Being serenaded by a live version of Van Halen’s Panama by a bald rocker with a big beard and a “PG-13 AT BEST” tank top wasn’t exactly what the middle-aged couple enjoying the fish n’ chips special on the Shakespeare Arms patio were expecting Thursday.
Minutes earlier, four would-be rock stars wheeled their pickup trucks into the Harvard Road parking lot, quickly cranked up two portable generators, plugged in their instruments and – following a quick word with the restaurant manager – launched into a pretty tight version of Led Zeppelin’s The Immigrant Song.
Four songs later they said thanks, packed up their gear and drove off.
They’re Wicked Truth, and they’re conquering the rock and roll world one parking lot at a time.
“It’s definitely working for getting our name out there and for getting gigs,” said Tony Nalli, Wicked Truth’s drummer by night and a television producer by day.
“Bars get 100 emails and calls from bands every week. Anybody and their uncle whose ever picked up a guitar thinks they’re capable of being in a rock band.”
So Wicked Truth decided to try something a little different.
Wicked Truth’s self-described flash tour, which has taken the band to parking lots and sidewalks from Toronto to Waterloo, is all about having some fun and maybe earning a gig or two.
So far they’ve done the pop-up shows four different days, hitting nine establishments.
“We love it, we love performing at gigs, in basements…” says Nalli.
“Or in parking lots,” adds lead singer Matt Bunt.
Save for the stern looks of the one couple, Thursday’s response was positive.
Patrons took video, staff gathered to watch and a family poked its head around the corner to see what was going on.
And it was all over in 20 minutes.
Most pop-up shows go well. But not all.
"Sometimes people get pissed off,” Bunt says.
Police and a bylaw officer showed up at a recent performance in Waterloo. Nose bylaws were mentioned.
“And we were kind of parked on the sidewalk,” Unruh says.
Then there was the time they played outside a bar and the promoter of the act playing later that night inside the bar got a little upset.
“He was pissed off because he said we were benefiting from a crowd he had brought, so he said we owed him $20,” Bunt says. “I just told him to get the &%##3 out of my face.”
The band - Bunt, Nalli, bass player Unruh and guitarists Jeff Kralka and Brent Perez- has been together for a couple of years. Two are from the Acton area. Another from Cambridge. They all have day jobs, except for Unruh, who is a retired police officer.
“We’re just giving people a taste of what they’re missing out on if they decide not to book us or what to look forward to if they do decide to book us,” Unruh says.
Nalli says it’s a way to let bar owners know how good the band is rather than taking someone’s word for it.
“You need to separate yourselves from all the other bands,” Nalli says. “There’s no way for them to know where you are without really seeing you, so we make that easy for them.”
Upcoming shows and more on the band can be found on its Facebook page.