“It’s 40 years of rock sound in one show.”
That’s how Jamaica resident Mario Robles, lead singer of The Boom Section, the four-man AC/DC-inspired band hosting the Forest Park Rock Fest II, describes the show his group is presenting for the second year in a row.
In all, four bands will take to the stage for approximately one hour each.
Robles promises, “We’re keeping it family-friendly and want everyone to have a good time.”
Getting together recently in person and via speakerphone to talk shop, the guys seemed completely unconcerned that, with scarcely more than a week to go before the big day, most of the bands had never met each other before.
Perhaps even more surprising, it didn’t seem to bother any of them that at the concert they’ll have to cover for some of their fellow band members who will be away fulfilling previously booked engagements.
In fact, they appeared to relish the challenge. A little impromptu jamming can go a long way in helping professional musicians turn out a terrific show. Their obvious love and enthusiasm for what they do won’t hurt.
The festival took over the bandshell in the Woodhaven sanctuary, home to that famous landmarked carousel, for the first time last summer, drawing an estimated 150 spectators. It was the fulfillment of a childhood dream of The Boom Section’s drummer, Greg Cerar, 32, who grew up a stone’s throw away.
Now, with its return, the event is on its way to becoming an annual attraction.
“Our goal is to get progressively bigger. We want it to grow. We want it to become a Queens tradition,” Robles said. “Last year we were sticking within our circle of friends. This year, we wanted to find established local acts who had their own thing going on.”
In addition to The Boom Section, which will close out the show, the participating bands are Small Craft Warning, Voodoo Dancer and Missing Maddox.
In an effort to enhance the performance, with newer equipment and a professional sound engineer, the band set up a Kickstarter account in the hopes of raising enough money to cover expenses.
If the $1,500 goal isn’t met, Robles said, “We’re going to have to self-fund, with all four bands pitching in ... a true labor of love.”
At the age of 53, Voodoo Dancer guitarist Steve Drizis, who lives in Middle Village, is probably the most seasoned performer on the bill, having previously played gigs side by side with Cheap Trick, Billy Idol and R.E.M. The upcoming event marks his return to performing after a 20-year absence, the old confidence still intact.
“We’re going to do three rehearsals and we’re going to bang ’em out,” he said.
Before inviting Voodoo Dancer, which has a distinctly ’80s’ sound, reminiscent of Foreigner or Journey, to join the lineup, Robles said, “We did research on Steve’s old band. We were very impressed with his body of work and his sound.”
The group’s lead singer, Warren Passaro, comes with years of experience as well, having started playing in bars at the age of 14 and appearing on “Star Search” with an earlier band in 1990.
Almost the entirety of Small Craft Warning lives in Forest Hills. According to the band’s bass player, Stephen Bluto, “We’re a Grateful Dead-type jam band” that plays all original music, with most of the writing supplied by lead guitarist Tom Belknap. “We’ll work together and develop the songs,” Bluto said.
“Growing up, as a kid, I found a fascination with prog rock. I bought a bass and started playing,” he said.
Missing Maddox will provide the concert’s early ’90s indie rock sound, or, as rhythm guitarist and lead vocalist Evan Lieberman likes to describe it, the “fuzzy and punky” sound. The band, the first chosen for the show in the park, is still working out its set. They, too, will be playing all originals, with lead guitarist Rob Beatty coming up with the initial ideas.
“We’re blown away by the buzz around them,” Robles said. “They have thousands of ‘likes’ on Facebook. We were very impressed.”