I arrived at the Saint sometime around 9:15 or so. Outside the building was Kelly McGrath of Maybe Pete. She was on the cell phone and looked rather nervous. I asked her what time the band was supposed to go on and she said "9:30... but Frankie's not here yet." And so began a rather tenuous twenty minutes for the band as they got ready for the CD release of Between the City and the Stratosphere.
It's rather surreal to watch a band try to set up for a big show when their lead singer is nowhere to be found. You could tell that their minds ranged from nervousness about whether Frankie was in a car accident or stuck on the highway somewhere to flat out pissed off that he might actually miss the show. Apparently, the band had thought they were going on at 10pm.
As 9:30 came and went there was still no sight of Frankie. Visions of that scene in "Eddie & The Cruisers" where Joanna was forced to sing the entire set as lead because Eddie walked off the stage (Wendell Newton, his sax guy and best friend had just died the night before) suddenly popped in my head. I noticed Mark Linskey of the Hudson Falcons outside and knew that he probably knew all of the songs as well. I started thinking about what would be the order of lead singers. Maybe Kelly McGrath, Mark Linskey and then Marc Gambino? Who knows?
cigarette dangling from his mouth, Frankie and the band kicked into gear with a blistering version of "Whatever You Want Me To Do." From there it was a non-stop race through the album with the band moving from "Ours For The Takin’" to "Outta My Hands" and finally "Somehow" before Frankie took a breath. Normally, Frankie jokes with the audience and does a few impressions - not this night. Maybe it was the seriousness of a record release or maybe it was because the band had only a limited amount of time on stage and lost some due to him being late, but it wasn't until the fifth song that Frankie even opened his mouth to talk to the audience. He went into a story about seeing Tommy Stinson (of the Replacements) do a solo show in the city. Tommy was taking forever to get his guitar in tune. After a while, Frankie yelled out "Tommy it's close enough" and Stinson replied, "yeah, close enough for rock and roll" before proceeding to create a God awful sound. While Frankie admitted being a bit embarrassed for forcing him to play in that state, he was not only amazed that Tommy Stinson was talking to him - he found the name for a song... "Close Enough For Rock And Roll."
Maybe Pete followed with their cover of Abba, which ended abruptly when Frankie realized he forgot to strap on his capo so he was singing in a different key than the rest of the band! Capo on, the 70s cover continued. This is one of the band's most popular cover tunes and it seemed to provide a breath of relief for the band. The final song was “Exit 140A,” a brilliant cut from the new album. With the crowd screaming loudly, Maybe Pete came back to do "Between the Love and Fear" for an encore.
Technical difficulties aside, it was probably one of the best performances I've ever seen Maybe Pete put on. It's a shame they didn't have more time, but they certainly made the most of it. Maybe next time they'll come back as the headliner. They're getting close...
Gary Wien has been covering the arts since 2001 and has had work published with Jersey Arts, Elmore Magazine, Princeton Magazine, Backstreets and other publications. He is a three-time winner of the Asbury Music Award for Top Music Journalist and the author of Beyond the Palace (the first book on the history of rock and roll in Asbury Park) and Are You Listening? The Top 100 Albums of 2001-2010 by New Jersey Artists. In addition, he runs New Jersey Stage and the online radio station The Penguin Rocks. He can be contacted at email@example.com.