Niagara Gazette

November 27, 2012

STEMM going out with a bang

by Timothy Chipp
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — Falls rock band STEMM is facing the pain of breaking up.

One of the city's longest-lasting and successful rock bands is calling it quits after 14 years of music. And to celebrate, they're throwing one last kick-butt party for all the fans.

"We've been together 14 years," founding member and guitarist/vocalist Joe Cafarella said. "As we've gotten older and the industry's changed, we feel we're sorta spinning our wheels. So we wanted to go out with our heads up and go out with a bang instead of a sizzle."

The party kicks off at 6:30 p.m. Saturday at the Town Ballroom, 681 Main St., Buffalo, with opening acts His Name Was Yesterday and Whiskey Reverb. Tickets are $12 at the door.

What kind of a bang does the band have planned? How about bringing its original lead singer, Louis Penque, back to the stage?

Penque, who formed the band in 1998 along with his brother, Jimi, Russ Martin and Cafarella, left after the birth of his second son in 2004. With Penque's voice, the band was able to score its first commercial success, signing a deal with the Ultimate Fighting Championship in 2002 to create the organization's theme song.

"Face The Pain" was born and still serves as the popular fighting company's theme, leading in every pay-per-view event and cable broadcast.

"They took us right along with them," Cafarella said. "It's been 10 years. I remember when they first started using our music. We went around promoting them. They asked us right around UFC 40. Since then, it's been a snowball effect. As the band grew, UFC grew too."

But to guys like Cafarella and Penque, the band's legacy is more than just one successful song. It's about the music scene in the city and the surrounding suburbs.

Penque said the band brought real music back to Niagara Falls at a time when the city was drawing nobodies and lower-quality cover bands as entertainment.

"I would say we brought music back to Niagara Falls," he said. "For a while, the local music scene was just cover bands. But we started bringing in national recording bands to Niagara Falls to play with us. We brought in the heavier bands."

In fact, the group's first show was opening up for Sevendust, a popular hard rock band out of Atlanta, Ga. They went on to have many other live shows with some of that era's big names, including opening up for Run DMC in Fredonia in 2000 or 2001 (nobody in the band could remember the actual date).

But it was one show in particular which Cafarella said left a lasting impression on him and shaped his career and style as a musician. It was Dec. 7, 2004, and STEMM was on stage opening up for the band Damageplan. The group wasn't a superstar band, but a couple of its members were previously part of the rock band Pantera, including guitarist Darrell Abbott.

Abbott, otherwise known as "Dimebag Darrell," was a hero to Cafarella, who watched the successful musician carry himself. He observed the lack of ego and intensity that radiated off Abbott throughout the night. Then he was horrified to find out just one night after leaving the Buffalo stage behind, Abbott was shot and killed while on stage in Columbus, Ohio.

"We've shared the stage with a lot of bands I look up to," Cafarella said. "They defined who I was as a musician. Playing with and meeting Slayer was a big deal with me. Also, sharing the stage with Damageplan was huge.

"There was a rule. You couldn't be at a Damageplan or Pantera show without a beer in your hand. (Abbott) would walk around and find people who weren't drinking and ask them 'How come you ain't drinking.' I watched him hand one guy a beer out of his own hand.

"It's sad to know the next day, 'Dimebag' was taken from us. He treated us like we knew him, like we were lifelong friends. It was certainly a learning experience for me."

As for what fans can expect come Saturday's curtain call, Penque's voice isn't the only blast from STEMM's past hitting the stage. After Penque left the band, Tom "T.J." Frost took over before he, too, left in July 2007. Frost will make his return Saturday as well.

This means all three frontmen the band has had will be on stage Saturday.

Former bassist Stephen Crowl, who left the band after a medical emergency, will also take a final turn with the band.

"I'm really, really excited to go out this way," Cafarella said. "It never really occurred to me how long the band's been together until we started preparing for this. This will be many fans one and only experience to see what STEMM was like."

"I just want to put on the best show I can for the fans," Penque added. "I want them to remember what it was like for them when we first started."

IF YOU GO • WHAT: STEMM's final show • WHEN: Evening starts at 6:30 p.m. Saturday • WHERE: Town Ballroom, 681 Main St., Buffalo • TICKETS: $12