Vic Ruiz is not listed among the performers playing at Saturday’s Festival Earth on the Morristown Green. But he is the key figure in every single act.
He is the sound man, the guy who tweaks the knobs and sliders to make sure every single note sounds its best.
The Morris Plains resident knows first-hand just how crucial that role is—he plays drums for The Soft Parade, a Doors tribute band that has toured worldwide before giant crowds.
Details count when you impersonate legends, and the sound must be perfect– right down to the vintage Fender piano bass that Ray Manzarek played with the Doors.
That attention to detail, circa 1969, also explains Vic’s thick sideburns.
“We do the songs, but we get some space to play, too,” said Vic, 40, a charter member of The Soft Parade, now celebrating its 20th year. The band is named after a Doors song.
Joe Russo plays the late Jim Morrison; on the side, Joe has authored books on the Doors, Elvis and “Planet of the Apes.” Joe Bilotti, a music teacher at the County College of Morris, plays guitar. Mike Abel rounds out the quartet on keyboards.
They have toured 20 countries, including Russia, Israel, Germany and France. But South America stands out. Some 10,000 Doors fans jammed an old railroad station in Chile to hear The Soft Parade.
“It was pretty amazing,” Vic said. “People were screaming.”
He asked a Chilean why that country was so passionate about the Doors, and was told: “We learn English that way—the words are simple and clear.”
Vic enjoyed all kinds of jazz and rock as a kid, but found himself drawn to John Densmore’s drumming for the Doors.
“There’s a lot going on. It’s really rhythmic,” he said of the band’s distinctive sound. A highlight of his career was sharing a stage with Doors guitarist Robby Krieger in 1995.
Between tours, Vic runs LSI Audio, a sound engineering company he started about a decade ago.
Sure, he admits, it would be nice to perform original tunes. But the music business is hard.
“As you get older, the music business is rough enough. To break in, you have to have good material or someone behind you with the funds to push you and promote you, to get you out there. It’s very difficult,” he said.
“But tribute bands do well. Fans can go to the theater for $35 to $65 max, and see a great show. We take them back in time—everything is there. Tribute bands give you more bang for the buck.”
If you like what you hear Saturday at Festival Earth, stop by and thank Vic. Just don’t wait too long. The moment the festival ends, he has to pack up his sound system in a hurry.
The Soft Parade has an evening gig at the Fireside in Denville.