By Chris Shapiro
It’s a bar very similar to that of NBC’s sitcom Cheers. You’re there once and everyone knows your name. The place is Belmont Stakes.
Cookie, the owner, is talking to customers, to friends. He and his wife run the neighborhood bar. It’s one that’s nestled just off Belmont Avenue and easy to past by if you’re not paying close attention, as most treasure is.
The people in the bar are friends and close relations. There’s a sense of family among them.
In the corner, there’s a band setting up. Flood lights on the floor project larger than life shadows of five band members onto a wall behind them. Their shadows symbolize their greater calling. They’re knights who crusade to keep a treasure alive. A treasure that is stored in the temple of the heart. They are of the brotherhood of Rock ‘n Roll.
These men call themselves The Gary Markasky Project and leading the crusade is Markasky.
His head is tilted to the right as he tunes his guitar ever chasing the perfect tone. Wearing a fedora, that has, not one, but two feathers stuck in it, his shadow on the wall is reminiscent of movie poster for Indiana Jones. All that’s missing is the whip and perhaps Sean Connery as well.
Markasky looks as though he’s about to enter a temple in one of those distant jungles to uncover an artifact lost in the passage of time.
In fact, that’s exactly what Markasky, the Indiana Jones of Rock ‘n Roll, is about to do. However, his temple is a bit closer to home. It’s the stage, which tonight happens to be at Belmont Stakes.
But a temple is nothing more than stones laid upon one another. There’s nothing special about a temple, it’s what’s inside the temple that determines its value.
The same is true for a stage. It’s lifeless, nothing but building materials. Even the instruments are nothing more than wood, metal and paint.
The drum set for example; take the name of the world’s top act and spray painted it on the bass drum. The only thing that that set has is a name, a label. There’s no difference between that set and a set sitting in someone’s garage because there’s no personality.
It requires a musician to add a heartbeat to an instrument. The sound comes from the inner soul of the musician. The instrument only amplifies that sound. This is the treasure.
You see, the treasure in Markasky’s temple isn’t the precious stones or gold of past civilizations but instead, the stories locked in the hearts and souls of people. It’s that inner sound of those who love Rock ‘n Roll, both of fans and musicians.
There’s a secret in every song. A story to be told. A journey to be taken.
The Gary Markasky Project brings these stories to life when they play and, in doing so; they express not only what’s in their heart but what’s in the heart of the song.
Whether they’re performing a classic Michael Stanley Band song, which Markasky was the lead guitarist for from 1978 to 1983, or they’re mixing up their set list with “Purple Rain,” they are combining the life in the song with the secret in their heart to create a living moment. It’s the simple mathematical equation of one plus one makes two.
You can’t capture it. You can’t capture life. You can only experience life.
To watch Markasky play is to watch a master in action. He’s constantly improving his tone and taking his solos to new heights.
“I can’t wait for the next gig. I love playing. That’s why I play, because I love it,” Markasky said.
When describing his style Markasky said, “It’s everything. It’s what I’ve digested all through the years of watching all the other greats play and their performances and playing with them. It all sort of soaked in and it comes out with my signature and that’s what I am. And whatever my flavor is, that’s what it is. There’s a lot of ice-cream out there, different colors.”
Even after thirty plus years of performing in front of stadiums filled with over 20,000 screaming fans, Markasky admits he still gets anxious before a show.
“There’s always a little. I want it to go as best as possible and for everybody else in the band as well you know. And I get, I’m a little bit picky. I want things to sound as best as we can get them. And I’ll be like that, a little edgy about it. But once we start playing it’s all goes away. ‘Let’s just do it and have a blast,’” Markasky said.
Markasky went on to say, “And you know every place, every venue is a new city, new people. You know, they all, they seem to be able to understand a group that really still has passion and hunger and really wants to get out there and get it on. And we still do. I still do. You know, I’ve been around a long time. I’ve been, thirty some years, yeah, doing this. Yeah it’s great.”
Markasky knows the first few moments of any show are crucial for a band. He must hook the audience and get them to feel that inner treasure.
“You look at them and you see them, see sort of what they’re calling for and then I sort of decide on the initial song to start with, to get them right off, you know what I mean, and I do,” Markasky said.
Part of Markasky’s inner treasure is his spiritual side.
“I talk to the Lord all the time,” Markasky said before continuing, “I have a one on one thing with the higher power and I always talk to him every day. ‘Thank you for the gift to play and let’s do it again.’ And you know I just thank him every day, always do.”
Markasky made note that we should, “Never take for granted that special gift of being. The lord gave us this gift of being here and whatever talents he’s given to us you know, let’s do the best we can with them and share them with the people,” Markasky said.
The Gary Markasky Project is one of the hardest working bands out of Youngstown, Ohio. They perform over three hundred shows each year and in June they are joining forces with several large names for a Pannutti concert event benefiting the Relay for Life at the Warren Amphitheater on June 14th.
The names include the Godfather of Rock ‘n Roll, Eddie Money, and a man who could be considered to be Youngstown’s Bill Graham, Eddie Pannutti. Pannutti is the longest running concert promoter in the city having started in the business in 1977 when he was just in his twenties.
There’s no limit to what can happen when these rock legends join forces. They will bring to life the inner sound of their soul and will touch those who share in the moment. Their temple is the stage and their treasure is the secrets in their hearts.
When the Godfather and Indiana Jones of Rock ‘n Roll perform together, there’s no saying what will happen but you can be sure it will be one moment you won’t want to miss.
For ticket information visit: Pannutti Productions or call 330-716-4344