Most of us are struggling to balance family and career obligations, but for some, too much is not enough! Of course, you’ve got your golf and tennis nuts, the devoted gardeners and the Internet surfers, but some parents are choosing to spend their “spare” time a little more creatively.
There’s been a real proliferation of “Dad Bands” on the North Shore in recent years—guys with families and mortgages and regular jobs that get together to practice, perform and sometimes even record.
Meet Hamilton Chang, Wilmette father of 4, investment banker at Oppenheimer and Co. in downtown Chicago, loving husband of Lilly. You’d think his life was full enough, right? But he has a not-so-secret “mistress”: music. Currently, Chang plays bass and sings with two different North Shore “Dad Bands”—PopRocks and East of Edens—and performs regularly with Lake Shore Jive, the acclaimed a cappella group.
And he’s not alone in multi-tasking. Oscar Alcantara, a law partner at Goldberg, Cohen and guitarist and singer with PopRocks, is also a member of Lake Shore Jive. Chris Karabas, an agent representing film directors, just put a record out with his Lucky Jackson Band while juggling 3 kids and a burgeoning third career as a children’s book author and songwriter. What’s the story here?
“Now that music is my side job, it’s much more fun. I feel more creatively productive now than I did years ago when I lived in Nashville pursuing a record deal,” says Karabas.
Chang agrees. East of Edens (the “Harper School Dad Band”) was formed when he sent out a flyer in the backback express in support of the Harper School benefit three years ago. He shares the stage with Bob Lindstrom, Jack Jenkins, Tom Denman, Dan Collyer, Kevin Lyons, Jeff Hackl, Herb Englehard and token mom Eileen Englehard.
“She’s an amazing keyboard player,” Chang says.
Guess that’s why they allowed the double-x chromosome infiltration.
PopRocks came together during the 2004 McKenzie Elementary School Variety Show but soon started playing other “gigs” like block parties and benefits. Made up of 5 McKenzie dads—Michael Flynn, Michael Garrett, Dave Melchiorre, Oscar Alcantara, and John Hillman—plus Chang, the ringer vocalist from Harper school, they have 18 kids between them. And most of them play multiple instruments.
By day, they are engineers, attorneys, traders and lawyers. At night, they are rock stars. Well, sort of. But they did win the Wilmette Battle of the Bands in 2006 (see picture), and have performed at numerous neighborhood parties, as well as Tommy Nevins in Evanston and Gabe’s in Highwood.
Of course, a catchy band name is de rigueur. Just ask Bob Cody, one of the founding members of Dads Gone Bad, originally formed as the pit band for the Washburne Middle School benefit show in 1993. He still plays guitar with DGB, although he’s the only original member left. Cody’s youngest daughter just graduated from college, but he loves gigging with fellow “Bad Dads” Joe Ogiony, Michael Graham, Ted Hoagland, Andy Ratts, David Shelton and their backup vocalists, The Easy Catholic Girls (Jan Hartwell and Sue Pelletier).
“We practice once monthly and play about 6 times a year. We’ve got about 300 songs in our rep,” Cody says.
It’s not unusual for the dads to play in a few different bands.
“People have different preferences and styles, and it’s more fun to mix it up with different personalities, skills and play lists. Having 2 weeks to prepare to play Potato Creek Johnny’s in Glenview with 40 songs that I had never played keeps it interesting and challenging.”
As middle age crises go, “it’s safer than a sports car and cheaper than a mistress!” offers Chang with a laugh. Although they do take up a fair amount of spare time, these bands are a great creative outlet and a chance to hang with friends, living life in the moment
Play that funky music, white boy.