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Coming: A blast from the past, U.S. Sound Theatre to perform June 14 at Lakemont Casino

For nearly 25 years, the band U.S. Sound Theatre played to packed houses from Williamsport to Pittsburgh and established a loyal following.

New to Altoona in the late 1980s, a friend took Vicki Mirenda to hear the local band — and she was hooked.

“They were very cool,” Mirenda recalled, “they were a large band with a great sound and had a huge following.”

Flash forward to a year ago when Mirenda and others at The Casino were discussing the idea of reuniting a former local band.

“U.S. Sound Theatre kept coming to my mind,” she said. “We weren’t even sure they would say yes, but they did. It took us several months to find a date that worked for all the band members.”

Mirenda hopes this type of concert becomes an annual event.

Jim Pastore, his brother Mike Pastore and friend Ric Criste were the band’s co-founders and started playing together in December of 1971 with their debut performance happening six months later at The Casino for the Altoona Area Senior High School’s post-prom party. College, marriage and careers prompted a few lineup changes and Jim Pastore estimates about 40 musicians have played under the name U.S. Sound Theatre. The current configuration has played together since late in 1987 — a rarity among bands.

Band members are: Mike Pastore, bass guitar; Jim Pastore, vocals; Ric Criste, guitar/vocals; Rick Wertz, guitar/vocals; Jeff Crownover, drums; Harold Hayford, keyboards; Jay Arnold, trumpet; Don Emery, trumpet; Bob Scholl, sax, and Brian Rutter, trombone.

U.S. Sound Theatre will do two long sets at the upcoming benefit for The Curve Booster Club.

“We had a really, really loyal following of fans who came to see us all the time,” Jim Pastore said. “There was no one who had a horn section like us and who could do songs made popular by (bands) Chicago (“Saturday in the Park,” “Does Anybody Know?“) and The Tower of Power (“Down to the Night Club,” “You Are Still a Young Man“). I think people were intrigued with seeing a big band play. You just didn’t hear that kind of music done live.”

Sound engineer/music professor Dave Villani of Altoona participated in the band’s early days.

“We played Chicago, Blood, Sweat & Tears music,” Villani said. “We were all about the same age, followed the horn bands and enjoyed music that was more involved and harmonically complex.”

The band appealed, Villani said, because of its unique horn section’s sound which combined with their “danceable” song selection.

“We did excerpts from ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ and the Beatles’ ‘Got to Get You into My Life,'” he said, noting his wife Mary also performed with the band for a time.

The band remained inactive until a benefit concert in 2002 to help an ill, former band member with medical expenses. Since then, the group has played Altoona Area High School class reunions, the 2017 Blair County Arts Festival and a benefit for Vietnam veterans in August at a local social club.

“We all get along, we are all friends and we enjoy getting together a few times a year. When we get the chance to get together for the right reason. We’re still putting together the sets, but people will get their monies worth of dancing,” Jim Pastore said.“I’ve always said whether there are 50 or 500 people in the audience, the folks will get the same show. We enjoy getting together and we love to see the people who came back then.”

Mirror Staff Writer Patt Keith is at 949-7030.

If you go

What: 2019 Summer Bash featuring U.S. Sound Theatre, Altoona’s premier band

When: 7 p.m. June 14

Where: The Casino, Lakemont Park, Altoona

Tickets: $15 in advance on CentralPATickets.com and $20 at the door, cash bar and food available

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