● By Style
Photo by Dante Fontana, © Style Media Group
When you have a nine-piece big band whose storied backgrounds are as varied and esteemed as Aftershock’s,
it’s easy to understand why founder Gerald Jonutzs breezily proclaims, “We are the best and the baddest band in the area, period. Nobody can touch what we do; that’s a fact.” Indeed, just one listen to the jumping, ’60s-era rhythm and blues collaboration turns many a casual listener into an enthusiast. With a devoted following (more than 700 people subscribe to their email list, and fans are so dedicated that many drive from the Bay Area to Placerville to see a show), Aftershock has managed to make a name for themselves by keeping the crux of the band simple: “Bottom line, it’s all about the music.”
After their meeting in the late ’90s, Jonutz and “Philly” Joe Littel started what they hoped to be a high-energy, uninhibited funk, jazz-rock and R&B band. The idea was not to limit the band by copying cover tunes verbatim, but add their individual twist to the music. This approach eventually allowed the band to create a very distinctive sound—one that grooves and creates an energy that compels listeners to get up and dance.
The idea grew and evolved, and after several line-up changes (Littel is no longer in the band), Aftershock, as it is today, crystallized in 2004. For the past nine years, the nonet has consisted of Jonutz, alto and tenor sax; Steve Hoff, lead and backing vocals; Rick Lawton, drums and percussion; Sean McMillin, bass; Chris Martinez, keys, lead and backing vocals; Mike Breitsprecher, trumpet and flugelhorn; Steve Gonsoulin, trombone; Larry Park, guitar and backing vocals; and Bob Hansen, baritone sax, tenor sax backing vocals and arrangements.
For those who have never experienced a show, it’s worth discussing the breadth and scope of the band member’s on-stage experience previous to Aftershock—although doing so in its entirety is nearly impossible. A few of the bigger names Aftershock’s members have shared the stage with include greats such as Santana, 3 Dog Night, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, The Who, The Doors, Judas Priest, Cinderella, Deff Leppard, Ted Nugent, Jethro Tull, Foreigner, Kenny Rogers, and Eddie Money with the Jimmy Lyons Band. Jonutz was the original sax for celebrated San Francisco band Cold Blood, and McMillin is the “white boy” that inspired Wild Cherry to write “Play That Funky Music.” In 2008, Park was named one of the “50 Fastest Guitarists of All Time” in Guitar World Magazine, and just last month, the group was named “Favorite Local Musician/Band” in Style Magazine’s Readers’ Choice Awards.
Over the last eight years, Aftershock’s diverse repertoire has allowed the band to play at a variety of venues, including various art and wine festivals, brew fests, county fairs, Sacramento King’s games, corporate events, private parties, weddings, local clubs and restaurants. Some of their favorite seasonal events and venues include Placerville’s Music in the Plaza, Red Hawk Casino and the Sacramento Music Festival.
Visit aftershocktheband.com for more information.