Having denizens of the hard core New York punk scene might seem like an odd fit for the Black Swamp Arts Festival’s Family Stage.
|Peter Zaremba of the Fleshtones
But The Fleshtones’ April show at Grounds for Thought showed their knack for connecting with fans of all ages as they brought youngsters on stage to dance and even play bass, while they cavorted in the crowd.
The Fleshtones were born of pure passion for rock ‘n’ roll. Two of the founding members, Keith Streng and Marek Pakulski, moved into a house in Queens, NY in 1975, and discovered instruments left behind in the basement by previous tenants. They decided to start playing them.
The seminal garage rock band will follow up their Friday at 8 p.m. show at the festival with a Saturday at 4 p.m. show on the Family Stage.
Peter Zaremba came over and joined the jam. Like his buddies his only qualification was an absolute love of rock n’ roll. “The motivating force behind rock ‘n’ roll and rhythm ‘n’ blues is the passion,” Zaremba said. And a sense of musical illiteracy doesn’t hurt.
And 45 years later, The Fleshtones are still at it with three of the original members. Pakulski is no longer with the band. Ken Fox now plays bass.
Zaremba was exposed to rock through his sister’s records. He was the kid, he said, who always turned the record over to hear the B side. The Beatles’ “I’m Down,” which backed “Help!” is still his favorite of that band’s tunes.
“I loved all sort of kooky things.”
With drummer Bill Milhozer, the friends, all from Brooklyn, emerged as part of the second wave of punk music, an early exemplar of raw garage rock. They played early gigs at such legendary New York clubs as CBGB and Max’s Kansas City.
Even then they went their own way. “People thought we were supposed to be sullen punks,” Zaremba said in a recent interview.
Instead they embodied the joyous nature of rock ‘n’ roll, and reveled in getting people out of their seats and dancing.
Zaremba guaranteed those who come to the show will be entertained.
“If you stay home we bear no responsibility for the kind of evening you have,” he said. Those who come to the show should “be prepared to be amazed.”
“We’ll have a good time,” Zaremba said of the band.
“When we play, and we really reach people and when we get off the stage, that’s the best feeling in the world. There’s no reason to stop,” he said.
The Fleshtones’ most recent CD is “The Brooklyn Sound Solution” on Yep Roc Records, a nod to the New York City borough that’s still the band’s home.
Unusual for the band, it’s a collaboration with Lenny Kaye, Patti Smith’s guitarist. The album features mostly cover tunes, including a raw version of the Beatles’ “Day Tripper” as well as instrumentals.
The Fleshtones are fully capable of taking the material done with Lenny Kaye, and making it completely their own.
“We’re not musical geeks,” Zaremba said. Rather than respectful rehashes of these tunes, “we definitely want to take all that out of the mausoleum, disinter all those things and mix up all the bones.”
The Fleshtones, he said, are more interested in the spirit of the music.
“The energy comes from the music,” Zaremba said. “It’s life giving. It’s rejuvenating. When we can’t go out on stage and go over the top the way we do, then it would be time to back off. That shows no sign of happening.”