The crowd is fired up tonight. Song requests are shouted out and a large contingent of dancers has congregated by the stage. There are smiles on the faces of people in the audience as well as the musicians beneath the spotlights. These are the kinds of shows Durham Region band Straight Shooter lives for. The trio includes brothers Pete Carpino on guitar and lead vocals and Frank Carpino on bass and backup vocals, in addition to drummer Warren Lastewka. Formed over a decade ago, they’ve been building a strong following on the southern Ontario live circuit in recent years. “We were born with the love of music in our veins,” says Lastewka.
All three bring a wealth of experience to the stage, having played in numerous rock and jazz bands. In addition, the Carpinos have years of Royal Conservatory of Music training. Though classic rock is Straight Shooter’s speciality, reggae, country, dance, pop, soul and blues tunes also find their way into set lists. An openness to different sounds has resulted in an extensive repertoire they can tap, ranging from the Eagles’ “Take it Easy,” to the Beatles’ “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” and The Clash’s “Train in Vain.” “We pick up new songs in any genre from 1957 to the present,” says Lastewka, adding “the band is always progressing. We’re always challenging ourselves and experimenting with different musical ideas.”
This variety keeps things interesting and enjoyable for them. It can also result in serendipitous situations, such as the time they were playing a club in Markham and a vacationing Jamaican girl in the audience asked to sing backup on a Bob Marley song. “She was absolutely perfect,” recalls Lastewka. “She seemed to be able to capture the magic, and we ran with it. Female backing vocals are such a large part of Marley songs. That was a memorable moment.”
Each has a day job, but Straight Shooter is a big part of their lives. “It takes serious work to play as much as we do. But it’s a labour of love. I think people can see that when we play,” says Lastewka. If they aren’t rehearsing, you might find them playing in a club in Barrie or at a business staff party in Mississauga. Just as likely, you’ll find them performing in Pickering or Whitby — places close to their heart. As Lastewka says, “Durham is home.”