WANT TO GO?
The Tom McGees Benefit Show
With The Concept, Dinosaur Burps, Nation, InFormation and Three Chord Me
WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday
WHERE: The Empty Glass, 410 Elizabeth St.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- It's rare to see ska bands forming these days, especially in Charleston. It's even more rare to see ska bands forming named after well-known but retired local TV news anchors.
The Tom McGees, who bill themselves as "West Virginia's only ska/punk party band," are both. The eight-member group is comprised of members of Charleston punk band The Concept and veterans of the Orlando (via Charleston) ska band 69 Fingers.
Recently, Mike Withrow, David Scarpelli and Christopher Itson gathered at the McGees' rehearsal space at Cerberus Studios in Charleston to talk about the band, ska and recording their debut album in a few weeks. Across a chalkboard, various obscenities and NSFW (not safe for work) drawings are scribbled, along with a long list of Tom McGees songs. Grabbing some seats in a sea of instruments strewn about, they get the first, most obvious question out of the way: is the real McGee a fan?
"He knows and thinks it's flattering and funny," Withrow said. "We would love to have him come to the show when we release the album, or even on [Friday's show]."
The Tom McGees play a benefit show for themselves at The Empty Glass Friday to raise funds before they head to Innovation Studios in Steubenville, Ohio, on May 20 to record "This Just In." The band will have production help from friends Steve Soboslai and Paul Menotiades of the Pittsburgh-based pop-punk band Punchline.
To help raise money, the Tom McGees also set up a fundraising page -- indiegogo.com/thetommcgees -- where fans can contribute in tiered-packages until May 17. Among the swag offered are copies of the record, shirts, stickers, liner note acknowledgements, a phone serenade by Withrow and house shows from either Withrow and Adam Dittenbrand or the entire band.
"It's been great," Itson said of the response to the fundraising efforts. "I hope people keep it up. We worked hard on the site and have been putting up new videos to keep people's attention."
"It's cool because even people that don't know us can see how hard we're working and kind of get to know us," Withrow said of the fundraising page. "They can see that we're doing what we love and we're passionate about it."
Scarpelli is not only proud of the music but also his hometown, and he's happy for people to support that. "I'll represent the city, and if someone wants to donate 10 bucks just to say, 'I helped a band from Charleston go and record and do big things,' that's great.
"It's better than going door to door and asking for 10 dollars," he added.
For Itson, who is new to being in a ska band, and Scarpelli, a veteran of 69 Fingers, being able to make ska music is special in itself.
"I always wanted to play ska but played middle school band, concert band, jazz band," Itson said. "All the punk bands that came out of my school didn't want horns, so I was stuck playing jazz -- not that I don't like jazz. It's a lot of fun, but I always wanted to play in a ska band, but never knew anybody that was into it. So when I met these guys, it was like a dream come true."
Scarpelli said, "At first, I played ska because it was such a big thing back in like '97, '98, around when we started 69 Fingers."
He added that now people are dismissive of the genre and he likes the task of showing them what it's all about. "I like to think that it's a challenge to get that sound out there, so people can hear us and go, 'That's a ska band there. I think I'll give this a chance,'" he said.
"People don't even know what ska is half the time," Itson agreed. "People ask 'What kind of band are you in?' They think it's punk rock with horns."
"I hate labeling it, but, at the same time, I don't mind because in 69 Fingers, for years, we were like, 'Don't call us ska, don't call us ska,' but it's always been ska," Scarpelli said with a laugh.
He said of the genre, "I don't think it's ever gone away. It's always been there.
"Living in Orlando, 69 Fingers would have thousands of kids come out to a ska show. It'd be ska-punk, ska-funk, ska-metal, whatever, and there would be a packed house. So obviously people still like this music and still want to hear it."
Reach Nick Harrah at wvrocksc...@gmail.com.