Local band celebrates Chuck Berry in style

Roll over to Kung Fu Necktie on Saturday to see a tribute show with a twist. A twist competition, that is.

Philly’s own “Back to the Future” tribute will honor Chuck Berry’s legacy during Hail Hail: Rock ‘n’ Roll at Kung Fu Necktie (2501 N. Front St). It’s Marvin, Your Cousin Marvin Berry (that’s the band’s name for real) only plays Berry’s music. It channels rockabilly flair while encouraging the audience to dance like it’s 1955.

Guitarist and singer Nick Anastasi received several texts and phone calls on March 18, the day of Berry’s death. People were already planning how Anastasi and his bandmates would celebrate Berry in Philly.

“He did so much for people and he didn’t even realize it,” says Anastasi.

Anastasi started playing a repertoire of Berry’s songs with bandmates Tony Trov and Mike Vivas when the power trio were teenagers living in South Philly. After a short hiatus, the band is getting back together to help Philly show some love for the icon who inspired them. Anastasi decided he wanted to play guitar after watching Michael J. Fox perform “Johnny B. Goode” while portraying Marty McFly in “Back to the Future.”

“That was my introduction to [Berry],” says Anastasi. “Marty is this dork in high school. But at the end, he’s a hero. I wanted to be that.”

For It’s Marvin, Your Cousin Marvin Berry, it wouldn’t be a show without a dance off. The band prompts an audience twist competition by playing the bright descending riff at the beginning of “C’est La Vie.”

“Most of the time, 90 percent of the audience starts twisting immediately,” says Anastasi. “There is always a few people that want to win so badly — they’re on the floor and on the tables. By the end, you see the one person who is the winner.”

Like a lot of musicians who challenged and shaped their genres, Berry was an outlier of his time. But by the end of the decade, Berry’s style summed up what people now know as quintessential ’50s music. The blues riffs and striking drum beats can be associated with drive-in movies, swirling swing skirts and a generation that bopped.

“People love this music even if they don’t know exactly what it is,” says Anastasi. “All ’50s music has been portrayed as the soundtrack of this American golden age where everyone had a job, a car and a turkey in the oven.”

If you go:
Hail Hail Rock ‘n’ Roll: A Tribute to Chuck Berry at KFN
Saturday April 1, 7 p.m.
Kung Fu Necktie
2501 N. Front St.
$5 in advance, $7 the day of

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