Dave Cerrone, lead trumpet player and band manager of one of the Capital Region’s longest-running bands, the Refrigerators, was still recovering from a life-threatening case of encephalitis when he returned to band practice last year. “To be honest, I was still doing a lot of mental mending, so I don’t remember the exact date,” he tells me. What he does remember is that he was feeling less than confident when he showed up, despite cheers and hugs from his bandmates. He had already spent nearly a year recovering from the malady, and he still couldn’t remember a lot of things. “I wasn’t sure if music parts would come back,” says Cerrone.
Soon enough, he and his bandmates geared up to run through Chicago’s “Does Anybody Know What Time It Is,” and Dave took a deep breath: The tune opens with a trumpet solo. “It came right out!” he told me excitedly. Despite losing a lot of memories, Dave somehow remembered every lyric and trumpet part from the Refrigerators’ repertoire, a list that includes over 100 pop, funk and rock and roll hits.
For more than 20 years, Cerrone has cherished his role as the Refrigerators’ over-committed and fun-loving leader. He founded the band in his mother’s basement in Albany in 1992, after he put an ad in the paper looking for horn players and ended up with a septet.
That number has since ballooned to 10 musicians: two lead vocalists; a drummer; bassist; guitarist; keyboardist; and the “Funk Underground Horns,” a four-piece horn section equipped with two trumpeters, a saxophonist and trombonist. The Refrigerators’ high-energy dance music also requires DJs, a sound crew and light technicians, who together with the band make up what Cerrone affectionately calls “The Fridge Fam.”
The Refrigerators family has seen a lot of change over the course of 25 years. They went from playing in dive bars for beer to sharing bills with the Village People, the Average White Band, 98 Degrees and Sugar Ray. They’ve also been a mainstay on Saratoga’s nightlife and party scene: They play at everything from weddings to charity events to the Vapor Nightclub.
When Cerrone got sick in May 2016, the Refrigerators’ incredible run looked like it might be coming to an end. The band had never had to function without him, and their new vocalist, Amelia Karcher, had been hired only one week before the diagnosis. “I came into the band probably at the absolute worst time,” says Karcher. “But the fact that they just kept going and said, ‘This is what Dave would want to do,’ I found that inspiring. Any other band would have crumbled.”
According to Cerrone, Karcher was “a godsend” for the Refrigerators: “She just came through with a lot of energy, and without her, I think it would have been a much tougher transition.” Now that the Refrigerators are back in action, Cerrone and the Fridge Fam have the luxury of looking towards the future. “We often joke about it but my son’s a drummer, he’s 12, and my daughter’s a pianist, she’s only nine, and some other members have children and nieces and nephews,” said Cerrone. “We’d love to see it go another 25, keep the tradition going with another generation. “