Big in Munich isn’t really big in Munich at all. In fact, the group has got quite the following in Philadelphia instead.
However, this ‘70s and ‘80s rock cover band made up of people who work in local food businesses is getting ready for its last show for the time being during the upcoming Philly Beer Week.
Being an industry band, chefs Jeremy Nolen of Brauhaus Schmitz and Wursthaus Schmitz and Ben Puchowitz of Cheu Noodle Bar and Matyson all play guitar. Gregg Gordon, server at Johnny Brenda’s and North Third, is the vocalist and Guy Juravich, manager and server at Brauhaus, is on drums.
Nolen said the idea for creating a band came to him during last year’s Philly Beer Week when Brauhaus needed to come up with events to entertain attendees.
Nolen’s original plan was to create a band made up of all chefs, but said he knew they had to make an exception for Gordon and Juravich to join the rest of the group.
Big in Munich made its debut with classic rock hits, which turned out to be a success with a crowd of at least 75 people packed into the back room of Brauhaus. For a band that was intentionally created for a small event, it has gone on to play ‘80s rock and metal during Oktoberfest and Karneval, and has also been invited to Philadelphia magazine’s Philly Cooks event.
“It all started as, not a joke, but just a one time thing and it turned into where we’re getting interviews for Philadelphia magazine and we’re playing for [its] party,” Nolen said. “It was a lot of fun and it was just something to get us to play again.”
The ability to get back on stage in front of a microphone and sing again was one of Gordon’s key benefits for becoming involved with this band, he said.
Gordon attended the University of the Arts to get his bachelor of fine arts in musical theater. Eventually, he landed his first serious gig singing for a band called Dog and Pony. After a year, though, he and the bass player were let go and Gordon moved to California for five years.
Once he came back to Philadelphia, Nolen reached out to him for the project and now, Gordon feels more comfortable singing again.
“Big in Munich has been a huge jump-off in rebuilding my confidence and finding what my voice is again,” Gordon said. “When we get together and have fun, it’s really special and it’s a really good time.”
Although the combination of the food and music scenes may seem unconventional, many chefs, servers and bartenders in the local food business have recorded albums and gone on tour.
Nolen himself has years of playing professionally on the road, and Juravich is a professional studio drummer.
While Big in Munich has no plans to write music or hit it big, members said they can understand the reasons as to why the music and food businesses can relate to each other.
“[Cooking] is like a passion,” Nolen said. “There’s a lot more passion involved and a lot more creativity, which I think definitely translates into the music side of it.”
“Playing in a band is just a kind of release,” Gordon said. “Play out, have a good time and not worry about anything else that night. We try to make the show fun and that goes hand-in-hand with even the food you’re creating or the service, when you’re trying to give an experience to someone while they’re there.”
With fists in the air and heads banging, complete with wigs and leather pants, the experience Big in Munich gives is far from a typical restaurant experience.
Due to everyone’s hectic schedules in the upcoming months, like Nolen opening his new restaurant, Whetstone, as well as Puchowitz’s newest restaurant, the band is taking an extended hiatus.
“It’s awesome working with a bunch of restaurant guys where we all know what’s going on and how our days are going and we can all relate, so it’s a lot of fun,” Gordon said.
Albert Hong can be reached at email@example.com.