Rat City Brass at Lopez Center

  • Fri May 7th, 2010 11:45pm
  • Life
Members of the band Rat City Brass.

Members of the band Rat City Brass.

Have you ever had a favorite band whose music you always crank up when you’re cruising around on a sunny day with your windows rolled down? Or one that you play specifically to dance to when no one else is around?

For a growing number of fans in the Puget Sound area, Rat City Brass is that band. And they’ll be on Lopez to kick off the summer season with a concert this Saturday, May 15, at Lopez Center.

Rat City Brass—or as its called by fans, RCB — is a group of eight seasoned musicians based in Seattle which began primarily as a Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass cover band, its members drawn together by a love of those breezy ‘60s and ‘70s brief-yet-catchy instrumental pop songs.

“The Herb thing goes back to my childhood,” says band co-founder Dan Cunneen. “My parents had Tijuana Brass records so the music was around the house and those melodies are major ear worms for a little kid. Later, when I started playing the drums, I began to really appreciate the musicians that played on the records.”

RCB’s other co-founder, Mark Bentz, also got the bug early. “Herb and the TJB were all over the airwaves the year I was born and during my formative years,” he says. “I think the music just got ingrained in me. Then at some point, it just seemed to vanish off the face of the earth.”

But now RCB is getting a kick out of bringing that style of music back and introducing a new generation of listeners to its infectious sound. And while its set list is heavy on such popular Alpert tunes as “Taste of Honey,” and “Whipped Cream,” the group also plays its own contemporary arrangements of songs by Burt Bacharach, John Barry, The Ventures, and jazz greats like Nat Adderley. RCB’s repertoire has grown to include some original numbers too—all written with that classic American mid-century flair.

While the name “Rat City Brass” might not call to mind images of days at the beach or vacations south of the border (Rat City is the nickname of an old blue-collar neighborhood in south Seattle where the group practices and three of the musicians reside), the name reveals the band’s sense of humor as well as its strong ties to the Pacific Northwest.

And they’re thrilled to be raising smiles from local old-school music aficionados and youngsters alike. “One thing that I’ve noticed about RCB is that whether we play a downtown music club or a family friendly street fair, we always get a great response from the crowd,” says Cunneen. “The fact that we can play the Lopez Community Center and then the next week go play a live broadcast on KEXP—Seattle’s hip independent radio station—speaks volumes. It’s great to be in a band that has such broad appeal.”

But don’t expect schlock. While the RCB musicians clearly have fun onstage, they take the music seriously. “I think one part of our appeal is the fact the there is no irony involved with what we’re doing,” says Cunneen. “Our tongues are not in cheek—we’re just big fans of this style of music and that enthusiasm shows on stage.”

What should the Lopez audience expect? “Bring your dancing shoes, ‘cause it’s gonna be a Tijuana Dance Fest!” says Cunneen. And “people should get out on the dance floor quickly,” adds Bentz, “because the songs are all under three minutes.”

Rat City Brass plays at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, May 15 at Lopez Center. Tickets ($12 adult, $8 youth) may be purchased online (www.lopezcenter.com), at Lopez Center and other village outlets, or at the door.