Lovers & Strangers makes a comeback appearance – Monterey Herald
Are you cheating or dealing? Or do you do Lovers & Strangers? Maybe you could do both this Halloween weekend. One of Monterey’s iconic ’80s rock bands Lovers & Strangers made another of their “return to the crime scene” appearances Friday night at an enlarged, new-dressed Sportsman Bar, 594 Broadway Ave., Seaside.
What started out as a simple bar concert for the now Las Vegas-based band has evolved into a full-fledged concert produced and designed by Sound Image Productions.
Outside in front of the bar / restaurant is a good sized parking lot which will be fenced in with a professional stage built and outfitted for sound and star lights by fellow former Monterey musician George Edwards who is Sound Image Productions based in the bay. Zoned. Also on the bill are Lauren Monroe & The Big Love Band, with special guest Rick Allen, drummer for the legendary band Def Leppard. They recently headlined the main stage at the Sand City West End Celebration and put on a stellar performance. And opening the show at 7:30 p.m., guitarist / singer / songwriter Carlos Guerrero, who is the lead guitarist of Lovers & Strangers. Doors open at 7 p.m.
“George brings a team of four to five guys, all top notch tech guys,” said Ray Bertolino, singer / guitarist / songwriter for Lovers & Strangers. “They’re building a stage big enough for two batteries, all the lights, all the bells and all the whistles, all in the parking lot. We are going to build a backstage, there will be a bar outside, heat lamps, food from the restaurant, I think there will be five bars. So you actually go down the alley, that’s where you walk in, through the building. But the real event is going to be on the outside.
The athlete will sponsor a costume contest with cash prizes, and all for only $ 10 at the door, 21 and over only. Masks are mandatory indoors, optional outdoors, but social distancing is encouraged. As the fall weather can get a bit chilly at night, be sure to bring something to stay warm, even with the heaters. But then again, depending on what costume you’re wearing, you definitely don’t want to spoil the effect you have on everyone.
Lovers & Strangers were one of the area’s most popular bar groups, led by the charismatic Bertolino duo and the late great guitarist / singer / songwriter Steve Sippel. They were formed in the mid-1980s at a time when English new wave group The Police and Irish rockers U2 were topping the charts. Sippel brought his take on U2 guitarist The Edge’s effects-laden guitar playing into the mix, and Bertolino leaned into his vocals with wild abandon, creating a blustery, good-time energy that has makes people come out on the dance floor and sweat.
“Steve and I were the two guys who should never have taken guitars,” admitted Bertolino. “Because between the two of us, technically, we barely made a player. We never did a lot of work on learning other people’s music, although Steve did a little more than I did. As soon as we got together we realized that our strength was songwriting. Through all the staff changes, and we went through a thousand people, that was the bond that held it all together. “
The two leaders originally met at a friend’s house, South 40, he was called, on the coast road to Big Sur from Carmel. Bertolino said they had strummed a few chords together and that was it. The original band had Scott Randall Smith on bass and Mark Balesteri on drums. The drummer’s seat changed quite a bit, landing with Shane David Tyler who continues to perform with the band to this day. Although it took a lot of sweat and tears to be successful in the music business, they never made it into the open. This may be due to the band’s inconsistent performances, due in part to the party scene that prevailed at the time. But they also sparkled intermittently, most likely when the songs “Please Don’t Say Goodbye”, “Lovers and Strangers” and “City of Hope” were played. It’s always a long way to break through, no matter how good the music is.
“Somewhere between 1998 and early 2000, I said ‘I can’t do this boys anymore. It’s just not fun anymore. We have all followed separate paths, ”said Bertolino.
There have been reunion gigs in town a few times, but with Sippel’s death and Bertolino’s move to Las Vegas to pursue another route for the band, Lovers & Strangers is no longer a Monterey band. Bertolino leads another group, The Forget Me Nots, and works as a producer for other groups in his studio. Edwards continues to have faith in men and music and has helped support the formation of the new version of Lovers. Currently, the group is made up of five musicians, with Bertolino leading the way, Guerrero on guitar, Tyler on drums, a guy known as Ace on bass, and B3 organist / pianist Mick Shaffer. They recently released a new album in digital format, and with fingers crossed, Bertolino is hoping to have freshly pressed vinyl versions of the humor titled “The Ballad of Marina Self Storage” available at the concert.
“Thanks to George, I was able to work with Brad Madix. I made the last five records with him. He worked with everyone. He was part of the Fantasy team back when Fantasy Studio was huge and making the biggest records in the world. He worked with Mutt Lange. He mixes in front of the house for everyone from Jack White to Smashing Pumpkins. He had dated Rush, performing in front of the house for 20 years. And he’s involved with a company called Diablo Digital Inc. that works a bit out of George’s warehouse.
It’s a big family, with Edwards as manager / producer as Brian Epstein of The Beatles, Bertolino said. Happy with the current band’s level of musicality, Bertolino said the whole night would be one for the books. He thinks the band has finally reached their potential, with perfect backing vocals, great guitar work, just a tight, tight band.
Other top notch shows to catch this week are creative contemporary roots music on mandolin and violin with Scroggins & Rose, Friday, 7 p.m. at Sand City SandBox, $ 35 at www.sandboxsandcity.com; and country artist Sara Evans, 8 p.m., Golden State Theater, $ 39- $ 69 at www.goldenstatetheatre.com.