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Last LFO member: Pop 2000 tour with O-Town and others, coming to Easton, is tribute to fallen friends

Allentown Morning Call logo Allentown Morning Call 12/3/2019 By John J. Moser, The Morning Call (Allentown, Pa.)

When L.F.O. — the hitmaking boy band trio from the late 1990s — went on tour for the last time in 2017, it was without one of its three founding members, Rich Cronin, who had died in 2010 after an extended battle of leukemia.

And just a year later, another L.F.O. member, Devin Lima, succumbed to cancer. That left Brad Fischetti as the sole surviving member of the group, which had a 1999 platinum self-titled debut album and Top 10 hits “Summer Girls” and “Girl on TV.”

Fischetti says it was the last time he could foresee playing L.F.O.'s music live.

But now Fischetti is getting another chance.

He’s the host of the Pop 2000 Tour concert show that stops at 6:30 p.m. Saturday at Easton’s OneCenterSquare. The show includes former teen pop stars Ryan Cabrera, Aaron Carter and boy band O-Town, whom Fischetti says he’ll join for a medley of L.F.O. songs.

“It was hard enough to go out there without Rich, but Devin and I, we were best friends and we spent countless hours together, so we felt good to get out there and honor Rich,” Fischetti, 44, says in a recent call from his home near Orlando, Florida, where he’s home with his five children.

“But without one of those guys, I’m just not interested in doing that by myself. And people say, ‘Oh! You should have auditions and replace them.’ I’m, like, ‘No, that doesn’t honor them to replace them.’ And further, you can’t. … We spent two decades together — there’s a certain camaraderie you form together. You can’t replace that overnight.”

But he says, "I like the idea of these Pop 2000 shows, because I’m not out there telling people, ‘Well, I’m just going to do it without them.’”

Fischetti says the opportunity came because he and O-Town have the same agent, Matt Rafal, and his agency helped put together the Pop 2000 tour. He said L.F.O. played with Aaron Carter “way back when — actually overseas when he was just a little guy.”

“But the O-Towns we’ve known for a long time — you know, they’re friends of ours and good dudes. And I’m looking forward to having an opportunity to see those guys again and spend a little time on the road together.

“This was an opportunity that I didn’t expect but that I’m very comfortable with as a way to continue the legacy of L.F.O., and then have an opportunity to honor my brothers Rich and Devin.”

L.F.O. arose from the same Massachusetts music scene that had produced prototypical boy band New Kids On the Block in the 1980s, following on the heels of the period’s biggest boy bands, 'NSync and Backstreet Boys.

But L.F.O. had a different edge — incorporating hip-hop and rapped segments into its songs.

By the time L.F.O. released its second album, “Life is Good,” in 2001, the boy band craze had largely run its course. And after one more hit — the Top 40 hit “Every Other Time,” the group in 2002 announced a “hiatus — which in boy band talk is we broke up," Fischetti says.

Cronin and Lima did smaller solo projects — Cronin eventually showed up on “Mission Man Band,” a VH1 reality series that in 2007 tried to combine members of L.F.O., 'NSync, 98 Degrees and Color Me Badd in a new group.

Fischetti went behind the scenes — starting a record label, One Eleven Records, which he continues to run through the Warner Music Group.

But after Cronin’s battle with leukemia, L.F.O. reunited for a short tour in 2009 that brought the group to Allentown’s former Crocodile Rock Cafe.

Cronin "had lot of trouble getting around in those days. We devoted the entire back of the bus to him so he could just sort of relax back there, sleep late. And then we’d help him get dressed, and then we’d help him get to the stage sometimes. There was on time we had to, like, literally carry him on stage.

“But once he got on the stage, he sort of found his position behind the mic and rocked the mic. That’s was Rich Cronin — he was a performer. So he would perform to the end. I respect that about him.”

But within a year after the tour, Cronin relapsed and died.

“Rich had obviously battled cancer for a long time,” Fischetti says. "Devin and I were not aware he was on his death bed.

"I texted him on his birthday and he didn’t respond. And I texted him again, maybe a week later, saying, ‘Hey, man, I know you’re having trouble getting on your feet, and I know if there’s any way to get you on your feet, it’s to play some shows. So why don’t we schedule some more shows? And he didn’t respond to that.

“And then a few days later, I got word that he died. And it’s hard to describe what that feeling was like. It’s hard to imagine somebody so full of life and so young gone. I think probably the worst thing was just seeing the pain of his family — specifically his mom. For a mother to have to bury a child just isn’t right.”

Fischetti says he busied himself with the record label, even releasing Lima’s solo album — “a really cool record,” Fischetti says.

Fischetti says he also became active in his church. "So I have an opportunity to serve God and minister to his people every weekend with music, and in other ways, too. So I kept busy — that’s for sure.”

Continuing to work on music with Lima led them to again re-form L.F.O. in 2017, and even to record the group’s first new music in more than 15 years, a song called “Perfect 10,” recorded with Shep Goodman, a producer who had worked on “Every Other Time” "Life is Good."

“We had the great opportunity to go up to New York and work with those guys and it was really a beautiful experience — being with Dev and recording with Devin again," Fischetti says. "And we had other songs lined up. We really had a plan put together to continue on with this mission. But you know the story.”

The pair even did a couple of Christmas songs, “Xmas” and “Hip-Hop Reindeer,” that never got official releases because of Lima’s death.

“We recorded those songs a long time ago in my garage," he says. We never actually did anything with them, even though we really enjoyed them a lot."

Fischetti says he and Lima planned to tour more, and he had booked shows and travel — including one in Las Vegas the day before the 2017 Harvest Music Festival mass shooting, but days later, Lima became very sick.

Fischetti says that at the end of Lima’s life, he would go to his house to read to him — including science fiction writer Ray Bradbury’s collection of short stories “R is for Rocket," which he says is “beautiful prose — just beautiful literature.”

Fischetti says the next short story he was to have read was “The Exiles,” and they decided to put out the Christmas songs as “The Xiles” EP.

“And he died the next day," Fischetti says. “I never got a chance to read the chapter to him. And it’s actually still sitting on my nightstand — the book. I haven’t read 'The Exiles’ chapter yet — just can’t do it.”

The songs, he says, are "fun for Christmas and, you know, we’re trying to let people know it’s out there and see if anybody consumes it over the holiday season.”

Fischetti says he doesn’t expect to release any other L.F.O. songs.

“I don’t think you’re going to see this turn into Tupac, where there’s a few albums after he’s gone," Fischetti says with a laugh. “I’m not saying it’ll never happen; both Rich and Devin were prolific writers and they both have a lot of things recorded. But I don’t have any intention of doing that.”

POP 2000 TOUR

What: Tour of 1990s and early 2000s hit pop music acts O-Town, Ryan Cabrera, Aaron Carter and Brad Fischetti of L.F.O.

When: 6 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 6

Where: OneCenterSquare, 1 Center Square, Easton

Tickets: $30 general admission, $80-$330 VIP with early admission, Aaron Carter soundcheck, photo opportunity, meet-and-greet, backstage hangout and a tour T-shirt.

Info: www.onecentesquare.com

Morning Call Lehigh Valley Music reporter and columnist John J. Moser can be reached at 610-820-6722 or jmoser@mcall.com

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©2019 The Morning Call (Allentown, Pa.)

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