On Thursday nights in Hicksville, thunder can be heard on Bethpage Drive, even when there's no rain in sight. It's just local metal/rock band Borgo Pass holding weekly rehearsal at its rented studio space.
This five-man band of middle-age, middle-class guys has kept it going for 20 years, a feat even the biggest bands have trouble achieving. They've never landed a record deal, nor been picked up for a major tour. But something keeps Borgo Pass forging on.
They don't do it for financial rewards.
"If I was in this for the money, I would have quit a long time ago," says guitarist Tom Crane, 46, of Baldwin. "The love of music keeps me going. It's my release."
STRIKING A BALANCE Borgo Pass, named after the pathway to Dracula's castle, began in 1993 by playing Black Sabbath covers. Later, the group started writing original material. But these musicians work full-time jobs and have wives/girlfriends plus children to support.
"It does take sacrifice," says lead singer James Tamarazzo, 40, of Bethpage, who works as a technology salesman and graphic designer. "If we play a show during the week, I have to get up the next day for work. There's no Viking mayhem going on."
Tamarazzo is married and has a 15-month-old daughter. In between work and his home life, he designs fliers for the band's upcoming gigs, handles Borgo's merchandise and designs its album artwork.
Crane, married with two boys, 11 and 7, works as an operating engineer with Local 94. When asked how he pulls off being in the band while supporting his family, he says, "I have a really cool, understanding and supportive wife. You work hard, you play hard."
ON THEIR OWN The band is a self-sufficient unit that books its own shows, then promotes them via Facebook, Twitter and through email and text blasts. Any money made goes directly into a band fund to cover expenses.
"We don't have management or a promoter, so we do everything on our own," says guitarist Paul Rosado, 45, of East Rockaway, who's married and sells automotive advertising. "If you're not going to promote yourself, people aren't going to show up."
Although the band remains unsigned, it has recorded and self-released several albums ("Deadwater," "Nervosa," "Slightly Damaged"), which are sold at gigs, literally out of the trunks of the members' cars and through iTunes.
"The music industry has changed," says bassist Tom "Sasquatch" Karcher, 43, of West Babylon. "Mr. Big is not going to come by and make you a millionaire overnight."
Not that the group doesn't hope to land a record deal one day.
"I think we are in the perfect position for someone to take a chance on us," says Tamarazzo.
SOLID BOND The band has managed to survive two decades together without ever reaching a breaking point, a veritable rock and roll miracle.
"There are no head trips in this band," says drummer Joe Wood, 42, of Patchogue, who works for an electronics company. "We are friends, but it goes deeper than that. We're family."
Borgo Pass mainly performs on Long Island at bars like Who-Ville and Mr. Beery's in Bethpage, along with the occasional out-of-state road gig. This year's coups: opening for national headliners Living Colour at The Paramount in Huntington and Seether at The Emporium in Patchogue. Wednesday night, they return to The Emporium to warm up the crowd for The Winery Dogs.
There is talk of doing more touring, possibly overseas.
"We don't get out as much as we used to because life gets in the way," says Wood. "It's on my bucket list to play Europe. I want more people to know who we are."
HOME-BASE GIG On a recent Saturday night, Borgo Pass entertains a hometown crowd at Who-Ville, which is filled with longtime followers. The scene puts a wide grin on Tamarazzo's face.
"This is like our own little Madison Square Garden," he says, surveying the floor. "Our fans are loyal with explosive personalities. All we ask them to do is to come, go nuts and bring a friend."
Among the fanatics is Al Berner, 43, of Bethpage, who tattooed the band's logo on the inside of his bottom lip. For real.
"All I listen to is Borgo Pass," he says. "They are down-to-earth guys who play true music with no gimmicks."
When Lisa Kiesling, 48, of Farmingdale, comes in, the band plays "Rid Myself of You" on cue.
"It's my breast cancer song. When I was sick, they were there for me," says Kiesling, a 5-year survivor. "These guys have waited a long time. They deserve success."