Mon­keep­hiles re­turn to Elmwood Park July 16

Springfield Sun - - NEWS - By Gary Puleo gpuleo@21st-cen­tu­ry­media. com @Mus­tang­man48 on Twit­ter

NOR­RIS­TOWN » Can you think of a bet­ter time for The Mon­keep­hiles to “bring the sum­mer” to the Elmwood Park con­cert scene than the mid­dle of July?

When the pop­u­lar and pro­foundly faith­ful Mon­kees trib­ute band re­turns to the Fire Chief’s Me­mo­rial Band Shell on July 16 at 7 p.m., “You Bring the Sum­mer — the ir­re­sistibly buoy­ant tune from the Mon­kees 2016 re­union al­bum “Good Times!” — will join a ros­ter of mon­ster hits like “Day­dream Be­liever” and “Last Train to Clarksville” guar­an­teed to en­thrall a crowd that spans gen­er­a­tions.

From fledg­ling mu­si­cal mop­pets to their nos­tal­gic grand­par­ents who grew up with “The Mon­kees” TV show phe­nom­e­non of the mid-1960s, they’ll all be there at Elmwood Park, 1661 Hard­ing Blvd., Nor­ris­town, to cel­e­brate sum­mer and some time­less tunes, noted Mon­keep­hiles bassist and singer Michael Kropp.

“We do see all ages at our con­certs, and a lot of fam­i­lies come out. It’s al­ways fun for us to meet first gen­er­a­tion fans, and we do not take that for granted, but at the same time, it’s re­ally fun when they bring their chil­dren or grand­chil­dren who say ‘I re­ally like that “Step­ping Stone” song’ … so you know there are fu­ture Mon­kees fans com­ing.”

Many Day­time Be­liev­ers will re­mem­ber that The Mon­keep­hiles played the band shell around La­bor Day last year, af­ter the band’s orig­i­nal show was rained out dur­ing the sum­mer.

Kropp agreed that he and his band mates — John Ro­gin­ski (vo­cals, gui­tar, key­boards); Paul Ven­turi (vo­cals, key­boards, per­cus­sion) and Ryan Fen­ton (drums) — are more than just a Mon­kees cover band.

“We’re def­i­nitely try­ing to sound like the Mon­kees, but we’re not try­ing to be them,” he cau­tioned. “Peo­ple will ask, ‘Which Mon­kee are you?’ I’m the bass player but I’m not try­ing to be Peter Tork. We are try­ing to give you the im­pres­sion that you’re hear­ing the songs like the orig­i­nal records. And we do a lot of al­bum tracks be­sides the hits. We’re do­ing it be­cause we love it,” Kropp added. “It’s our jobs, but we also love the fun that The Mon­kees bring and the smiles the mu­sic brings to peo­ple’s faces … peo­ple singing along and that kind of thing.”

While you won’t see any Mon­kees trade­mark sar­to­rial state­ments like a woolly blue hat or eight-but­ton blue shirts, The Mon­keep­hiles de­signed their own stylish nod to the singing and act­ing quar­tet com­pris­ing Amer­i­cans Micky Dolenz, Michael Ne­smith and Peter Tork and Bri­tish ac­tor-singer Davy Jones that was orig­i­nally cre­ated by TV gu­rus to cap­ture the teen Beatle­ma­niac mar­ket.

“The Mon­kees wore match­ing shirts in the TV show; that was their iconic look, pri­mar­ily blue and red shirts,” Kropp ex­plained. “So we had T-shirts made with our logo on the back and on the front are (sim­u­lated) but­tons, two across four down, that pay homage to that look.”

Kropp, who lives in Lim­er­ick and was al­ready a self­de­scribed “mu­sic nerd” and huge Mon­kees fan, as well as an avid record col­lec­tor, when he was in­vited to join Ro­gin­ski and Ven­turi, who founded The Mon­keep­hiles in the Scran­ton area, through Fen­ton, a mu­tual friend.

“My only cau­tion was that it’s about a two-hour drive but we came to­gether re­ally well,” re­called Kropp.

One of the first gigs the group landed was, by most Mon­kee ma­niac stan­dards, fairly mon­u­men­tal: the 2014 Mon­kees con­ven­tion held at the Mead­ow­lands in New Jer­sey.

“It was re­ally in­cred­i­ble,” Kropp said. “The year we were in­vited was the year they had ac­tu­ally per­suaded Mike Ne­smith to ap­pear at the con­ven­tion. Micky Dolenz was sched­uled to come in, but Mike Ne­smith was al­ways the elu­sive one. The most ex­cit­ing thing for us was that maybe 25 min­utes be­fore we were sched­uled to ac­tu­ally go on stage to play, the pro­moter came and found us and we were ush­ered into the ball­room of this ho­tel to meet Mike Ne­smith, Micky Dolenz and Peter Tork. It was an in­cred­i­bly sur­real ex­pe­ri­ence. We had this five- or 10-minute en­counter with them; they posed for a pic­ture with us and we gave them some of our match­ing shirts. We had a great time and it kind of snow­balled from there.”

Now a main­stay of sev­eral lo­cal am­phithe­aters around the area, The Mon­keep­hiles are es­sen­tially a sum­mer­time act, Kropp al­lowed.

“We just played West Goshen Park, our first show of the sum­mer. We’re set to play Tem­ple Am­bler cam­pus on July 30. We love the town­ship am­phithe­ater shows be­cause they’re so much fun. They don’t usu­ally want to bring the same bands back year af­ter year be­cause they like to mix it up a lit­tle, but we’ve been very for­tu­nate to be asked to come back by some towns, like Nor­ris­town, a num­ber of times,” Kropp noted, sug­gest­ing that fans check the band’s Face­book page for up­dates. “We played New Hol­land the last two sum­mers. The nice thing is, no one has said, ‘We don’t want you back.’ They talked to us about com­ing back year af­ter year, or skip­ping a year, and then com­ing back. We’re very for­tu­nate and ex­cited about it.”

Dur­ing the show, crowds have come to ex­pect a lit­tle back­ground on some Mon­kees tunes, many of which were penned by the most pro­lific song­writ­ers of the era, like Carole King, Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart, Neil Di­a­mond and Harry Nils­son.

“When we’re about to do ‘Pleas­ant Val­ley Sun­day’ and we tell the au­di­ence one of the co-writ­ers was Carole King, they’re so sur­prised to find that out,” said Kropp.

If the Fire Chief’s Me­mo­rial Band Shell had a roof, there’s lit­tle doubt which Mon­kees tune will be bring­ing it down on July 16.

“Not to give the show away, but we al­ways save ‘Day­dream Be­liever’ for the end. That’s the one where we make it a point to turn the song over to the au­di­ence,” Kropp said. “We’ll just stop play­ing in the mid­dle of it and the au­di­ence will con­tinue singing the cho­rus. That’s usu­ally the one that gets arms sway­ing and peo­ple stand­ing up … the one that so­lid­i­fies it for ev­ery­body.”

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

The Mon­keep­hiles, from left, Ryan Fen­ton, Michael Kropp, Paul Ven­turi and John Ro­gin­ski, play the Elmwood Park Fire Chief’s Me­mo­rial Band Shell in Nor­ris­town July 16.

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