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In the Region

Sometimes Yesterday Doesn’t Seem So Far Away

Susan Stava for The New York Times

WISER NOW The rock band Sundown playing at Victor’s Continental Cuisine and Cocktail Lounge in Hawthorne. The band will perform there again on Dec. 23.

Published: November 18, 2006

Sundown, a Westchester-based Southern rock cover band, is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. A few weeks ago, the five band members sat next to a pool table in the back of Barney McNabb’s Bar and Lounge in Yonkers and reflected on what a long, strange trip it’s been.

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“We’re doing what we love and we’re successful,” said Fred Andreassi, the bass guitarist. “That’s the kicker right there.” At 56, Mr. Andreassi, who lives in LaGrange, in Dutchess County, is the oldest member of the group.

Steve Mitchell, the co-lead guitarist and vocalist, from Port Chester, is 49. “We’re not young guys anymore,” he said. “But as long as I can hold the instrument, I’ll play.”

The members of Sundown have a combined age of 239, but that does not stop them from performing at 50 to 60 concerts a year, mostly in Westchester and the surrounding counties. They have shared a bill with .38 Special, The Outlaws and Mountain; were snowed out of a show with Vanilla Fudge and Canned Heat; and rained out of a show with Molly Hatchet.

Last month, they had a three-day gig at Wiseguys Watering Hole in Daytona Beach, Fla., as part of Biketoberfest 2006, an annual motorcycle event that attracts hundreds of thousands of people. They were booked to play Biketoberfest by Sam Torres, owner of East Side Custom Choppers, in Walden.

“I saw the band a while ago at the Chance in Poughkeepsie,” Mr. Torres said. “When Paul Buttrey at Wiseguys told me he needed a Southern rock band, I said, ‘I have just the band for you.’ ”

Mr. Torres said that Sundown did an excellent job. “You’re not dealing with kids,” he said. “You’re dealing with professional adults.” They were invited back to Daytona to play in March, during Bike Week, billed as the world’s largest motorcycle event.

Sundown was founded in 1976 by two Iona Preparatory School classmates, Ronnie Pauls, 48, who plays co-lead, slide and pedal steel guitar and sings, and Bobby Carroll, the band’s original drummer, who died in 1990.

“We were sitting in my yard and drinking beers, trying to think of a name,” said Mr. Pauls, who lives in Beacon, resembles David Crosby and was a big Southern rock fan growing up. “We kept saying, ‘That’s a great sunset.’ Then it came to us.”

Jimmy Milito, 44, who lives in Yonkers, is the band’s keyboard player and lead vocalist; he joined in 1978. Mr. Mitchell came on board in 1987 and Mr. Andreassi in 1993. The newest member is the drummer, Keith Michaels of Yonkers, who joined in 1998.

Mr. Michaels, known professionally as Bam Bam, said that most people who grew up in Westchester in the 1970s listened to either heavy metal or Southern rock. Now, he said, those same people are coming to see Sundown. “It’s their kind of music.”

Sundown has about 50 songs in its repertory, including several by the Allman Brothers (“Blue Sky” and “One Way Out”), Lynyrd Skynyrd (“Freebird” and “Sweet Home Alabama”) and The Outlaws (“Green Grass and High Tides Forever” and “There Goes Another Love Song”).

In addition to playing music, the band members have other tasks: Mr. Andreassi maintains Sundown’s mailing list, Mr. Michaels handles bookings, Mr. Milito sets up the lights, Mr. Mitchell serves as sound man and Mr. Pauls maintains the band’s Web site and organizes mailings.

“We’re self-sufficient and self-contained,” Mr. Mitchell said. Because of the Web site, the band now has fans in Belgium, the Czech Republic, France, Italy and Poland.

Mr. Pauls said that over its three decades, Sundown has had two keyboardists, three drummers, four bass players and five guitarists. “People left because of personality conflicts, because of jobs, because their wives didn’t want them to play,” he said.

The current group has been together for a good while. “The last eight years have been the most solid this band has ever had,” Mr. Mitchell said. “Illness, death, hard times — the band still pushes on.”

Christopher Fragette, a longtime fan from Yorktown Heights, said he first saw Sundown perform more than 20 years ago. “So many cover bands play the songs note for note,” he said “You might as well buy the record. Sundown puts their own little twist on it and plays their own riffs.” Mr. Fragette, whose custom license plate is SKYNYRD4, said he has hired Sundown more than a half-dozen times to play at his annual backyard party.

For the past eight years, Sundown has performed regularly at P. J.’s Restaurant in Mahopac. “The guys in Sundown are a little older,” P.J.’s co-owner, Jay Petrillo, said. “And the crowd is too — they can come and see a good show and relax.”

How the band members find time to relax is hard to imagine. Everyone has a day job. Mr. Andreassi is a carpenter who works in New York City; Mr. Michaels is a safety supervisor for a school bus company; Mr. Milito is a telecommunications analyst for a bank; Mr. Mitchell is a service manager for a fitness equipment company; and Mr. Pauls is a network telecommunications engineer.

All five have long hair, which they wear in ponytails by day but loose and flowing at shows, sometimes topped by cowboy hats or caps printed with Confederate flags.

The long hair has presented some problems. Ten years ago, a manager at Mr. Pauls’s firm told him to cut it. “I said, ‘If I cut my hair, will it make me do my job better?’ He walked away.” When Mr. Mitchell’s supervisor made the same request several years ago, Mr. Mitchell said he was being discriminated against, ending the conversation. “At my age, if I’ve got it, I’ll grow it,” he said.

On Wednesday, Sundown will give its annual Thanksgiving Eve concert at Barney McNabb’s in Yonkers. The performers said some of their oldest fans now bring their teenagers to the show. “It’s pretty amazing,” Mr. Mitchell said.

Mr. Michaels added, “And pretty scary at the same time.”

Nov. 22: Thanksgiving Eve concert at Barney McNabb’s, 600 Tuckahoe Road, Yonkers, 10:30 p.m. Cover charge, $5; (914) 961-8960 or www.barneymcnabbs.us.

Dec. 2: P. J.’s Restaurant, 118 Baldwin Place, Mahopac, 10 p.m. (show includes a thong contest; viewer discretion advised). Cover charge, $5; (914) 628-3131.

Dec. 23: Victor’s Continental Cuisine and Cocktail Lounge, 500 Commerce Street, Hawthorne at 11 p.m.; Cover charge, $10; (914) 769-1817.

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