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Brass Metropolis comes home for Warren show

There are two Chicagos.

There’s the band that melded rock guitars and horns starting in the late ’60s, managing to be progressive and experimental while still releasing top 40 hits. That band was a favorite of marching band kids everywhere.

There’s also the band that became a pop ballad factory in the ’80s with monster hits like “Hard to Say I’m Sorry,” “You’re the Inspiration” and “Hard Habit to Break.”

Brass Metropolis doesn’t ignore that latter, but it’s a tribute band whose primary inspiration is the original incarnation.

And while many nationally touring tribute acts perform in the area’s larger venues, Brass Metropolis is filled with hometown talent that’s already expanding its reach beyond the Mahoning Valley.

In addition to playing together in the W.D. Packard Concert Band, Rocco Criazzo and Dan Carioti were members of the dance band Sugar Fuzz Orchestra.

“We had a modicum of success, but it was never quite what we wanted it to be,” Criazzo said. “The next time, we wanted it to be more artistic, less of a dance band and more of a concert experience. What took us so long was finding the right players. Every musician in the band had to be capable of being a featured musician. At some point, everyone gets featured, every member of the band is spotlighted playing the music of Chicago. It is some of the hardest material to play for every single instrument in the band.”

The band — Doug Thomas, lead vocals and percussion; Criazzo, lead vocals and bass; Lake Baum, guitar and vocals; Dominic Reto, keyboards and vocals; TJ Costanza, drums and vocals; Daniel Carioti, saxophone, Lou Pisani, trumpet; and Ryan Smith, trombone — is filled with local music veterans.

Several are music educators and have backed Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductees and jazz, R&B and pop artists in their careers as professional musicians. Carioti leads the Big Band Sound of Packard and the Packard Dixieland Band, and Thomas was a member of I Don’t Care (signed to Kama Sutra Records in the mid ’70s) as well as such bands as Holes in the Road and MF Rattlesnake.

Criazzo said he and Carioti assembled the band capable of doing the music justice a month before the COVID-19 pandemic started.

“It was very bad timing,” he said. “We were patient and there were some benefits to it. We spend some extra time in the rehearsal studio that maybe we needed. We were allowed to make a couple of personnel changes that we might not have been able to make without the downtime. It sort of prove that everyone had the staying power to do this. We liked playing music that challenged us.”

The band recently played sold-out shows at the Music Box Supper Club in Cleveland and the Strand Theater in Zelinople, Pa., and has played to even bigger crowds as part of the River Rock at the Amp concert series in Warren and Rockin’ on the River in Lorain.

Upcoming shows are scheduled in Chillicothe and Massillon, and Criazzo said the band is looking to expand its reach and compete for bookings against some of the national Chicago tribute acts that exist.

“There are at least three prominent national ones,” Criazzo said. “I guess the positive is people want to hear the music, and each tribute has its own personality. We’re hoping to carve a niche for ourselves by focusing on the ’70s era. We’re not afraid to do an album cut that showcases some of the artistry of the band. There are plenty of radio hits, but we do make space for things people might not be aware of.”

The musicians are looking forward to playing for a hometown crowd on Friday at the Robins Theatre.

“I have to imagine the emotions for all of us are going to be running high,” Criazzo said. “These are people we’ve known for a long time but maybe they haven’t seen us do the big act yet. There’s not necessarily special planned for Warren, but every show we do a has a spark of something special with everyone doing their best to give you the true essence of the original Chicago.”

If you go …

WHO: Brass Metropolis (Chicago tribute)

WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday

WHERE: Robins Theatre, 160 E. Market St., Warren

HOW MUCH: Tickets range from $18 to $25 and are available at the Robins box office and online at robinstheatre.com

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