exactly move them any closer to Pavarotti), they do plan to bring some great rockin' tunes to their 9 p.m. set at the Calypso Lemonade Stage on Saturday night.
Before then, however, OnMilwaukee chatted with the former Boston band member about his time with the actual band, starting up the tribute band and what makes classic rock actually classic.
OnMilwaukee: How did you originally get in with Boston?
David Victor: It was the most democratic way possible: I was discovered on YouTube singing a Boston song. It was a nice process because I didn’t have to know anybody, and I didn’t have to be connected somehow. They had a need, they found me and they plugged me in. That’s pretty much as slick as it gets in the music industry.
What was it like playing, performing and working with the actual Boston for those years?
It was great! I mean, it’s a dream come true to join a legendary classic rock band and get a chance to sing some of the best-loved rock ‘n’ roll of all time. I was fortunate enough when we were rehearsing and stuff that I got to do the vocals for the biggest hits and some of my personal favorites, like "Peace of Mind." I got to sing "Amanda." (Lead singer) Tommy DeCarlo and I would trade off different parts, like in "More Than a Feeling," he would sing the verses and I would sing the chorus. Kind of hard to describe for most folks because it’s not usually how it works, but that’s how we did it.
Do you have a particular favorite memory from those days of performing with Boston?
Oh gosh, yeah. We did the Boston Strong concert; we opened that, which was the benefit for the Boston Marathon bombing victims. And boy, that was great. We were requested to open the show, which of course is a little daunting in the sense of, you know, you’re going out there and you soundcheck and stuff, but you’re going out there first, and you never exactly know what’s going to happen. It was a rotating stage, so you had one band setting up while the other band was performing.
But we went out there, and some of the recovering victims spoke before, and then we opened the show with "The Star-Spangled Banner." Of course, everybody stood up, and it was 20,000 people at the Boston Garden. It doesn’t get any better than that. To me, that was the pinnacle, for sure.
I’m sure, in addition to those usual going first nerves, you had all those emotions from the recent events.
Oh my god, yeah. It was practically a religious experience. Really moving and went on to inform some of the other musical projects that I’ve been cooking up. So that was definitely a highlight.
When did you come up with the idea and bringing together Bostyx?
When I got into Boston before the 2012 tour, nothing had been announced, but I thought I should try to get ready for the tour. I had a lot of friends in L.A. that were talented musicians, so I thought if I put together a band that plays this music in the original key, I can be ready to go out and sing my best Brad Delp impersonation. They were wondering, "Why can’t we do this in E-flat? It’s so much easier," but I was like, "I’ll let you know."
So then my friend Glenn (Jost) who plays drums does a great Dennis DeYoung impression, so we thought why not do music from both bands and give me a break between songs. (laughs) He’s got a great voice too, and it’s a fun combo. I know Boston and Styx – and right now, Boston and Dennis DeYoung are touring together, so it’s kind of a natural blend. So far, there haven’t been any fistfights in the audience, so I think the factions get along. (laughs)
What do you think it is about Boston’s music that’s lived on through the decades?
It’s hard to describe why one band’s music sort of becomes timeless and one band’s sort of becomes a trivia question. With Boston, the songs are so epic and sweeping and I think relatable. You know, I think about this with regards to I’m a big "Seinfeld" fan. I watch the old episodes, and I think, you know, these episodes are kinda timeless, in that they deal with issues that we constantly deal with and grapple with as human beings. It doesn’t really change despite the technology, and I think Boston’s music is the same way. These are all sort of topics and emotions that people feel in 1976 and in 2016.
Do you think any bands are making that kind of rock today? I always think about the fact that, 20 or 30 years from today, the music that’s being played now will be considered "classic" music. The definition is always moving forward.
You know, I’ve thought that, too, and I’m almost coming back to the more self-centered worldview in the sense of people who were growing up with the music in the ’70s thought of course that’s the greatest music of all time, and the people who grew up in the ’60s thought that was the greatest music of all time. Same with the ’80s. And I wonder now if there is that kind of music being made now. I’m sure it is, but will we ever discover it? Will it ever get through the machine to come out to the general public. I have to say I sure hope so.
One thing I found very interesting: I was talking to a younger person the other day. I asked her what kind of music she liked, and she said, "I like everything from the ’20s through the ’40s onto the ’70s and ’80s." And I’m like, "The ’20s?!" (laughs) That’s going back to my great-grandparents time! Why do you think it is that this music that was great then, why are people interested in that who are 24 years old? She said it’s because we have access now. We have total access to anything that was recorded, and I thought that’s a good point.
I think that’s part of the reason why this great music from the ’70s and ’80s will actually never completely fade from memory because new generations discover it. And there’s just some brilliant music that was written then, and it was such a creative time. I think truly it’ll stand the test of time: great lyrics and songwriting and guitar solos and production.
You’ve said "Peace of Mind" is your favorite Boston song. Why that one?
It’s just got a great lyric and just such a groovy tune. That song just really encapsulates everything I think that’s great about Boston. And Brad Delp was just such a masterful vocalist – and really hugely underappreciated when people start talking about the greatest rock vocalists of all time. You get the same answers over and over and over again, and for some reason, Brad Delp’s name does not get mentioned very often. And I think that’s a crying shame because he just had such a sweet, smooth, wide, just gorgeous voice, and it’s a monstrous task to try to duplicate it as close as possible.
But lyrically and melodically, the songs are such fun to sing. The task of trying to sing like him is fun – it’s a challenge – and that song is one of the best examples of him using his voice most effectively. And then the double leads and the production – it’s just a brilliant piece.
As much as it is a gigantic cliché to say that one has always had a passion for film, Matt Mueller has always had a passion for film. Whether it was bringing in the latest movie reviews for his first grade show-and-tell or writing film reviews for the St. Norbert College Times as a high school student, Matt is way too obsessed with movies for his own good.
When he's not writing about the latest blockbuster or talking much too glowingly about "Piranha 3D," Matt can probably be found watching literally any sport (minus cricket) or working at - get this - a local movie theater. Or watching a movie. Yeah, he's probably watching a movie.