Rock and Roll Ice Cream Scoopers

rancatore may4 scoopers.jpg

Photo by t-bet/FlickrCC

Toscanini's has had all sorts of workers from all sorts of places. A persistent group of scoopers have been musicians--usually rockers. Early in our history there was a glorious moment when we had lots of oversized women rowers from Boston University, but every year we have a scrawny pop star in the waiting.

Matt Henderson was in two famous hardcore bands: Agnostic Front and Madball. He played for half a million people in Holland and did a tour of South American soccer stadiums. At age 25, he told me that he thought he was getting too old for the hardcore scene. I was walking through Berlin when I peeled a poster off the Berlin Wall for his band. They were appearing at a German club called The Bronx. Madball couldn't tour when their lead singer was in jail.

Brian Fair was also in two bands: Shadows Fall and Overcast. I think Brian was president of his high school class but he had shoulder length hair and a voice from the worst part of hell. He used to do telephone interviews with Japanese magazines while he was making ice cream. He was a good ice cream maker. He had the phone cradled between his cheek and shoulder while he reeled off cliches, "We miss Japan and can't wait to get back and see our fans. We're keepin' it real."

One worker was in a sort of hardcore punk band. He may have previously been a paratrooper. Sadly, he died after some police pulled him over. He had just bought a lot of drugs and swallowed them. He died in jail.

Nick told Rauol Robert, "There is no future in metal music." Rauol said, "But I love metal." Nick shook his head and repeated, "There is no future for metal."

One employee looked a lot like Billie Joe of Green Day, but actually seemed like the pudgy guy from The Clash. Of course, The Clash did not have a pudgy guy but this musician was waiting for the band's reunion tour.

Both halves of The Dresden Dolls worked at the store. Vocalist Amanda Palmer has always been a star in her own head, and Brian Viglione, the band's drummer was not well-suited for everyday life. He listened to a wider variety of music than anyone who ever worked in the store.

Mike from The Dead Trees, who describe their music as "Folk/Rock/Grime/Americana," had the most mature take on the music business. He was also the best pint packer who ever worked in the store. His band moved to Portland, Oregon, to facilitate their rise to stardom.

Nick Brannigan is a quiet redhead who made ice cream and also drummed for the band Bain. I was watching a high school film noir about drug dealing in California when one of the characters came onscreen wearing a Bain t-shirt.

Right now we have our own American Idol grouping. Martin Gonzalez knows something about all music. Michigan's Andy Burri makes ice cream and won the recent Rock and Roll Ruckus. Jarrod Annis and Nick Maestri lead Electric Music.

This year, Nick Maestri surprised everyone by selling two songs to television, largely based on Facebook exposure. One was sold to the cable show Weeds and was about driving around the suburbs, stoned. The other song was about child molesting.

Nick has been a source of youthful wisdom. When he was negotiating for the sale of his song he said, "Don't fuck with me. I'm a music business major."

He also told 17-year-old Rauol Robert that "there is no future in metal music." Rauol hung his head and said, "But I love metal." Nick simply shook his head and repeated, "There is no future for metal."

Toscanini's greatest rock star was Amy Carpenter, who was an occasional member of Toxic Narcotic. TN, as the group's fans called it, had a big hit with "If Silence Equals Death, Shut up and Die." But they stopped playing the song when they realized some fans thought it was a homophobic anthem. It was not. Amy looked like the comic book character, Tank Girl, or Tank Girl looked like Amy Carpenter.

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Gus Rancatore is the co-founder of Toscanini, the Cambridge-based shop that The New York Times said makes "the best ice cream in the world." Learn more at

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