Whether they know it or not, local fans of vintage garage rock owe a debt to the late radio DJ Mad Mike Metrovich. Throughout the ’60s, Mad Mike scoured record shops across the country, digging up 45s by garage, surf, rockabilly and proto-punk bands yet unheard in Pittsburgh. He’d return with records by the Sonics, Baby Huey and the Babysitters, and Ronnie Cook and the Gaylads (among many others), which he’d play on Carnegie-based radio station WZUM, or at the packed dances he hosted around town.
- Photo by Al Hoff
- Mad Mike, spinning platters at Pietro’s Pizza Pub, in 2000
This weekend at Cattivo, local bands will honor the DJ, who died in 2000, with a show titled Mad Mike vs. The Mad ’80s. “We thought it would be really cool to pay tribute to him because we don’t hear his name enough in this city, as a founding father of music in this area,” says drummer Kevin Koch, who, along with the members of his retro garage-rock band The Me Toos, helped organize the event.
That band also enlisted help from fellow musician and rock expert Michael Devine (better known around town as Zombo), who suggested expanding the single-focus tribute into a two-tiered, multi-era event.
The upper floor of the bar will feature various local bands covering some of Mad Mike’s favorite tunes. Many of these remain relatively obscure, but thanks to a series of compilations called Mad Mike Monsters, the tunes have found new audiences.
Attendees can also head downstairs, and two decades forward, where various cover bands will perform as The Cramps, the Fall, The Go-Go’s and more. “That was done [partly] because we knew it would sell better,” Koch says. But they also hope to introduce the legacy of Mad Mike to a wider audience.
“The idea was to celebrate him,” Koch says, though he admits that it’s also a welcome excuse for his band to play Sonics covers. Joining The Me Toos are like-minded acts such as The Hi-Frequencies, Sun Hound, Nox Boys and others. “[There are] a lot of bands in this city that represent that kind of mid-’60s garage-punk sound, and we wanted to try to get them all together under one roof for one night.”