Peace, love, and harmony, y’all—By Tara Gary
I should apologize. When the idea for covering and reporting on the upcoming October 12th fundraiser Summit Rocks came up I was delighted. However, I wasn’t familiar with the band headlining the event, Yacht Rock Revue. Apparently, I am the only individual in the Atlanta area not familiar with this band. With a cult-like following, Yacht Rock Revue entertains its fans and newcomers in an unconventional way. The band plays tribute to the light, catchy top hits from the 70s and 80s that are referred to as “yacht rock” aka guilty pleasure songs. Not only do they nail every song, note and lyric, they dress the part. Bell-bottom jeans, white belts, overstated angular collared shirts, aviator sunglasses worn day or night, and coiffed hair perfect the persona of a band referred to as “The Greatest Show on Surf.”
The band consists of seven of the most talented, original, and comedic individuals I have had the pleasure to observe. I was invited to Venkman’s, owned by Peter Olson and Nicholas Niespodziani, masterminds and members of the Yacht Rock Revue, to see the band perform and speak with Nicholas AKA Nick. When I first arrived at the venue, I couldn’t help but notice the individual exiting the car in front of me. It was Nick! How ironic we should arrive simultaneously, and within seconds after stepping onto the sidewalk, Nick was approached by an enthusiastic fan and her husband who were hoping for the chance of a photo op. I had to take my own photo of this moment, while also introducing myself to Nick. As we made our way towards the entrance, I apologized as I admitted I was unfamiliar with his existence prior to my research of the band earlier that week.
Once we had a moment to collect ourselves, Nick, Shawn and Cathy Murphy from Summit Counseling, and I sat down for a quick and lively interview and exchange. I was curious to know what inspired and influenced Nick as a musician and found out that he has an affection for The Beatles. I also asked him if he had the opportunity to perform with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be. He paused for a moment, and then it was as if he couldn’t contain himself, “Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder would be on the top of my list.” He also mentioned the late Prince. “I also like this band Tame Impala,” he added. They are a modern band that he referred to as a mix of The Beatles and Pink Floyd. “If I had a gig besides this one, I think I’d really like to be the bass player in that band.” Nick was in a band prior to Yacht Rock Revue, the Indianapolis Joneses with a buddy of his, Tim, who he has been collaborating and writing songs with for a new Yacht Rock record they have just recently finished. By the time Summit Rocks approaches, a song from the album (projected to come out early next year) should be released. Once Shawn heard that, he eagerly interjected and asked if they would play it for us at Summit Rocks and Nick reacted positively, “I think we will, yeah.”
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Shawn, from Summit Counseling, gratifyingly explained to me when he and wife Cathy were visiting their 2-month-old grandson Magnus several years ago, his parents told them the only music that soothed baby Magnus was yacht rock music. Unfamiliar and intrigued, Shawn looked it up and realized yacht rock was, “The guilty pleasure music I’ve loved all my life. I just didn’t have a name for it.” I chimed in, “Yes, yes, that’s right.” At that life-changing moment, several years prior, Shawn realized he had to find a yacht rock band. That was the magical moment Summit Rocks and the YRR formed the perfect alliance.
The Summit Counseling Center has four annual fundraising events, one of those being Summit Rocks. Summit Counseling is a trusted 501(c)(3) nonprofit community counseling organization that has helped nearly twenty thousand kids and families since 1990. They are the leading nonprofit counseling organization north of the Atlanta Perimeter area serving individuals at every age and stage of life at 35 locations in elementary, middle, and high schools. Their main location is in Johns Creek, with four (soon to be five) satellite offices. Let’s be real here, everyone knows someone, is related to someone, or is personally experiencing a situation where a professional therapist may not only be helpful but necessary. There comes a time when your friends and neighbors, or even your faith, need the assistance of a professional. The 35 therapists at Summit Counseling will provide over 20,000 clinical hours to over 4,100 individuals this year alone. They do everything from ADHD testing to couples’ therapy, grief support, and interventions. 1 in 4 people suffer from a mental disorder. Locally the #1 and #2 epidemics are suicide and opioid overdose. In 2018, according to a poll of nine North Fulton schools: 3,000+ high school students did not have a trusted adult, 1,000 considered suicide, and 500+ attempted suicide. This is a serious problem both nationally and right here in our local area. Thankfully Summit Counseling is within reach for these at-risk students through Summit OnSite which is a school-based therapy program offered in partnership with Fulton County Schools. It includes individual (confidential) counseling, group counseling for children and teens, workshops for parents and teachers, and awareness through resources and events. The therapists are all licensed and experienced to provide social, emotional, behavioral, and mental health support. For more information call (678) 893-5300 or visit SummitCounseling.org.
Emory Johns Creek Hospital is the presenting sponsor for Summit Rocks once again this year, being held at the Newtown Park Amphitheater in Johns Creek Saturday, October 12. General admission begins at 6:30 p.m. and the show starts at 7:30 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at SummitRocks.Tix.com, and there are a variety of sponsorships available as well. Not only will you be contributing to a super great program by attending the concert, you’ll also have one heck of a yachting good time. See what I did there? Anyways, I love it when I am encouraged to dance and party by participating for the greater good of my community.
Yacht Rock Revue concerts allow you to “escape” essentially back to that time, that song, that moment, and let yourself go amongst other individuals like yourself who won’t judge you for knowing every lyric of Robbie Dupree’s “Steal Away.” I say that because I know every lyric and love it! Back to my interview with Nick… he mentioned he had been on a sports radio channel interview earlier that day and they were discussing “Escape” (you know, The Piña Colada Song by Rupert Holmes) and the two hosts were bantering with one another about the lyrics and meaning of the song. Well, this is a magazine for all ages so I won’t say how Nick really feels about that song, but I may have heard a duck hating it somewhere in there. He did on a positive note however say, “Escape, ’cause that’s what really, like, what all of this is about, right? You come to our shows and you don’t think about trouble with your kids, or politics, or whatever it is. You just escape for a while, and that’s kinda the theme.” I absolutely agreed with him. We all did. I not only enjoyed the music that night, but I truly enjoyed watching the people around me interact with the music and each other. It seriously was an escape from whatever had happened that week to let me just lose myself in the belting of lyrics and snappy swaying to many favorite songs of yesteryear.
Lisa, a woman I met lingering at the bar waiting for her date to arrive, had an anchor tattooed on her arm. I inquired about its origin assuming it might be attributed to her affection for the band, but I was wrong. Lisa explained she had the anchor tattoo prior to having ever seen Yacht Rock Revue, however… “I feel like it led me to them.” She also said she had been following the band since they played at the 10 High Club at Underground. “They’ve gotten bigger and bigger. They are amazing!” she exclaimed. Her enthusiasm was infectious and seemed to be shared by everyone who entered the venue. This was the second night in a row YRR was playing at Venkman’s and both nights were sold out. Wow! I sat back and watched as groups of women in sailor hats arrived, as well as couples both young and old. Once the music started, the crowd immediately turned their attention toward the stage, as at most concerts, but, at this one, everyone, and I mean everyone, knew the lyrics. Now just because you know the lyrics doesn’t mean you actually like the song. There are plenty of songs I know too well only because my children at some point in time listened to them relentlessly, and they are now ingrained in my head. Nick admitted, when I inquired the validity of something I had read about him choosing songs for the band based on how much he hated them, “That’s pretty accurate, yeah.” He said, “… I’ve kinda grown into a place where I appreciate it (the songs) a lot more now.” He was 29 when he started, and he wanted the persona of a hip and cool indie rock band, but now, he continued, “I’m 40 and I’m a dad, and I put on ‘Aja’ by Steely Dan and am like oh,” nodding his head in agreement, he gets it now.
I was curious about the “dad” part and asked about his children. “I have a 3-year-old and a 4-month-old,” he proudly responded. I inquired about the rest of the band members and their children wondering if the offspring considered YRR to be a cool thing or an embarrassment to their social lives. Nick said he considered most of the kids as “ambivalent” to the band’s existence, but a few nights prior, a few of the band’s teen daughters were invited to visit backstage with Train. Yacht Rock Revue plays with the band Train on their annual cruise and have become friends with the band allowing the teens to meet Pat Monahan and have photo ops with he and the band. I’d say it is pretty freaking cool if my dad were in a band that partied with Train, but then again, I don’t think there is a band that consists of 80-something-year-old men. Kudos however to YRR for playing with bands like Train, Weezer, Kid Rock, Zac Brown Band, Sister Hazel, and Heart, to name a few. I complimented the band saying, “You’ve worked with a lot of big names.” “Um, some, yeah. We’re working on it,” Nick replied. Well you’re doing a great job.
To end our interview, I asked Nick how he felt about being a part of Summit Rocks and if he realized the goal this year was to raise $150,000 that night to help kids in need? He smiled, nodded, and proudly replied, “This is really incredible. It’s our pleasure. We like to help out whenever we can.”
That, I hope, is the attitude from our community and neighboring communities as well. I see a lot of people and organizations doing what they can to help one another, and it is definitely one of the best parts of my job. Summit Rocks is one of those opportunities to come out and support a great organization and party like a Yacht star with your family and friends. I will say, YRR sells out quickly so go ahead and grab your tickets ASAP. If you don’t, someone else will, like me. Many thanks to Nick and the rest of Yacht Rock Revue, as well as Stephani Boyd, for graciously hosting me and Shawn and Cathy Murphy.
For more information about how to partner with, support, or sponsor a Summit Counseling event, contact Shawn Murphy, Director of Development.
When not writing, Roswell resident Tara Gary is busy making industrial furniture, charcuterie boards, and local art. Most nights she can be found with her friends at local breweries and pubs drinking craft beer.