Mario Licciardi is a rock ‘n’ roll beast. The 38-year-old musician, songwriter and guitar teacher will perform an energetic 12 hours of rock ‘n’ roll Oct. 19 at McGonigal’s Pub in Barrington.
Licciardi will crunch, riff and wail on acoustic and electric guitars while raising funds for Harmony, Hope and Healing, a Chicago organization that provides music lessons and music therapy for battered women and underprivileged youths.
The Barrington musician is stoked to present a memorable rock ‘n’ roll show with original tunes, reinvented British pop tunes and many extended jams. Licciardi will perform all afternoon and evening with students, friends and professional musicians.
Over the past 20 years, Licciardi, whose nickname is “Mars,” has played in punk, alternative and rock bands. He currently performs the songs of Kool and the Gang, Aretha Franklin and Michael Jackson in his own Motown-inspired, soul band.
Licciardi earned the money for his first guitar when he was 14 years old Christmas caroling in the Elmwood Park neighborhood where he grew up. “I am blessed to make a living doing something I love,” he said. “There’s a tattoo on my back that says, ‘Saved by Rock ‘n’ Roll.’”
As a young man, Licciardi learned to play the guitar, spending time with other musicians. During his teenage years, he practically lived in record stores.
“It’s funny, but I take a really clumsy approach to playing the guitar,” he said. “I like watching great guitar players. I even tell my students, it’s great you’re learning with me, but you need to get out with bands and ‘jam.’ I learn from everyone, even my students.”
Licciardi’s eclectic influences include Peter Gabriel, Pete Townsend, Neil Young and Jeff Beck. He also admires emotional singers like Lou Rawls and Elvis Costello.
“I’m a big British pop fan,” Licciardi said. “I do songs by the Beatles, the Kinks and the Who.”
Licciardi also enjoys writing original tunes. “I like telling a story with a lyric and making the instrument work with the lyrics,” he said. “I usually come in with a lyric locked in my head before I work out the melody. I slave over the lyrics. I will rewrite four pages of lyrics for one song.”
In this marathon concert, Licciardi will perform with 68 musicians.
“I think this event has to be ‘extreme’ to be a marathon,” he remarked. “There is no rehearsing for a show like this. It is raw. You never know who is going to show up.”
Licciardi is hosting the fundraising concert because he feels it’s important to use music to lift others in distress. In his Barrington-based Rock ‘n’ Roll 101 program, Licciardi has taught 40,000 guitar lessons.
One music lesson was particularly memorable for Licciardi. An adult student surprised Licciardi when he showed up for a guitar lesson right after a close friend had died. The student told Licciardi if he did not have his music, he would have fallen apart. Licciardi said this experience convinced him music can transform people’s lives.
By supporting the therapeutic work of Harmony, Hope and Healing, the veteran musician will also provide inspiration for young guitar players. Licciardi wishes to spread his passion for rock ‘n’ roll.
“I like to think a little outside the box,” he said. “I like to take a note and bend it out of key. I like not knowing what’s gonna happen. If you really want to master your craft, you have to jump out of your comfort zone.”