BY ETHAN FORMAN
---- — DANVERS — After their Danversport neighborhood was left smoldering and in ruins from a paint and ink plant blast on Nov. 22, 2006, a couple of guitarists began to talk music.
Neighbors Mark Lettich, 62, and John Lantych, 64, formed an impromptu band to play a summer block party in 2008 that signaled the neighborhood was coming back from the devastation.
“John and I got together with a couple of his (relatives) and just played 10 to 12 songs,” Lettich said. They played standard rock tunes, said Lettich, who plays an acoustic electric guitar.
That was how the band The Riverside Project started. The group took the stage at Murphy’s pub in Salem last night — the seventh anniversary of the blast.
“What started out as a Sunday, casual get-together evolved,” Lettich said.
Lantych said he always knew Lettich played guitar, but it wasn’t until they began to chat at weekly suppers for displaced families at the Maple Street Congregational Church that it clicked. They had been living in rented homes until their homes could be rebuilt.
“Mark and I just started talking about music,” Lantych said. He found Lettich to be “an amazing musician.” Though they have different styles, they blend nicely, Lantych said. They got together and played, then decided to play the block party with Lantych’s brother-in-law, Bobby Cardoza, on guitar and his son, Joe Cardoza, on guitar and bass.
They began to jam on Sundays and various friends and musicians would sit in. Eventually they began to play at open mike nights.
This year, the band has been performing regularly, about once a month.
“We do this for fun. We know that we are not 20 years old, there’s no big illusions,” Lantych said. “The other side of this is this a great expression of who we are.”
There have been different band members, but the lineup now includes, in addition to Lettich and Lantych, Lantych’s longtime friend, bassist and lead vocalist Mel Howarth of Gloucester; vocalist and percussionist Michelle Soreff-LeFrancois of Peabody and drummer Mickey Olivo of Gloucester and Marlborough.
Lantych even wrote a song about what he saw when he looked out of his kitchen window after the blast — a “wall of flame.” The lyrics include the phrase, “A wall of flame that reached to eternity.” It’s a song he said is too painful to play. A vintage bass guitar he owns still has marks from where flying glass struck it.
“In some ways it’s like a million years ago, but in some ways, it’s like yesterday,” said Lettich of the blast.
Added Lantych, “That night was surreal, but in retrospect, now looking back on it ... I see it as everyday life. It just happened to happen.”
Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @DanverSalemNews.