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Towson University

By Jamie Wozny
For BaltimoreStories.com

Their pants are around their ankles in public and no one is complaining. Their fingers move at rapid speed on their instruments to produce music that pleases. Their constant smiles reflect their motto, “We're all about fun.” The crowd loves it.

LVT, a Baltimore band, does what it wants at shows. On occasion to get a laugh out of the crowd they pull their pants down to expose their boxers while playing. “We love to get the crowd excited because it's more fun that way. I mean, you've got to be funny and spontaneous,” said band member Chris “Tree” Richardson.

LVT's Louie Verga and Chris “Tree” Richardson attend Towson University. Tree, as all his friends call him, plays the piano and sings backup vocals. During shows he uses a keyboard since it's portable. Verga plays acoustic guitar and sings lead vocals.

They are considered an acoustic rock band. Their sound could be compared to Ryan Cabrera, Howie Day or Switch Foot. Tree explains LVT's sound in an unusual way. “Take a Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds set and replace Tim with a piano,” Tree said.

According to their Web site, “LVT's sound is rich and complete, yet intimate enough to play smaller venues.”

LVT thrives on the fact that it is a two-man band on the East Coast. Two-man bands are more popular on the West Coast. Joe Richardson, the band's manager, was worried about the fact that they were a two-man band when they were getting started in May 2004.

“Many venues don't hire two-man bands around Baltimore because it's just not popular enough,” Richardson said. This is one of LVT's biggest challenges. They have to prove they can stand on their own without a drummer. They say that they need to work even harder to make good music and impress audiences since they are short one instrument.

Kirk Mavroulis, a Towson University finance major, is a big fan of LVT. “The thing I like about LVT is the way they use the piano in the music. It's like it replaces a lead guitar, which is something you don't hear too much,” Mavroulis said.

Verga and Tree haven't always played together. Verga played solo for three years before he met Tree at one of his shows at Della Rose's in Baltimore. Verga has been playing since the age of 12 and Tree since the age of 13. They are both self taught.

Although they are a fairly new band, they are starting to make a name for themselves around town. This cover band that now has six originals and 50 covers has been together for almost one year. Their CD entitled "LVT-Live" was produced by them in 2004. They sell the CD at their shows. Each CD costs $5. “We feel that only selling our CD at the shows makes more people come out to see us. They are more curious about our sound,” Verga said. A new CD is slowly being written and recorded.

Financially, they support themselves. Richardson, the band manager, supports them as well. “We actually make a lot of profit back because they get paid very well at their shows,” Richardson said.

Since they've united, their acoustic style has led them to perform at places such as the Green Turtle in Towson, Della Rose's in Baltimore, Charles Village Pub in Towson, The Barn in Parkville and Timbre Creek in Kingsville. LVT performs 10 to 15 times a month on average.

They recently played at the Harryman House in Reisterstown. This proved to be disastrous. “Harryman House sucked because they booked us for two shows, both on Ravens game nights, so they basically screwed us, no crowd, no chance,” Tree said.

Surprisingly, LVT seldom practices. “We are lucky to practice twice a month. We basically practice at shows,” Tree said.

“When we do get the chance to practice we write new songs, jam out new covers and sometimes drink and goof off,” Verga said.

They both write originals at practice and sometimes on their own. “My inspiration comes from my ability to be able to share songs I write with people. Whenever we write a song, we instantly start playing them at shows. To see people groove, or even try to sing along is the inspiration,” Tree said.

“The ideas come from experiences. But, most of the time I'll just pick up the guitar and I will start with a riff. The words will sometimes write themselves. Or I could be like, I want to write a song about so and so, but when I do that, it's forced. The best way is to pick up an instrument and just start singing whatever comes to your head, jot down some notes and then you have a song,” Verga said.

LVT thinks its practicing techniques are a bit out of the ordinary. “We never practice a song once it's already learned. If a change needs to be made to it we just talk about how we want it different. The basics of the song are learned in practice but the real exploration comes at the show, playing off of each other, playing to the crowd, just really experimenting,” Tree said.

Fellow musician Joey Janko said, “As a fellow musician being around the music scene for quite some time now, I would see LVT as a duo that blends rich harmonies with that of the freestyle genre. At anytime during a song both Louie and Tree will bust out into solos that match each other's technical and freestyle types of playing. This is what makes LVT different from the rest.”

When they feel frustrated by the challenges, LVT remind themselves they have the responsibility to entertain. Tree and Verga play so often at many of the same bars that they constantly need to have new songs ready to go. They say that they don't want to let their audiences down.

Currently, LVT is focused on exploring new places to play. Their challenge is the bar scene. Verga said, “It's hard being noticed as a credible original band at a bar. Surprisingly, a great number of people enjoy our music more than covers, and a lot of them know our songs word for word. But you always have those people who want to hear Lynard Skynard.”

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