Katfish Lucy Performs Revived Classics on Long Beach Island

By Monique M. Demopoulos | Jul 03, 2019

Harvey Cedars — Since 2011, Katfish Lucy has performed all over the Jersey Shore. Last Saturday, the band finally brought its versatile jam-oriented performance to Plantation in Harvey Cedars. Katfish Lucy opened the evening with a rousing version of Dire Straits’ “Sultans of Swing,” luring couples from their tables to dance. Despite Plantation being a small, intimate setting suited more to fine dining, the space was soon filled with dancing bodies both young and old.

Founding member Pat Schick attributes this to the band’s ability to tune into the energy of its listeners. “We don’t plan a set list. There’s no formula. We just go up and play to the vibe of our audience,” he said.

Katfish Lucy, out of Toms River, consists of Pat Schick on guitar and vocals, Mike Sorresso on vocals, Ryan Carver on drums, Conor McCarthy on lead guitar and vocals, and Scott Bennert on bass. With its improvisational nature highlighted by McCarthy’s mind-bending electric solos, Katfish Lucy is undeniably a jam band, but it prides itself on diversity, proficiently executing reggae, blues, funk, grunge and alternative rock, sometimes interchangeably or even simultaneously.

Despite Katfish Lucy keeping its namesake an elusive, linguistic riddle for years, founding members Schick and Sorresso were happy to reveal its origins. “The ’70s Yankees were a big thing,” Schick explained. Bennert chimed in, “No matter what we said, he (Schick) would say, ‘Catfish Hunter,’” in reference to the Yankee star player. “We had only practiced two times before we were ready to go out and play,” said Schick, “and I was on this Catfish thing. They probably got tired of hearing me say ‘Catfish,’ but that was going to be the first word.”

According to Sorresso, “We used to practice in a friend’s basement in Toms River, and that friend started talking about loose cigarettes. Down in Lakewood, we had ‘loosies.’” Schick continued, “You used to be able to walk into a bodega and buy a single cigarette, or a loosie, for a quarter.” They determined they would use the feminine variant, “Lucy,” to complete their name. Sorresso elaborated, “We’re huge fans of women, and captains name their ships after women, so we decided to use the effeminate L-U-C-Y.”

They enjoy the fact that listeners take away their own embellishments of the name. For many, “Lucy” is reminiscent of The Beatles’ classic “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds,” or The Grateful Dead’s “Loose Lucy.” Schick even referenced Lucy from the Peanuts cartoon. “Lucy is an iconic name, and it conjures up so many different connotations. It creates intrigue.”

With some research, they were surprised to find an original band in the United Kingdom had already taken the name Catfish Lucy. Schick said this inspired them to alter their spelling to resemble the name of jazz cellist Fred Katz. “So we made a character out of it, essentially,” said Schick. “If there’s one thing we don’t lack, it’s character. Or characters. Or caricatures,” he exclaimed with a hearty laugh.

“We all come from originals,” Schick explained, referencing his former band, “The Mondays.” McCarthy and Bennert are also active members of Big Baby Ernie, a shore favorite. Schick elaborated, “We’ve all made albums and albums, and toured all over the United States playing originals.” Katfish Lucy, however, was conceived on the notion that it would be a cover band, with each performance being re-engineered live.

Katfish Lucy is a boldly unconventional cover band, breathing new life into 50 years of classics. “We’ve all been listening to these songs, and playing these songs, and living these songs for so long, they’ve kind of become our songs,” Sorresso illustrated. Bennert affirmed their commitment to that mission. “I have a personal connection to every song we perform,” he said.

According to Schick, “The idea is that we would play these songs as if we wrote them.” Sorresso continued, “Well, that’s kind of how rock and roll started, isn’t it?” He broke into an a cappella “Midnight Special,” which originated as a prison song in the American South.

They relate their style to our country’s history, reminding listeners that rock and roll evolved in America through reiterations of generations-old folk and slave era fieldwork songs. The songs belonged to the destitute and the suffering, and have been reanimated time and again in similarly struggling communities through the channels of jazz, blues and soul, before they were remastered in well funded, finely orchestrated mainstream studios.

In this spirit, Katfish Lucy aims to achieve a practice of healing through its performance, which is live-tailored to the listening audience.

“There’s a release and a healing that comes with it,” Soresso said. “You can get up there and howl, and nobody is judging you. You can let go. What happens is people come to see us, and get that vibe, and they do the same thing.

“I’ve been doing this a long time, but this is the first time I really understood and felt how much medicine this is.”

Sorresso’s bandmates all nodded and smiled in agreement. Schick went on to say that for all of them, “if it’s been too long since we’ve played, everybody gets a little weird. And we’re weird enough to begin with.” They all giggled.

They have fittingly termed their songs “frankensongs,” to describe their unorthodox style of injecting new spirit into existing songs, and building monsters out of tried and true covers. For example, Steve Miller Band’s “The Joker” is performed by Katfish Lucy as “The Joker Medley,” as it is a journey of a mashup that romps and meanders through The Troggs’ “Wild Thing,” Semisonic’s “Closing Time” and UB40’s “Red Red Wine.” Moreover, most enthusiasts have heard Jimi Hendrix’s iconic electric blues version of Bob Dylan’s folk tune “All Along the Watchtower.” Katfish Lucy performed its own version, by listener request, and infused it with a feel-good reggae bounce.

This is what Schick means when he says, “We play original covers.” The second set exhibited a wildly imaginative version of The Doors’ “L.A. Woman,” which also featured snippets of The Doors’ deep cut “Tangy Town,” and was interspersed with Sorresso’s haunting spoken recital of Jim Morrison’s poem “Stoned Immaculate.” They followed up with a reggae rendition of The Grateful Dead’s “Scarlet Begonias,” playfully mashed up with the children’s tune “Wheels on the Bus.”

Carver said gratefully, “We are very fortunate to be able to perform this music without having to stick to overplayed top 40s hits.” They completed the evening with a booming, seven-minute performance of The Allman Brothers’ “Whipping Post,” leaving a lasting echo in the venue with their departure.

Katfish Lucy’s ability to jam in accordance with the mood of its listeners has much to do with the chemistry of its members. As the band members joked sarcastically with each other during their set break, Bennert said with a grin, “You can tell we are all good friends. I’ve been doing this for 30 years, and I can’t say I’ve ever liked (my bandmates) this much.”

Schick believes the chemistry they have with each other and with their audience speaks volumes to their success. Sorresso explained, “As a cover band, for the last eight years, we’ve been performing in a very small space, and we’ve done surprisingly well.”

Carver said they see quite a few familiar faces. “It’s like a big family,” he asserted warmly. Heather Muckelston of Forked River, who was in the audience, claims to be a member of said family. She reported she has been attending Katfish Lucy’s performances for more than seven years. As a matter of fact, Katfish Lucy has performed numerous times at Gathering in the Pines Festival, of which Heather is a cofounder.

Sorresso expressed gratefully, “We are thankful for the people who got us here, and we look forward to meeting everyone we haven’t met yet.” Schick said they look forward to performing in the LBI area more often, and invite locals to come out and join the merriment.

Katfish Lucy is scheduled to perform at Old Causeway in Manahawkin on July 20, and will return to Plantation on Aug. 17. Katfish Lucy’s up-to-date happenings and whereabouts can be found on their Facebook page.

— Monique M Demopoulos

Set List Snippet

“Doin’ Time” – Sublime

“Friend of the Devil” – The Grateful Dead

“Changes” – David Bowie

“Love Her Madly” – The Doors

“The Joker” medley – Steve Miller Band (also featuring: “Wild Thing” – The Troggs, “Closing Time” – Semisonic, “Red Red Wine” – UB40)

“Flake” – Jack Johnson

“Pretzel Logic” – Steely Dan

“Night Moves” – Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band

“#41” – Dave Matthews Band

“All Along the Watchtower” – Bob Dylan

“Break On Through” – The Doors

“Creep” – Radio Head

“(What’s So Funny About) Peace, Love and Understanding” – Elvis Costello & The Attractions

“Last Dance With Mary Jane” – Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers

“L.A. Woman” – The Doors (Also featuring “Tangy Town” and “Stoned Immaculate”)

“Hook” – Blues Traveler

“Scarlet Begonias” – Grateful Dead

“Jammin’” – Bob Marley

“Whipping Post” – The Allman Brothers

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