Musicians can't sit still. When they're not touring (and especially during holidays), they look for fun, low-stakes gigs to play with their friends.
"Even when they tell you they want to stay home, they don't want to stay home," says Josh Kroop, who manages Kung Fu, drummer Bernard Purdie and other artists.
Enter the Bad Santas, a one-off collective of musicians — bassist George Gekas (the Revivalists), singer/guitarist Fuzz Sangiovanni (Deep Banana Blackout, Caravan of Thieves), drummers Adrian Tramontano (Kung Fu) and Johnny Durkin (DBB), guitarist Danny Mayer (On The Spot Trio, Alan Evans Trio), vocalist Mary Corso (Beau Sasser's Escape Plan, Broca's Area) and organist Beau Sasser (Kung Fu, BSEP, the Z3) — that performs at the Acoustic in Bridgeport on Saturday, Dec. 26.
"It's a musical Christmas present for musicians and fans," Kroop says. "God knows, none of us are getting rich doing this at this point."
Kroop, who runs Round House Management, has been organizing holiday shows in New Haven for more than a decade. He typically targets the day after Christmas, "when everyone's tired of being surrounded by their families," he says.
Several months ago, Kroop and Gekas, a Milford native who currently lives in New Orleans, were hanging out at a Connecticut show. Gekas told Kroop: "I come home every year for Christmas. Wouldn't it be nice if we could arrange a loose, jamboree-hang kind of thing with different people who live in the area?"
Within days, Kroop had rounded up the players. "I didn't have to do much," he says. "I pretty much sent out one email, and everyone was like, 'Hell, yes.'"
Sangiovanni supplied the name: Bad Santas.
For Gekas, this will be the first time sharing a stage with any of the Connecticut musicians.
"That's part of the fun of it, just getting on stage with people and having a musical conversation with them," he says. "It's pretty exciting to see it all come together that day. It's a little stressful, a little nerve-wracking."
With a one-off band, set lists come together through shared Spotify playlists, Skype calls and text messages. Funk is the guiding principle, but there's also classic rock, some reggae and jazz-fusion stuff. The common thread: It's all dance music.
"Everyone threw out a few songs they wanted to play, then we narrowed it to songs everyone already knew and songs that fit the holiday spirit," Gekas says, "pretty much letting everyone have a voice."
"It's the fun of not knowing, but knowing that everybody there is this next-level guy," Kroop adds. "It's almost better knowing some of them will meet on stage for the first time, musically. Sometimes it works really well and sometimes it doesn't. But with these guys, being able to pick these eclectic songs, it's making it fun."
The newly renovated Acoustic is part of a small-scale musical revival happening in the Black Rock section of Bridgeport. Last year, David Webster and his partners flipped around the staging, overhauled the lighting and sound and poured cash into improving the overall experience for fans and musicians.
"It's the perfect venue and geography to do it," Kroop says. "The room is beautiful. ... It's really nice for the musicians who play there. They're hearing well onstage, and it sounds great to the audience."
As with all Acoustic shows, the Bad Santas' performance will be live-streamed on the venue's YouTube channel. New Haven musician Frank Viele opens.
Both Gekas and Kroop are hopeful that the Bad Santas will return next year, possibly with a different cast of players.
"Hopefully, we'll get through this year, and who knows," Gekas says. "Maybe we'll be able to make this an annual thing."
THE BAD SANTAS perform at the Acoustic in Bridgeport on Saturday, Dec. 26, at 8 p.m. Tickets are $12. Information: theacoustic.rocks.