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Nutty Irishman in Farmingdale hosts weekly musical talent contest

Joe Boccia, a vocalist and keyboardist from Garden

Joe Boccia, a vocalist and keyboardist from Garden City, performs during the "Build the Band" competition at The Nutty Irishman in Farmingdale on Wednesday, May 4, 2016. Credit: Ryan C. Jones

Got musical chops but no band to play with? The Nutty Irishman in Farmingdale is playing matchmaker. The bar is hosting a new ongoing musical talent contest, “Build the Band,” which could land you a permanent spot in a working cover band. Musicians must be 18-37 years old and can sing or play bass, drums, guitar or keyboards.

“We have a need for younger bands, but they are not easy to come by. So we decided to create our own band,” says Frank Albano, the bar’s music director. “We are looking for five of the best people who fit this mold.”


Auditioners pick three songs from a set list mixing ’80s, ’90s, classic and dance hits that they’ll perform onstage between 8 and 10 p.m. Wednesdays, with the house band 12X providing the back-line setup. Time slots can be reserved in advance, or walk-ins can wait until after 10.

“Not only do they get to play, but there’s a series of coaches with experience that give them advice,” says Albano. “Everybody around you knows how to play these songs perfectly. The rest is up to you.”

Judge and coach “Snare Drum” Steve Wein, a professional drummer who grew up in Stony Brook, is seeking players who have range.

“You have to be able to play a fast-paced Blink-182 song as well as a Billy Joel soft track,” he says. “The best part of music is getting out of your comfort zone. You never know what you can do unless you are in the actual position.”

By late July, contestants will start being eliminated through a voting panel of judges, representatives from The Nutty Irishman and the public, which will be able to view performances via social media.


The five winners — a singer, guitarist, bassist, drummer and keyboard player — will form a band that will play on Wednesday nights at Nutty, plus one weekend a month. Additionally, the group will be signed to OmniPop talent agency, which will look to book gigs along the East Coast.

“I want a new energetic band made up of fresh young faces,” says Ralph Asquino, president of the agency’s music division. “I will book them from Killington, Vermont, to Key West, Florida.”


At the May 4 session, singer-keyboard player Joe Boccia, 23, of Garden City studies the lyrics of U2’s “One” before he takes the stage.

“I want to flex my musical muscles because I have a great devotion to the craft,” he says. “I like it here. Everyone is encouraging.”

Singer Kathleen Lao, 35, of North Shirley wins over the crowd with her rousing rendition of the ’80s classic “Come On Eileen” by Dexys Midnight Runners. Full of smiles, she finds this method of auditioning much better than what she’s dealt with in the past.

“The music scene on Long Island is tough,” says Lao. “It’s not easy being a woman, going on Craig’s List and meeting up in an unknown basement with a bunch of dudes. It can be intimidating.”

Even though Carl Surrow of Massapequa is only 20, his musical influences stem from ’70s and ’80s rock singers like Robert Plant, Paul Rodgers, David Coverdale, Lou Gramm and Sammy Hagar.

He hits all the high notes on the Black Crowes’ version of “Hard to Handle” and Bryan Adams’ “Summer of ’69.”

“Singing in a live band gives you an instant connection with people,” he says. “You can’t put a price on that.”

Singer-acoustic guitarist Kiera Scog, 18, of Oyster Bay is the youngest of this night’s group, but also one of the boldest. She flawlessly performs Kelsea Ballerini’s “Love Me Like You Mean It,” and even plays her original tune, “Made to Love You.”

Says Scog, “There is something about being on stage that I don’t get anywhere else.”

Build the Band

WHEN | WHERE 8-11 p.m. Wednesdays, The Nutty Irishman, 323 Main St., Farmingdale. Email for audition slot.

INFO 516-293-9700,


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