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Greg Prince and Jason Fry
Faith and Fear in Flushing made its debut on Feb. 16, 2005, the brainchild of two longtime friends and lifelong Met fans.

Greg Prince discovered the Mets when he was 6, during the magical summer of 1969. He is a Long Island-based writer, editor and communications consultant. Contact him here.

Jason Fry is a Brooklyn writer whose first memories include his mom leaping up and down cheering for Rusty Staub. Check out his other writing here.

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Use Your Illusion

During one of the many, many, many one-run losses that have defined the blur of futility that has smothered the illusion of a pennant race in these parts, I asked my friend of nearly 30 years Rob Emproto how things were going with his band. It’s not really “his” band, but it’s not like I know anybody else in Illusion: Tribute to Women Who Rock! That’s the band’s name. They’re set up sort of like classic Heart, with a couple of ladies vocalizing powerfully up front and a few guys jamming in support — though Heart is somehow not among the many, many, many fine acts whose music they cover. Rob, their bassist, had posted a couple of notices of upcoming performances on Facebook since joining Illusion a year earlier, all of them way the hell out in Suffolk County, a geographic framing reflecting my Nassau County view of the world. Hey, I said, if you ever play closer to where I live, I’ll definitely come see you.

They were, in fact, about to make their Near Me debut, on Saturday night, September 18. Near Enough, anyway. I knew the general area if not the venue. It’s roughly between where I live and where I grew up, a span constituting not too many miles. I knew I could reach it by relatively short drive. Few drives, however, no matter how short on the odometer, come at me without stress. Because the vicinity was familiar, I knew the trip would include certain stretches of road that inevitably have me gripping the steering wheel with anxiety. I’ve been gripped by driving anxiety almost as long as I’ve known Rob, though I don’t blame him.

Because summer is going the way of a certain baseball team’s postseason chances, I understood it would be twilight as I journeyed to the site, and I really don’t love driving at twilight. I was a little concerned with the idea of sitting inside somewhere with other people in 2021. Not that much (that’s what the vaccine is for), but a little (that’s what the variant is for). Also, though the band is what you’d call mature, it’s still ROCK ‘N’ ROLL! When I was 18, I found being inside a club listening to loud music a little offputting. I’m 58. I haven’t done it in ages. I couldn’t imagine it having become “my scene” in absentia. And I’d be doing it on my own, since Stephanie, despite her fondness for Rob and the catalogues into which Illusion delves, prefers lower volumes. All things being equal, I prefer quiet Saturday evenings at home with my wife. I’m not that outgoing, and I’m not much for going out

So there was a quite a bit that could have held me back from going to see my friend of nearly 30 years Rob Emproto play in his band. But the one thing that didn’t was the idea that I’d mostly miss watching the Mets play the Phillies. It occurred to me, but I brushed it aside as a non-concern. For one night, I chose watching Rob play the bass. Besides, as long as I heard a little Mets on the way there and (knowing how long games run) on the way back, I decided I’d get the gist.

I wound up getting the gist all over me. A few hopefully not rude glances at my phone between songs and a longer glare between sets told me what I knew in advance: that by missing the Mets, I wasn’t going to be missing anything.

En route, I heard Ed Coleman suggest Carlos Carrasco would be all right if he could avoid giving up a first-inning home run. Two batters in, Carlos Carrasco gave up a first-inning home run, to Jean Segura. It was 1-0 when I parked on a side street. It was 2-0 by the first Linda Ronstadt cover, courtesy of Segura continuing to pay tribute to Pat Burrell; Met-killers indeed travel to the beat of a different drum. Intermission closed on a Bryce Harper two-run double that made it 5-1 in the seventh and the Phillies out of all but theoretical reach.

Illusion’s performance was a real money’s worth affair, starting a little after eight and lasting past 10:30, with the sense that if they’d been permitted, they would have kept going. The game, whose first Fox pitch was thrown in the neighborhood of 7:15, was still in sludgy progress as I returned to my car. Brandon Nimmo homered to create the illusion of a close contest as I pulled away. Jeurys Familia came on to pitch several blocks later. Both Ed and guest analyst Terry Collins pronounced the fallen closer’s first name “Juhroose”. He’s still Jay-uh-reese to me.

Familia threw a scoreless eighth. Perhaps the presence of his former manager inspired Jeurys to echo his former effectiveness. Neither Collins nor Coleman nor a Fireworks Night crowd of better than 33,000 inspired the Mets to complete a comeback from down 5-3 to the Phillies, a score that didn’t tick final until I was home — time of game, 3:35. Nobody at Citi Field had a better time than those of us who gathered to watch and hear Illusion. The band was hot. Their selections were inspired. They covered every era within their oeuvre, from Jefferson Airplane in the 1960s to Elle King in the 2010s. They did my favorite Pat Benatar number, “All Fired Up,” particular justice. Benatar’s from Suffolk. We were in Nassau. It was a transcendent Long Island Women Who Rock! moment.

Rob was a revelation. I’d never heard him play before. I’d never heard him sing before. He stepped up for a few lines of dueting via the Tom Petty portions of “Stop Dragging My Heart Around”. Ohmigod, Rob sings! He did a little spontaneous stage banter as well. It didn’t make him the Brandon Nimmo of the band, exactly, but he projected a genuinely warm presence. I don’t mean to sound shocked, because Rob is a genuinely warm person, but he’s usually content to cast a shadowy figure. It’s an essential part of my friend the bassist’s charm, like the Nimmo smile is part of Brandon’s.

I saw a fantastic show Saturday night. Nothing else of consequence was missed.

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