Make no mistake.
Pink Houses is not some loosely thrown-together Mellencamp fans who want to perpetually relive their high school days by occasionally playing in tune together.
This band is TIGHT.
The 11 people who make up the self-titled "Ultimate Tribute Band From Cougar to Mellencamp" put in countless hours of carefully blending their talents and honing their skills to produce the sound you hear today.
And who is driving this musical metamorphosis at the front of the bus? A dentist who dreams big and hopes to rise to the top of his game.
"Heavy metal and rock and roll bands are a dime a dozen," said Tom Reitz, lead singer and founder of Pink Houses. Reitz should know - he's spent almost 20 years associated with a variety of bands that played throughout Southern Wisconsin, most notably Delusions of Grandeur and Angel White. "It's very hard to rise to the top of that genre of music."
After living the hard work that is associated with that kind of band for a few years, the Edgerton, Wis. dentist started looking for a new niche. He wanted to involve more musicians and get the attention of bigger gigs; namely festivals, events, larger clubs and other venues. "We were toying with the idea of a larger band with several people, and it came down to Mellencamp because we'd be the only game in town," he said, noting that Mellencamp has a wide audience and large appeal.
"Tom's got a goldmine of an idea," said Jim DiMattia, who was on a national recording artist tour when he was invited to join the band. "I just think Mellencamp has been cool since his first song. His music is timeless and I don't think anyone gets tired of it. He reaches out to the heart of Americans. It's really down to earth music. He's not singing about any old crap, he's singing about THE crap."
The next thing was assembling the cast of characters that would form the band. Reitz figured the accordion player would be the toughest person to find, and a chance meeting at a local 'greasy spoon' hooked him up with an old acquaintance and keyboard player, Dan Bono. Jokingly Reitz asked Dan if he ever played the accordion. Dan laughed and asked why and stated it was his first instrument he ever played. The project was off the ground - Dr. Tom had his backup accordionist! Drummer Steve Barfknecht was next in line. Reitz had known him for decades. He also enlisted the help of one of his dental assistants, Maggie Nicks, to bring her own high energy percussion into the mix. Nicks brought in vocalists and Lori Wirth. Reitz recruited guitarists DiMattia, Craig Radi and David Allen. DiMattia knew a classically-trained violinist named Joyce, who after a few jam sessions was hooked on the band and playing away from notes as if she'd done it all her life. Dan Bono recruited Pat Sieben on guitar and the band was complete! Dan Bono left the band and was replaced by K.C. Casimir in 2003 and Londa Rusch left in 2004 and Heidi Rae replaced her.
Vocals were the first thing the group tackled, and in some ways one of the hardest things to accomplish. "We spent countless hours rehearsing to mail down the inflections and those three and four part harmonies," he said. "I wanted to make sure we just hit the Indiana twang he has and I'm very proud of what the band does vocally."
Months of intense rehearsals and concentration by the band members has them ready to roll out a high-energy, exciting show that will revitalize Mellencamp fans. But it hasn't been all roses along the way. "The most challenging thing about getting 11 people together has been blending 11 busy lives," Reitz said. "But that's also the most satisfying part of it. We are all out to have a fun time in this band, but crowd entertainment is our number one goal. That's what this project is all about."
Wirth agreed, noting the band is not ego-driven, it's music driven. "There is a lot of musical integrity in this band, and we've worked hard to be true to the music and to respect each other within the group," she said."(Mellencamp) has a very distinctive point of view and voice that comes out in his music. Working with music that has that kind of of integrity is really exciting for me. He's established a wide range yet he continues to stretch it. He has so many different styles and he plays with a lot of different patterns and harmonies."
By sheer luck of the draw, the band's debut hinged right around the time Mellencamp played Wisconsin. "That was purely coincidental, but a real nice motivating factor," he said. All of the band members list Mellencamp songs among their favorites, but the list is diverse as the group.
As the project progresses and the band evolves, the only question left to ask is what's next for Pink Houses?
To quote Mellencamp himself… "Check it out."
Tom (Mellencamp) Reitz - Lead Vocal, Sax, Guitars / Jim DiMattia - Acoustic, Electric & Baritone Guitars, Mandolin & Backup Vocals / Vic Seven - Lead Guitar / David Allen - Lead Guitar / Joyce - Violin / Craig Radi - Bass Guitar / Dan Bono - Keyboards & Accordion / K C Casimir - Keyboards & Accordion / Steve Barfknecht - Drums / Heidi Rae - Back Up Vocals / Kathleen Mazzie - Back Up Vocals
Teardrops Will Fall
The End Of The World
John The Revelator
Under The Boardwalk
Your Life Is Now
I'm Not Running Anymore
Eden Is Burning
Where The World Began
Key West Intermezzo (I Saw You First)
Just Another Day
The Big Jack
When Jesus Left Birmingham
What If I Came Knocking
Love And Happiness
Now More Than Ever
I Ain't Ever Satisfied
Get A Leg Up
Paper In Fire
Check It Out
The Real Life
Hard Times For An Honest Man
Rooty Toot Toot
Rain On The Scarecrow
Minutes To Memories
Lonely Ol' Night
Justice And Independence
There are no upcoming dates at this time.