Dom Sciortino isn’t surprised that there don’t seem to be many Beastie Boys tribute acts touring the country.
“It’s tough to find three musicians who can emulate what they did authentically,” says the Central Pennsylvania-based musician who believes his Brass Monkeys are among those who can deliver on-the-mark performances paying homage to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame hip-hop group.
A local audience can judge for themselves when the Brass Monkeys make their Lamp Theatre debut Aug. 18 in Irwin.
For fans by fans
Sciortino calls it the ultimate show for fans by fans.
He promises a complete re-enactment of a Beastie Boys live show as authentically as possible, with segments devoted to each era of their career, including the proper wardrobe and instrumentation, “all with one killer DJ backing us up,” he says. “We try to emulate their voices and phrases as well as how they moved onstage, and can also play the instruments they played,” he explains.
A Beastie obsession
“We obsess over every detail. It’s borderline OCD (he laughs). We always ask, ‘Did the Beasties do this? No? Then we won’t.’ We definitely try to imitate them as closely as possible.” Fans praise the Brass Monkeys for “how much we sound like the original Beasties,” he says. “We don’t take that lightly. It’s an honor to hear,” he adds. Sciortino says the Beasties changed music culture not once, but twice. “They brought hip-hop into the mainstream, then changed it up and picked up their instruments and meshed it with their punk roots,” he says.
Pioneers in their field
They absolutely were pioneers, he insists.
″‘License to Ill’ (their 1986 debut studio album) changed the musical landscape. Before that hip hop was a curious culture relegated to the fringes,” he says. It was the first hip-hop album to reach No. 1 on the Billboard 100.
The musician adds: “We wouldn’t have hip-hop/rap as mainstream culture if it wasn’t for the Beastie Boys. LL Cool J said it best: ‘If Run DMC brought hip-hop to the suburbs, the Beastie Boys drove it straight into your living room.’ ”
They offered clever wordplay, inventive genre splicing and elaborate videos.
What’s in a name?
Brass Monkeys (taking its name from a Beastie song title) decided to pay tribute to the Beastie Boys after founder Adam “MCA” Yauch, musician, rapper, activist and director, whom Sciortino portrays, died of cancer in 2012 at age 47.
“We wanted to keep the music and the message alive,” he explains. “We knew each other through the local music community and discovered we were all big Beastie Boys fans.”
Winning a new generation
He sees a Beasties’ renaissance underway. “Kids want to hear something real and true, and the Beasties brought that,” Sciortino says. “They’re discovering the roots of current music, just as the punk generation before them delved into Elvis and Johnny Cash.”