Hudson Valley Musicians
From classic rockers to child prodigies, the Valley is home to a seemingly endless number of gifted musicians representing every genre and age group. This all-access pass introduces some of the area’s leading established artists, each paired with a promising local up-and-comer. Take a glimpse at some of the hottest talent north of NYC
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Drummers Rob Affuso and Dan Gamma
Photograph by Michael Polito
Currently lives in: Gardiner Hometown: Born in Newburgh, raised in Wallkill
Rock fans might recall drummer Affuso’s late ’80s/early ’90s band Skid Row, a hard rock group which debuted at number one on the Billboard charts in 1991. The following year, Affuso started another band — Soulsystem Orchestras — which specializes in playing the funk, soul, and Motown songs he listened to while on tour. Still going strong, you can catch Soulsystem at venues around the Valley (they play Schlesinger’s Beach Club in New Windsor on August 27).
How long have you been playing? Since I was three or four years old. I actually think I came out of the womb with a pair of sticks. Favorite thing about performing? It takes me to a whole other place within myself. There is an amazing transfer of energy when a performer gives all they have onstage to an audience, and then receives it back 100-fold. Cool stories from the road? When we were in Japan we had just finished a show and arrived back at our hotel. We went to the bar and were greeted by Ringo Starr and John Entwistle of the Who. They asked us to join them, and told the most incredible private stories of living with the Beatles and the Who. I could see the gleam in Entwistle’s eyes when telling me the story of Keith Moon driving a car into a hotel pool. Any funny tour stories of your own? At the end of a show in Australia, our singer Sebastian [Bach] was standing at the end of a runway that jutted out into the audience. He had his arms raised, fists pumping, basking in the roar of about 80,000 fans. I ran out from behind the drums and pulled his pants down to his ankles — without knowing that he wasn’t wearing any underwear. The next day, there were photos of him throughout the country — and eventually in all of the international rock magazines. Do you miss playing hard rock? I absolutely do. But we have been incorporating some of this music into our Soulsystem shows. There may be an opportunity for me to revisit it in late 2011; I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a Skid Row reunion. What brought you back to Gardiner? I wanted to be back home with my family and friends. But you will be very hard-pressed to find all that the Hudson Valley region has to offer anywhere in this country. What do you like best? I have a horse farm in the Gardiner/New Paltz area and I love it there. It is inherently beautiful, with green mountains that give way to the majestic Hudson River. And there is much culture to be found. There is the greatest city in the world to our south, travel another hour south and you have the Jersey shore, or travel north and you have the gorgeous lakes and mountains of the Adirondacks. There is absolutely everything for everybody. Goals for the future? To stay healthy, to love, to play music, and to maintain a healthy balance of decadence in my life.
Currently lives in: Wallkill Age: 24
Drummer Dan Gamma has been playing the Hudson Valley venue circuit and beyond for nearly 12 years, keeping a strong backbeat for a variety of bands. His passion for drumming was passed down from his father — who has performed with his own array of local groups — and continues to grow as more opportunities open up for him.
When did you start drumming? I was pretty young. My father bought me a drum kit for Christmas when I was three years old. How long have you been performing? I started playing out when I was 13 — I used to sit in with my dad’s band, Dr. Magneto. Since then I’ve been in a lot of other rock bands, like Out of Order, the Kristen Capolino Group, Within the Walls... there’s been at least a dozen of them. Current bands? My main band is Audible Thought, which is a hard-rock band playing all originals, but I’m also in KISS ALIVE!, a full-costume Kiss tribute band. I do the makeup, whiskers, everything. I’ve been with those guys since the fall of 2007. Which draws a larger crowd? They both bring in a lot of people, but probably Audible Thought consistently. We recently played to a packed house at the Chance. What’s KISS ALIVE!’s crowd like? Usually guys over 40. Favorite Kiss song? “Black Diamond,” because I also get to sing lead vocals while drumming. Is that difficult? No, I’ve been doing it for years. Musical influences? Wow, there’s a lot. Steven Adler of Guns ’N Roses, John Bonham of Led Zeppelin, Keith Moon of the Who, obviously Peter Criss of Kiss — I could go on and on. Favorite thing about performing? I love being onstage — feeding off the audience’s excitement. Ever play outside of the U.S.? Yeah, KISS ALIVE! was flown to the Dominican Republic to play three shows. It was great — all inclusive hotels, free booze, free food. The fans treated us like we were the real thing. Does that happen a lot? Yeah, we even get asked for autographs. I have to sign “the Catman.” Ever go out in costume after a show? Yeah, we’ll stop into diners sometimes afterwards. People love it — they ask to take pictures. We showed up drunk at a diner in Connecticut once and actually got kicked out because I didn’t have a shirt on under my costume. What do you do for fun? Well, I work a lot — going to school at Dutchess Community College for paralegal while working at Radio Shack part-time — so playing music is my version of fun. And the occasional Wing Night at McGillicuddy’s in New Paltz. Future goals? It’d be cool to go on a national tour with Audible Thought. And it would be nice to make a living off making music, but you know, it’s not easy.