You know That Toga Band?

The Outer Space Café in the South End of Burlington came to life on Wednesday when That Toga Band filled the intimate setting with a dynamic ambient sound that seemed to come from more than just the three members of the band. That Toga Band, a self-proclaimed afro-beat/jazz band, is made up of ’07 and ’08 University of Vermont graduates Tyler George-Minetti on lead guitar, Thomas Pearo on bass and Anthony Kareckas on drums/percussion. “[In the summer of 2003,] Tyler and I met at orientation, played guitar for three hours and drank tequila – then we met up at the beginning of school and jammed for many more hours,” Pearo said. “We learned how to be a sloppy band. When we first started, we tried to write most of our songs, but only had a few so we would butcher covers we barely knew,” George-Minetti said. That Toga Band came to fruition in their freshman year when “Tyler and I thought that it would be a really dumb idea to wear to?gas at shows,” Kareckas said. “We love band naming.”From experience, the members of That Toga Band strongly suggest “to try to be in as many bands as possible.” In Burlington, “any band that has ‘funk’ in it usu?ally does well – I was in a really popular band called Funk Taco,” Kareckas said. While the band has had success, touring 32 dates this past summer and coming out with their first album this month, they started out on the same level as many other UVM bands do. “Our first gig was on Redstone, at the WDW lounge, my freshman year. Then, we played a Halloween show at Living/Learning; we hung up 11 by 17 sheets of paper covered with words and artwork in front of the stage and dressed up” Pearo said. “My parents came and gave me kind words but I don’t re?member much – I was tripping on something.”It was at these concerts in Living/Learning that Kareckas initially met them. “I was initially a fan, I saw them play at the Fireplace Lounge and I was attracted by their honesty and truthfulness,” he said. Soon afterward, they established a band that played at Slade Hall Open Mic nights regularly and practiced almost daily. According to Pearo, “It was at these concerts that we gained fans and friends. At first, your friends are your fans. Then, your friends invite their friends and suddenly a hundred people are there.” That Toga Band soon branched out to Radio Bean and Nectar’s, “where it’s easy to get a gig: it doesn’t pay much, but there’s mu?sic every night,” said Kareckas. While playing music everywhere and anywhere is important to gain exposure, Kareckas emphasized the fact that “socializing with everybody, and not just limiting ourselves to our band is really important to become known.” “Embracing the community by eating at local restaurants is just as important as playing gigs,” he said. Especially for the Toga crew, who find that their music is better received in a restaurant or an art gallery. George-Minetti described the Burlington music community as “cliquey, a free for all. There’s a ton of stuff out there, it’s an eclectic scene. Yet, if you put up posters for shows, lots of people will know about them.” On their tour, the group found that friendships with people who do bookings are golden. “If you’re not friendly, you’re not going to get gigs,” stated Tom bluntly. That Toga Band has found success because the trio of friends has a really solid foundation. “It’s never been about the money. We all have day jobs. We play to be able to understand ourselves; we stick together. We don’t need an audience,” Pearo said. Yet Pearo, George-Minetti and Kareckas also live together. George-Minetti mentioned, “We’ve been able to do well together because we’ve never used the band as a crutch. We’re all thinkers, we talk about things besides music.” After all, George-Minetti is a geologist by day, and Pearo majored in physics. By these standards, Kareckas is the loveable oddball. Taking his life theme of “Be involved in as many situations as possible; always learn something new” to heart, he is a juggler and a street performer by day. While seemingly trivial, he said, “My street performing has given me another outlet to meet people and become known.” As they wrapped up and set up to play, Pearo revealed his secrets to success: “the summer after freshman year, I stayed around in Burlington and got to know the place. For a new band on the rise, I can’t stress getting to know the city better in order to make connections and make a name for yourself.” For after all, many venues “only care about bringing people to shows; they’re a business,” said George-Minetti. But, “if you have Burlington to back you, then you can get some serious exposure” Pearo said.