“Dad bands” on the North Shore focus on fun and philanthropy.
“Where are all the musicians?” asked Oscar Alcantara’s four-year-old son, Asher, when he walked into Hamilton Chang’s basement, only to find it empty.
His father chuckled—this is where he regularly jams with the other dads from the neighborhood, while Asher and his two brothers watch, and sometimes play themselves. Alcantara plays guitar and sings with five other Wilmette dads in the band, Pop Rocks.
Dad bands like Pop Rocks and the Winnetka-based Who’s Your Daddy? not only bring dads together for male bonding, they also give back to the community by providing free entertainment at local benefits.
“The joy is getting together to play,” Oscar says, “and if we can help our schools and communities, all the better.”
Pop Rocks formed in 2003 when the dads—Alcantara, Chang, Dave Melchiorre, Mike Flynn, Michael Garrett and John Hillman—volunteered to perform as a band for the annual parent-teacher variety show at McKenzie Elementary School. The result was pure magic.
“We’re extremely lucky to have found each other,” Alcantara says. Not only do the guys get along well, they’re all excellent musicians who were looking to start playing regularly again. Chang and Alcantara are particularly adept at putting together vocal harmonies, since they’ve been singing together in the acappella group Lakeshore Jive for 15 years.
The band plays what Alcantara calls “dad music”—the classic rock songs from the ‘70s and ‘80s that they grew up listening to and still like: “Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin’” by Journey, “Love the One You’re With,” and “Play that Funky Music White Boy.”
And audiences like it, too. The band has played benefits for numerous local schools, the Woman’s Club of Wilmette and the Village of Wilmette.
And the band makes the experience family friendly. “The rehearsals end up feeling like family barbeques,” Alcantara says. Families eat and drink, the kids play some music, and then the dads play.
Greg Robitaille of Winnetka’s Who’s Your Daddy? says that band, which includes five dads and formed five years ago for an elementary school benefit, also welcomes other family members to join in the music-making. His wife, Beth, has a trained voice and sings lead vocals on many of the classic rock songs.
“We get to play music we like for people we like. It’s a passion for all of us,” Robitaille says.
And for all of these dads, most of whom work in business, rock ‘n’ roll is a great break because it’s just about having fun, and not about ego.
“We’re not rock stars, and we don’t take ourselves too seriously,” Robitaille says. “No one’s quitting their day job.”