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The “Kissed by a Prince” crew takes the Bay Street stage tomorrow night. (Photo courtesy of Bay Street Theater)

Prince Rogers Nelson — or just Prince, to you, us and everyone else in the world — may have left the building one sad day in April eight years ago (and a little too early at that), but his energetic, iconic, Grammy-winning music might last forever. And Mike Mazzaraco is keen to help push that legacy onward. 

There are still a few tickets available for tomorrow night’s 8 p.m. “Kissed By a Prince” tribute show at Bay Street Theater starring Mazzaraco on guitar, bassist (and fellow Talkhouse sound engineer) Klyph Black, drummer Ellis Homes III, keyboardist Sean Willis, percussionist Bopa King Carré and lead vocalist Dawnette Darden (shout-out to the HooDoo Loungers!), which is shaping up to be another epic show for Mazzaraco and his fellow Revolution-ists.

Mazzaraco is a passionate music pro. He’s spent his entire adult life in music — playing and performing as a guitarist himself and, for the last 18 years, ensuring perfect audio experiences as the head sound engineer for Amagansett’s iconic Stephen Talkhouse. But it was a chance shuffle of songs on his phone that had “Purple Rain” take on a much larger role in his life than he ever could have imagined.

We sat down with the purveyor of purple tunes to hear just how this all got started — and, you know, to take the opportunity to talk about one of the greatest pop music icons and musicians of the modern world. Here’s what Mazz had to say.

SOUTHFORKER: So, why Prince?

MIKE MAZZARACO: One of the beautiful things about Prince is how celebrated his music was when he was alive. I used to play in and run and open mic night at the Talkhouse and I was always looking for songs to play with bands; things that are easy to jam around with other musicians. This was about 15 or 20 years ago — I was shuffling songs on my phone and “Purple Rain” came on – and I was like, oh, we have to do this! I was listening to a lot of [Texas blues and rock musician] Stevie Ray Vaughan at the time, so me and my bandmates did it Stevie Ray Vaughan-style. Prince was still alive then, and we just started playing “Purple Rain” as this go-to song and got associated with it.

SF: Who was in the original group?

MM: It was primarily me and Klyph Black and another engineer from the Talkhouse, Kevin Santacroce, who unfortunately will be out of town for [tomorrow night’s performance] at Bay Street. 

SF: When did you organize the first tribute show?

MM: When Prince passed away in 2016, I suggested putting together some kind of tribute show at the Talkhouse. I pulled in Dawnette, who does lead vocals for the HooDoo Loungers. I’ve worked dozens and dozens of shows with her and I know she’s one of the few people who has at least half a dozen Prince songs in her repertoire. I can do a decent “Purple Rain” but we needed heavy artillery to help with those vocals.

Mike Mazz taking a “Purple Rain” solo. (Photo courtesy of Mike Mazzaraco)

SF: When did you move the whole purple shebang to Bay Street?

MM: Four years after that first tribute show, we decided to do it again, and put together the idea for resurging it at Bay Street. I even bought a special guitar for it. I was at Guitar Center looking for an effects pedal and there was this beautiful purple Telecaster, but then I had to wait three more years before I got to play it on stage because the show was cancelled due to Covid. Last year, 2023, was when we finally got to perform that show.

SF: Is there a part of Prince’s catalogue you’re going to lean more heavily into, or is it all over the place?

MM: You can go in so many different directions; you could really make a career of copying off his music because, man, there is so much of his work. For our purposes, I stick straight to the hits, with a couple of curve balls of other musicians who’ve passed, like George Michael.  

SF: What George Michael do you do?

MM: “One More Try” — there’s so much emotion in that song. When we did it, I actually had everyone singing along with me. That was one of the most powerful musical moments of my life. 

SF: What do you love about doing this?

MM: It’s a labor of love. The amount of work it takes to pay the proper respect to the music that it deserves is a lot of rehearsals. We had close to 12 for the 2023 show, just because there are so many nuances to Prince’s music. The dance floor was definitely packed! We even got some standing ovations.

SF: What speaks to you about Prince’s music?

MM: He has character, just as shy as he was bold. There are parts of him that are just so raunchy and raw but at the same time he was this timid gentle person and you can hear it in his music. And while he didn’t go around talking as a self-proclaimed guitar hero, he was one of baddest guitar players that ever walked the earth. 

Tickets for tomorrow night’s “Kissed by a Prince” tribute show are $37 and can be purchased here.