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Dream Theater Remembers its Roots During Hall of Fame Induction

Without Long Island, Dream Theater would not be Dream Theater.

That was the overwhelming sentiment of co-founder and guitarist John Petrucci, as the progressive metal band was inducted this week into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame, during a standing room-only ceremony at the famed Oheka Castle in Huntington, N.Y.

Petrucci, who was joined at the event by fellow co-founder and soft-spoken bassist John Myung, reminisced about the band's early days as Long Island teens with dreams of making it big in the 1980s. The pair graduated from King Park High School in 1985, along with original keyboardist Kevin Moore. The band's other native Long Islanders are current keyboardist Jordan Rudess, a native of Great Neck, and ex-drummer Mike Portnoy, a Long Beach native who left the band in September after 25 years behind the kit.

"Both of us grew up a few towns east of here in Kings Park, on the North Shore, and the environment we grew up in had a lot to do with the musicians we would be become," Petrucci said of himself and Myung. "It was a very rich musical environment growing up in suburban Long Island. There were tons of battle of the bands. We played backyard parties all the time. It helped us cultivate our music and develop our craft."

During his roughly seven-minute acceptance speech, Petrucci recalled a childhood that was shaped by the people and places the band encountered in Long Island's rock scene. The band spent years practicing and rehearsing in "some funky places," he said, ranging from a pork store in Rockville Centre that always smelled like ground sirloin and garlic, to a hair salon in Huntington that let the group use its basement as a rehearsal space.

Petrucci also recalled transporting amplifiers and guitars from house to house using shopping carts and listening each Sunday night to "Fingers Metal Shop," a weekly hard rock and heavy metal show that was broadcast on WBAB 102.3 FM, which played influential bands ranging from Iron Maiden to Yes to Metallica.

"There was so much great music for us to be influenced by," the guitarist said. "I think if we grew up somewhere else in the country we might not have the same influences of music that we heard on the radio. All that stuff as young musicians just soaked into us and that would be a big part of the style of music that we would eventually write."

One of Petrucci's fondest memories was hearing Dream Theater's music played for the first time on WBAB by the man known as "Fingers," who was in attendance as a presenter and introduced the band. During his speech, Fingers told the audience that the first time he heard of Dream Theater was when three neighborhood kids banged on his front door in the early morning hours one day waving "a piece of crap cassette."

"They said, 'it's Majesty,'" said Fingers, referring to Dream Theater's first moniker. "So I check it out and I remember listening to it and thinking 'wow' how cool this sound is, and there's no voice. It's all music. You've got technical prowess, amazing timing, profound musicianship and a heap of honesty. That was one thing that really touched me about this band -- their writing was so honest."

Fingers also went on to crack a few playful jokes at the band's expense, noting that "their career has been long, but their songs are even longer." And regarding Myung, Fingers said, "he's considered the quiet one, and you'll know that if you try to talk to him tonight. If you have a hearing aid, turn it up now."

In post-ceremony chats with fans, Petrucci declined to elaborate on the band's drummer vacancy, noting only that fans should expect an announcement "very soon." He added that Portnoy's departure was a "major shock and heartbreak" for Dream Theater, but the band is looking to the future positively. Petrucci also credited Dream Theater's "incredible fans" for the group's continued success, including sales of more than 2.1 million albums in the United States and more than 10 million records worldwide.

"Playing the kind of music that we play, [with] 20-minute songs and concept albums about reincarnation, there's no way a band from Long Island with songs called 'Metropolis Pt. 1: The Miracle and the Sleeper' would be able to make it without our fans."

Other notable inductees included rock musician Lou Reed, 1960s all-women pop group The Shangri-Las, avant-garde composer John Zorn, and hip-hop duo Eric B. & Rakim. Performers included Eric B. & Rakim, 1960s rocker Al Kooper, and Eddie Money, who closed the show with his 1977 song, "Two Tickets to Paradise."

- Michael R. Ebert

When not writing for The Breakdown Room, Michael R. Ebert is a reporter for Newsday, a daily newspaper on Long Island.

Dream Theater: Long Island Music Hall of Fame Induction - Nov. 16, 2010

From left to right: John Myung, "Fingers," and John Petrucci.
(Lou Abbatepaolo/Nov. 16, 2010)

Photo courtesy of the Long Island Music Hall of Fame.

Copyright 2010, Brian Heaton. All Rights Reserved.