Alive@Five Seafooder sees stage
STAMFORD — Alive@Five’s headliner, Lifehouse, may have been the big draw Thursday evening, but the story of the night came first.
The opening act, The Sean Austin Band, not only kicked off the night but itself performed for the first time on the Columbus Park stage. The band — led by a guitarist better known as a TV personality — was cobbled together in recent months by drummer Jared Vergilis, a part-owner and manager of F.I.S.H. Restaurant + Bar on Bedford Street.
“I’m coming out of retirement,” Vergilis said in a pre-performance interview this week. “It’s like riding a bike — it’s muscle memory — but when you’re older you’re not hitting those symbols as hard as you once did.”
Vergilis, 40, had withdrawn from show business after playing in six different bands and “traveling to shows in cars as small as a Smart Car and on the biggest of buses ... even a private jet,” from 1998 to the turn of the decade.
Before Thursday, his last live performance was as the drummer for the indie band Picture Show, then tagging along with Wallflower on its 2009 greatest hits tour.
He had entered the mercurial food business, ironically, for its stability after the 2010 birth of his daughter, Violet.
“Believe it or not, the hours are better in the restaurant business,” he said.
And Stamford, where he began managing F.I.S.H. soon after it opened four years ago, is where he made his mark keeping hungry diners full of the restaurant’s well-regarded seafood.
The restaurant, according to a 2014 New York Times review, proved false the claim “that there were no good seafood restaurants in Fairfield County.”
“In each case the presentations complemented the simple wonder of the seafood itself. My tuna came in rare, wondrously buttery slices resting on a bed of mashed potatoes,” Times’ Connecticut food critic Patricia Brooks wrote. “The mahogany-burnished scallops sat saucily upright with melt-in-the-mouth flavor, on a couch of garlicky sautéed spinach. The grilled salmon, perfectly undercooked as requested, was accompanied by spinach.”
While not managing seafood slingers, Vergilis kept in touch with old bandmates and industry insiders, but didn’t play, he said. He and Violet spent so much time backstage at shows, he said, that his young daughter thinks the privilege comes with the ticket price.
But his second career in Stamford paid off. He became a part owner of F.I.S.H. earlier this year, but couldn’t resist a throwback when he recently heard former bandmate Sean Austin’s new record. He reached out, he said, and pitched Alive@Five in an effort to get back in the groove.
Austin, likely more known for his work hunting demons on Destination America’s “The Demon Files,” signed on, so all Vergilis had to do was find the rest of the band.
“To each his own — (Austin) is the real deal,” Vergilis said. “I hand picked the best musicians that I played with and here we are.”
The Sean Austin Band, with its anthemic rock, rocked the stage Thursday, and, for the first time live, Violet got to see her father play.
“She gets to see Daddy on stage,” Vergilis said.
@stamfordadvocate.com; 203-964-2263; @bglytton