[dropcap]O[/dropcap]f all of the unusual gigs I’ve had the pleasure to sit in on in my tenure as a Boston-area musician, by far the most memorable and unusual is the Old School Game Show. In May of this year, I got the call to bring my keyboard and learn some fitness-themed songs for a show titled “Old School Game Show: Cardiovascular Spectacular,” and in particular a song called “Sweaty and Hot,” which was at my estimation at the time the worst piece of shit ever recorded by modern man. It is now one of my favorite songs.
That’s what Old School Game Show does to you. It confuses you with bad taste and then hits you over the head with an anvil of sincerity.
Originally performed live on television by its (*cough*) composer, Growing Pains star Alan Thicke (yes, father of Robin) in 1988 at the Crystal Light National Aerobics Championships, “Sweaty and Hot” combines the musical exposition of Mozart with all the nuance of an adolescent sweat pants boner. “You see those great big hunks, the way they flaunt it,” sings Thicke, in a plea to his jazzercise instructor girlfriend. “But what you saw in me was something unique/A sensitive intellect.” The video has been watched nearly a quarter of a million times, and probably most of them are by me. By the night of the show, I had analyzed the composition and started espousing the brilliance of its Aeolian cadences to confused friends in other bands. That’s when you know you’ve officially joined a cult.
Part game show, part sit-com, part rock concert, and all parts “Alt Trivia Variety Program,” Old School Game Show is taking a lot of people along for its wacky ride. The Boston-area variety act is now opening up its third season with a sprawling Halloween gala this Sunday, October 18 at Oberon in Cambridge, titled the “Freaky Deaky, Creepy Crawly, Halloween Hellraiser in 3D.” Creator, host, and executive producer Mike D’Angelo promises it to be “jam-packed with Halloween movie themes and tropes, where a mysterious slasher is knocking off members of the cast one by one.”
Known for its hilarious skits, outrageous dance routines and games such as “Baby Mama Trauma Drama” — where contestants have to guess a movie title based on a picture that looks like it was drawn by a child at a psychotherapy session (twin sisters standing in a hall-way anyone?) — few are aware of just how much musical talent is running through the veins of the Old School Game Show band.
Led by band leader and drummer Chuck Ferreira (Eddie Japan, Second Grave), the active roster includes members of Parks (keyboardist Brian E. King), Golden Bloom (keyboardist John Cohen), Hammer and Snake (keyboardist Mike Razo), Eddie Japan (guitarist Eric Brosius, trumpet player Eric Ortiz), Claws that Catch (bassist Jason Raffi), and Boston saxophone legend Paul Ahlstrand. Past members have come from groups like Ruby Rose Fox, Kingsley Flood, the Cult of Point Break Society, and the Evil Streaks. That doesn’t even get into musical guests performing and often acting during the show — such as Ruby Rose Fox herself, The Barbazons, Martha Marin, Douglas Sherman (Gozu), Matt Sullivan (Aquanutz), Cotton Candy, and this month’s guests Tad Mckitterick (Sidewalk Driver) and Gene Dante (the Future Starlets).
But it’s hard to forget about D’Angelo himself. A decade ago, he was howling sex, drugs, and rock & roll with Boston’s Innerpink, and now he’s getting sweaty and hot, in a ruffled tuxedo—singing about shake weights and thong butter. A truer step up in the world was never taken.
“Mike has such a love for what we are doing that he brings that to the music,” says Ferreira. “Even if he isn’t a really polished lead singer, he makes up for it with his enthusiasm.”
It’s an enthusiasm that is shared by members of the band. D’Angelo recounts one heavy metal episode where Ferreira’s ferocity led to multiple drum-heads being broken during rehearsal. Or another time where Brian E. King wrote a stunning Full House-eque theme song for an Old School Game Show special feature. “We use it quite a lot,” explains D’Angelo. “Because there are a lot of Danny Tanner-type lessons that happen in the show, and he’s a big Full House fan. He’s a genius. I maybe have just teared-up.”
When it comes to Old School Game Show music, the magic recipe is mixing diversity with perversity.
“As a musician it’s a challenge,” Ferreria explains. “Because every single month there is a new theme, so one month you could be playing a bunch of Herb Alpert and psychedelic ’60s songs, and the next month you could be playing ’80s new wave music that would be heard in a John Hughes movie.” You never know what you are going to hear, but you know it’s going to make you laugh.