A few weeks ago, the Internet spit up some footage of a pre-fame Lady Gaga, the 23-year-old breakout pop star from Manhattan whose outrageous wardrobe and weirdo live performances have made her a cultural phenomenon to suburban tweens and Marc Jacobs alike.
The videos, captured on Jan. 20, 2006, depict a slightly younger, entirely more normal-looking Lady Gaga, then still known as Stefani Germanotta, performing with her rock group, the Stefani Germanotta Band, at the Greenwich Village venue the Bitter End—quite a different gal than the scantily clad platinum blonde we saw on the Oct. 3 Saturday Night Live fake cat-fighting with Madonna in thigh-high black boots and trying to smooch cast member Andy Samberg in a dress made of oversize bubbles!
In the old footage, Ms. Germanotta has long brown hair and is wearing a gray tank top, black leggings and crinkly white boots while banging on a Yamaha keyboard—backed by a trio of skinny, scruffy male musicians of the same age from N.Y.U.—jam-band style, including a soulful cover of the reggae-esque Led Zeppelin tune, “D’yer Mak’er.”
“We used to rehearse at this really dingy practice space on the Lower East Side, like, under some grocery store, where you’d have to enter through those metal doors on the sidewalk, and she had this huge keyboard that she’d wheel down the street from her apartment on Rivington and Suffolk,” said Calvin Pia, Ms. Germonatta’s former guitarist, who now plays in the indie rock band Akudama, when the Transom tracked him down.
“She was very bubbly, very eccentric, very driven,” Mr. Pia continued, although he admitted he has been a bit shocked by the emergent Lady Gaga persona. “The high art thing? I did not see any hints of that!”
“After shows, her dad would say to me, ‘You gotta hit those drums harder!’” further recalled Ms. Germanotta’s former drummer, Alex Beckmann, now of the Brooklyn-based band Mem. “He was cool.”
Mr. Pia and Mr. Beckmann said the Stefani Germanotta band fizzled out in mid-2006 when the two young men started getting busier with school and Ms. Germanotta started getting busier with the music industry, landing with producer Rob Fusari, who nicknamed her Gaga shortly thereafter.
Mr. Pia, Mr. Beckmann and Stefanie Germanotta Band bassist Eli Silverman, who’s now a Web designer living in New Orleans, are all still friends. (Akudama and Mem are playing a show together on Thursday, Oct. 8, at the Bowery Poetry Club.)
But none has heard from Ms. Germanotta since the group split.
“I tried calling her once when she started blowing up,” Mr. Pia said, “but her number had changed.”