STORY WRITTEN BY BRIAN BINGAMAN
@brianbingaman on Twitter
Celebrating the 50th anniversary of The Monkees, eastern Pennsylvania tribute band The Monkeephiles will play a free concert in Norristown Sept. 4 (the originally scheduled date in August was rained out).
“We’ve really lucked out with a few township amphitheater shows,” said Monkeephiles bassist Michael Kropp, a resident of Limerick. “The show is a real healthy mix of the hits you know — ‘Daydream Believer,’ ‘(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone,’ ‘I’m a Believer,’ ‘Pleasant Valley Sunday … plus a fair amount of album tracks. It’s fun, it’s upbeat, it brings back good memories for people who (remember) The Monkees.”
Kropp, who first saw “The Monkees” TV show when it was in re-runs in the ‘70s, also mentioned the Micky Dolenz/Peter Tork duet “Words” and the minor 1968 hit “Tapioca Tundra” were in the two-part sets the band performed this summer in Catasaqua, Bethlehem and New Holland.
The Monkeephiles formed two and a half years ago, with John Roginski on guitar and keyboards, Paul Venturi on percussion and keyboards (yes, he has the Davy Jones red maracas), drummer Ryan Fenton, and sometimes-guitarist Bill Shinn. Except for Kropp and Shinn, who lives in Ohio, the musicians hail from the Scranton area.
Their first show was at a 2014 Monkees convention, at which all the surviving Monkees, and one of their important hit songwriters, Bobby Hart, were special guests. Although Kropp is certain Dolenz, Tork and Mike Nesmith did not catch their performance, the band did get to pose for a photo with them. “Micky Dolenz walked across the room and said: ‘Hi, my name is Micky Dolenz, how are you? They couldn’t have been nicer,” Kropp recalled.
Nesmith reportedly liked the band’s T-shirts, an homage to the trademark brightly-colored matching shirts, with buttons on the chest in a rectangle pattern, that The Monkees wore on the TV series. Kropp added that those who loved the show will recognize the thick, horn-rimmed glasses that he wears while playing as a reference to Schneider, the resident dummy in the made-for-TV musical group’s apartment.
Although they don’t do any of the ‘80s or ‘90s Monkees songs, The Monkeephiles do play the recent single, “She Makes Me Laugh,” which was written by Weezer’s Rivers Cuomo. Their repertoire also includes the fan favorites “Goin’ Down,” “Daily Nightly,” “The Door into Summer,” Nesmith’s “The Kind of Girl I Could Love” and “Sunny Girlfriend,” the Gerry Goffin/Carole King-penned “Porpoise Song” from the band’s trippy feature film “Head,” and even “Oh My My” and “It’s Got to be Love” from the 1970 album “Changes,” a time after the TV show had been canceled, Tork and Nesmith departed, and only Dolenz and Jones were left to carry on.
“It’s the music that hooked us all,” Kropp said.
The Monkeephiles are also scheduled to play a new festival event, sponsored by the Springfield Township (Delco) Library, in October, according to Kropp. Follow along at www.facebook.com/MONKEEPHILES.