Decades Rewind is a National touring concert, dance party and theatrical performance all wrapped up in one show. Whereas most Broadway touring shows that come through the area that are celebrated for their soundtracks may only highlight one era of popular songs, Rewind celebrates the hits of the 60s, 70s and 80s, the most prominent decades in music history. Disco, funk, rock and Motown all take center stage in this theatrical concert, which features over 60 songs, 100 costume changes and videos galore. From Arethrewa to Zeppelin, this show promises to have you nodding your head and grooving in your seat in no time.
Or at least that is what Peter Gatti promises. Gatti stands as the Producer, co-founder, and keyboardist for Rewind, and has been playing keyboards since he was 8 years old. What started as organ lessons turned into a lifetime passion, as playing with many bands throughout his teens and 20’s in Northeast Pennsylvania, he had played before thousands before he ever took to the road with his current creation. Still, what began as a dream of creating a show in Rewind that would take the musician into higher paying corporate gigs has taken the keyboardist – as well as a cast and crew of dozens – all over the country.
We had a chance to talk to Gatti in between gigs before Rewind started its local run, which began last night at Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Raleigh and continues through tonight, before hitting Winston-Salem tomorrow night. We touched on the sheer will that is needed to handle a production this size; the mistakes along the way; and how some performers are recognized immediately.
Isaac Weeks: It looks like this is the biggest touring production that you’ve ever been a part of…
Peter Gatti: Absolutely. The only one, quite frankly.
IW: So what gave you the momentum to get this off the ground?
PG: It all started when me and the drummer, Mark Blinkhorn [fellow co-founder of Rewind], were playing in a cover band together. We were taking a break inside some club we were playing in Florida when we started talking, and I told him about this idea I had for a show performing hits from the last six decades, with all the costumes and videos. Mark said, “Oh my gosh, I’ve had the same idea!” We started adding this and adding that, and before you know it, we’re finishing each other’s sentences.
That’s sort of where the seed of all of this started. Then we went back to a recording studio that I owned in Tampa, Florida, and my engineer – who also works as my vocalist – immediately started saying, “Oh my goodness, we could do this, or we could do that,” and the next thing I know we’re recruiting and hiring talent. Before you know it, we had people coming in for auditions, and what started off as an idea to do a show every few months at high-end clubs became a touring production. When we started in 2015, we were doing about a half-dozen shows; we made some adjustments, came out in 2016, and just staying mainly in the Southeastern part of the country. In 2017 we’ve done over fifty shows in twenty or so states. We’re going pretty strong. We go out for two weeks and come home for two weeks. We have about fifteen people on stage, nine behind the scenes, and a bus driver, so this show has been the life of twenty-five people this year.
IW: Any issues pop up along the way?
PG: It’s been more about the logistics of touring. Just trying to get from Point A to Point B; sometimes its only an hour drive, and sometimes you’re driving five hours in the middle of the night. It’s all about where you can get your bookings. The logistics have just been a lot tougher than we ever thought they would be: making sure you get the proper sleep, and where do you get it? We started off in passenger vans, but it just didn’t make sense to pull into a hotel at 3am with an 10am checkout time, and then try to figure out where to kill time until we could get inside the venue. We made the switch to tour buses, just so people could wake up and go to sleep as they saw fit, without worrying about checkin or checkout times. The buses have worked out really well, and other than that the tour has been going pretty smooth, honestly.
IW: The number of shows you guys perform has been a pretty impressive jump in the last year or so. When you decided to expand into more markets, did you find that some areas of the country were hungry for this type of show?
PG: That’s the other challenge we’ve found; how we can go into one town and find seven thousand people waiting for us, then travel to the next and only find two or three hundred. It’s partly, as you said, some areas are hungrier for this type of talent more than others. Some areas are saturated with Broadway touring shows all day long, while others don’t have any. That’s been a bit of a challenge in marketing as well, but it’s something we’ve gotten better at over the last few months. Part of that is our larger PR push both locally, regionally, and nationally. We’re building the brand, doing a lot of social media marketing, and all of the traditional media marketing starts to add up.
IW: You just mentioned how some markets are flooded with Broadway type shows, others get none. Was the recent popularity in “jukebox musicals” on Broadway part of the inspiration behind getting this off the ground?
PG: Honestly it wasn’t, but it has certainly helped, because it lends itself to people being attracted to that type of show. It really wasn’t, but it has helped.
IW: You’ve mentioned the great cast of vocalists that you have on the road with you, and the process of the auditions. Did you find that being based in Florida, and holding the auditions there, helped with finding talent?
PG: I think so. The area we’re in, Tampa, is a major hotspot for musical talent; a lot of musicians have come through there and end up settling in the area. Probably 90% of our talent came from within a three hour radius of where we were auditioning. I think it really helped a lot.
IW: Of course the name of the show is Decades Rewind, so the show features a lot of music from a wide span of time. Have you found that a particular era has proven itself to be the most popular, and get the largest response from audiences?
PG: It’s definitely the 60s, and I think the reason is, regardless of your age…we like to say that our target audience is mid forties to sixties, but that being said our audience goes from folks in their twenties to those in their eighties. I think the reason the 60s part of the show is so popular is because, no matter your age, you know Janis Joplin; you know Jimi Hendrix; you know The Doors. Those are just icons that will never go away, and people will always know their music and a little about their history. There’s no doubt that all of these legends, everyone knows who they are, so that’s why it goes over so well.