and tuning are a band of rockers in khakis with white hair, day jobs,
grown children and — improbably — plans to keep playing power
chords when their cohorts are fine-tuning golf swings.
pumped!" drummer Dave Hickey jokes as he walks in. "I took my Geritol,
I took my vitamins!"
Invictas made their bones in this city by packing houses and ripping through Louie, Louie, Satisfaction and their own hit, The Hump.
was in the '60s, though. Reunited band members are now entering their
is geezer rock at the other end of the spectrum from Mick Jagger prancing
around stadiums for fat paychecks. This is what happens when a garage
band refuses to die.
money is lousy, the hours crummy, the age questions sometimes sarcastic.
Is there a statute of limitations for singing Sweet Little Sixteen?
the Invictas are undaunted. Practice guitar notes ping as a few people
look up from their beers.
evening before the Invictas' show, Herb Gross, 62, drives to practice
in the band's '84 hearse. It has a rumbling exhaust and "The Invictas"
painted on the side, just like the hearse from the band's heyday. Passing
drivers stare. This is OK by Herb, who aside from being the Invictas'
singer is a professional ad man who works tirelessly on behalf of his
put together the band's summer tour of local bars and festivals from his
home in Charlotte The "Skip 'n Go Naked Tour" (named after a drink, not
the activity) starts at the California Brew Haus, a big, shopworn bar
next to Kodak's massive industrial complex in Rochester.
practicing is bassist Jim Kohler, 63, the oldest Invicta, who also looks
the most rocker-like with shoulder-length gray, curly hair. He calls himself
the Keith Richards to Herb's Jagger, and like the famous duo they are
both wiry men with big personalities. Dave, a 59-year-old grandfather,
plays drums. His brother Bruce Hickey, 57, plays guitar.
mostly look like suburban dads. Bruce even rides to the gig in a minivan
and borrows his son's amp, which blows a fuse at practice.
stumble on the bridge of "Midnight Rambler" during practice and have trouble
finding a groove. Still, they seem confident it will all gel the next
night. After all, it always used to.
band came together at Rochester Institute of Technology in 1961. The eventual
four-man lineup consisted of Herb, Jim, Dave and Mark Blumenfeld, who
now lives in California and is not involved in the reunion.
Invictas caught fire playing at a local joint called Tiny's Bengel Inn.
Though homegrown, they looked like a British Invasion band with their
long hair and riding boots. Some bands played better, none played harder.
breakout single, The Hump, was recorded in 1963 in a studio packed
with pals, cases of beer and a keyboardist they bailed out of jail. The
song is not dirty, technically, but urges listeners to "Do the Hump,"
a dance that goes like this: Hands behind head. Pelvis in. Pelvis out.
tiny-label single got some play on the East Coast and was a hit in western
New York, leading to the still-repeated claim by the Invictas that they
outsold the Beatles locally.
were chasing us. We could play pretty much wherever we wanted to play,"
album, The Invictas a Go-Go, was hastily recorded during a weekend
in New York City in 1965. The band hated the slapdash album. Worse, the
grind of touring around New York and the Northeast started to wear on
Jim facing the draft after graduation, he joined the Air Force. Dave enlisted,
too. Herb reconstituted the band with Bruce and other replacement players,
but the Invictas fizzled away by the early '70s, re-forming once more
in 1980, but only briefly.
went on. Herb started his own advertising firm. Bruce, Jim and Dave all
got into the printing business.
two years ago, Dave and Herb were watching a blues band perform in Rochester
when the singer invited them on stage. Herb, a few beers in, came up and
sang. To his surprise, the crowd yelled for The Hump.
had a Blues Brothers moment. He told Dave: "We have to put the band back
in a garage band is complicated once you're AARP age. It takes longer
to recharge batteries after late-night shows. While the Hickey brothers
live in the area, Herb flies up from Charlotte and Jim drives a few hours
from Erie, Pa. Herb sunk thousands into the hearse. And there's the time
away from their families. Jim's wife asks him at Applebee's before the
gig: "This is temporary, right?"
a man, they say the reason they do it is simple. It's just so much fun.
helps that baby boomers have held on tight to the musical tastes of their
youth. Beth Navarro recalls sneaking into Tiny's when she was underage
to dance to the Invictas. Now 55, she began catching their shows again
last summer with her husband.
you think, 'Boy, I've lost it,'" she says. "But when I see them I think,
'We're still hanging in there!'"
is at the bar for the Invictas' tour kickoff. The audience is a bit sparser
than the band is used to — some middle aged couples plus Bruce's
kids and a pack of their friends, one of whom keeps yelling, "Bass solo!"
Herb looks up from his guitar and promises, "We're going to play our hearts
out for you!"
by two crackerjack musicians, lead guitarist Dave Profeta and keyboardist
Sammy Gruttadauria, the group tears down memory lane with Brown Sugar, Mustang Sally and You Really Got Me.
blows harmonica and wades into the audience. He leans back and chops at
his guitar. He lifts his Invictas ball cap to finger back his damp silver
hair. Jim is loose-limbed on the bass while Bruce stands steady. They
all sing "Yeah!" for the chorus of Mony Mony.
and her friends dance by the stage and are joined by the younger group.
By the time Herb asks, "You guys ready to Hump?" the small crowd is primed.
Young and old put their hands behind their heads and shimmy as the band
enough, it will be back to the grind. Tonight, the Invictas are dealing
with age the way so many baby boomers do: by ignoring it.
I was kid, your parents were old. But this is the baby boomers," Jim explains.
"Why can't I get up there? I'm 63 years old. I'm having the time of my
life! I probably won't break even. I don't care."
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