EULOGY FOR TRITONE: Goodnight Rick D, Wherever You Are


PETE_MARSHALL_AVATAR.JPGBY PETE MARSHALL “Tritone closing?  Say it ain’t so.  Now where am I gonna play?” By the end of the week, after the word of Tritone closing its doors gets around, countless Philadelphia area bands and musicians will have uttered these words. Take my word for it. Now, I know that Tritone is not the only joint in town. Not by a long shot. In fact there are quite a few good places to play in this old town these days. But with Tritone you can always rely on landing a gig no matter what you’re serving up.

The Tritone web site boasts that they are “the most musically diverse venue in Philly”. I’ll vouch for that. Tritone will give anyone a shot. You can be an old white man, a young black woman, or both (Needles Jones). Tritone loves you and so Philadelphia loves you. You are loved. And whether you’re offering Jazz, Prog-rock, Hip-Hop, Burlesque, Big Band, Emo or some Avant-Cow-Punk you are welcome to hawk your wears on the Tritone stage. Hells-bells; you don’t even have to be good. That’s the beauty of the place. Walk in on any given night and you are just as likely to hear Bob Bell and friends playing some weirdo Jazz-Fusion thing as you are to hear Shakey Lyman, alone with his guitar, singing the blues. You may wander in and be subjected to The Prisoners, Beretta 76, Donuts, Pissed Jeans, Gas Money or Dr. Ketchup shaking the walls of the joint until the cops come knocking. You might peek in and accidentally catch a glimpse of Mick Cancer writhing in a sweaty heap on a filthy floor with a microphone cable around his neck and both hands down his pants. But that’s only if you’re lucky, dear reader.

Rick Dobrowolski [pictured, above] and Dave Rogers acquired the space at 1508 South Street, painted the walls red and opened the Tritone H_B_Shots.jpgin 2001. I love it there. Tritone is my place. It’s where I play. It’s where I go to see others play. It’s where I go for a beer, a plate of perogies and a beautiful wise-crack from Rick Almeida at the bar. I’ve been to weddings at Tritone and I’ve been to wakes. Dave always greets me with a handshake and looks genuinely happy to see me. And hey, I hardly even mind that smell of stale of beer and cigarettes any more. It’s a good place to be. Like CHEERS only kinda gross.

I do miss Rick though. For those that don’t know, Rick D was Dave’s partner at Tritone and a force for local music in Philadelphia. The openness and musical diversity shown at Tritone is a direct vestige of Ricks influence. Rick bounced around town in the late 1980’s and throughout the 1990’s putting together great shows at J.C. Dobbs on South Street and Nicks’ Upstairs in Old City. He also tended bar for a while at Bob & Barbara’s; directly across from Tritone where, as legend has it, he invented what some Philadelphians call the “Citywide Special”, although I happen to have first person knowledge that that “special” was a direct result of Mr. Red Burns [pictured on the left, downing shot with the author, onstage at Tritone] ordering a Pabst Blue Ribbon and a shot of Jim Beam and professing, “I only have three dollars! Make it a special!” So who actually invented the “special” is, in my view, still unclear.

Rick had a ball putting together shows at his new venue and it showed. He had music at Tritone almost every night and sometimes during the day. He would organize all-day affairs with twelve or fourteen bands that would all gang-bang a broken little P.A. system. They were logistical nightmares with so much gear in the bar that no one knew where to stand. But somehow Rick made it work. He would run around Tritone slinging drinks with one hand and taking care of the bands with the other. That boy loved his vocation.

Rick Died on April 7th, 2007. That was a hell of a blow. My band, The Broken Prayers was scheduled to play that night. He died leaving Dave Rogers in charge and honestly, beyond my grief for Rick, I also mourned what was sure to be the loss of the TRITONE. I confess that, at the time, I did not give the credit to Dave that he deserved. I fully expected Tritone to close right then and there. Rick was dead. Rick ran the music end of the business. Surely the joint was doomed. How could it possibly stay open? Well, dear reader, I’ll tell you. Dave Rogers heroically gripped those reins between his teeth, drew both pistols and rode that smelly, red beast straight at the setting sun determined not to let the night fall. Up until now, he has valiantly kept the doors open and the music flowing.

But now, once again, the sun is on the horizon. This time it looks imminent. Word on the street is that Tritone will be open for three more months and then be turned over to the folks who own Hawthornes Café, Chris and Heather Fetfatzes. I don’t blame Dave for finally closing up shop. It’s a hard business running a tavern. Hard on your body, hard on your mind, hard on your sleep cycle and hard on your ears. I wish the folks at Tritone well. I hope Dave is leaving in the black. I hope that there are beautiful things in his future and the future of all the staff that work there. I’m grateful for those years that Tritone gave me. I’m grateful for the dozens of shows that I’ve played there and the hundreds of shows that I’ve seen.

According to the Tritone website, no shows will be canceled. Good news for scheduled bands and good news for you, dear reader. There is still ample time to catch a show. I’m happy to be on that schedule playing with my band, The Broken Prayers, on Saturday, December 3rd. One last chance to bring the house down.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *