They started out just like most other bands — first just hanging out and partying, then playing casual jam sessions.
Except there was one major difference: Three of the members were finishing their medical residencies at Phoenix Children’s Hospital.
That’s Champagne Tap for you. The Scottsdale band, which has been together for two years, consists of three physicians and two computer programmers.
There’s Matt Barcellona, a pediatrician and lead vocalist, also known for his tambourine playing. He is one of the band’s founders.
Greg White is a pediatric orthopedic surgeon and bass player. White had been playing in another band when Barcellona asked him to join Champagne Tap.
Erik Ramnath is an internist and guitar player, and another founding member. Then there’s the computer programers. Erik Ramnath’s brother Albert plays guitar; and Odie Muñoz, who goes by “O.G.O.D.,” drums, sings and provides comic relief.
The band’s name is a play on the medical term spinal tap — the process in which a doctor inserts a needle to draw fluid off the spine. If a spinal tap comes back showing no blood, it’s called a champagne tap. The name also pays tribute the fictional heavy metal band Spinal Tap, featured in a 1984 mockumentary film.
Although they are known for being a “cover band,” Champagne Tap has stitched together some original material as well.
“Champagne Tap is definitely more of a party band and we play what people want to hear. We mix in one Spinal-Tappish song that I wrote and we’re working on another one,” White said.
Their attire while on stage would lead people to believe they’re regular hard rockers.
“I’ve never played in scrubs or worn a stethoscope or anything like that on stage. Matt likes to wear his white coat with cutoff sleeves and has props that signify that he might be in the medical profession. He’s the king of the props. He has wigs and different outfits that he wears,” White said.
They play just about anything within the rock genre, including Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith and Sublime tunes.
The band played its first gig last year at Sugar Daddy’s, a Scottsdale bar. The event turned out to be an experience none of the members will forget.
“We played a work happy hour, so it was pretty much just our friends. Doctors, residents and nurses came out because they were curious. By the end, everyone was going nuts, dancing and just rocking out with us,” Barcellona said.
Since then, Champagne Tap has grown in popularity, though fellow physicians and colleagues are still well-represented at their performances.
Jeremiah McCullah, assistant general manager at Sugar Daddy’s, said Champagne Tap was well received by the crowd.
Champagne Tap also had a positive and exhilarating experience at another Scottsdale venue.
“We played at Martini Ranch one time, and by the end of the night, the place was filled with people we didn’t know — and they were just going crazy,” said Barcellona.
The band has raised and donated more than $5,000 to charity. Barcellona said the band hopes to raise money for specific people, not just for major organizations.
“It makes us excited that we can provide outlets for other people that come and see us play, and we’re able to do it for a good cause,” Barcellona said.
The band’s next performance is on Oct. 5 at Alice Cooperstown in downtown Phoenix.
They will be raising money for the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, an organization that supports breast cancer research.
White offers up this advice to workaholics: “Don’t give up doing what you like to do just because you’re a doctor or lawyer or anything else. You can do both things. You can have fun. You don’t have to play golf, you can rock ‘n’ roll.”