Monthly Archives: May 2014

Black Star Riders @ Fulton 55, Fresno CA 05/14/14

I cannot get over the embarrassingly shitty turnout for this gig. Per the venue, 57 damn people attended. One could argue that this made for an intimate show. But from my vantage point, a seasoned, international touring group with a celebrated history was playing to less than 10% of the venue’s capacity, making this tiny little club look cavernous. My jaw freakin’ dropped. There are almost half a million people in Fresno – not all of us are Country or Pop music fans. There’s a rock audience in the valley and we’ve been starving for quality rock acts. Where the hell’s the support for this group? It’s difficult to say where blame should be placed, if it lays with anyone or anything in particular. I figured the off night and a reliance on social media were the culprits. Come to find out, ads and other blurbs were taken out on FM radio as well as the local newspaper, The Fresno Bee. This is the valley and this isn’t exactly a sprawling metropolis, any kind of cultural or entertainment news is a bit slower in making it’s way to the general population than say, San Francisco or Los Angeles. In the end, I think the group may have been screwed by their name change. I seriously think the casual Thin Lizzy fans and classic rock fans in general simply didn’t know about the name change to Black Star Riders. Well, any future bookings in the valley for BSR are now shot to Hell. Don’t get me wrong, the band was great, their performance was great. They were the consummate professionals, delivering a hair raising performance for the few people that were there. We made up for the sparse attendance, I remember us being VERY loud and equally appreciative. Seriously, I forgot that the venue was near empty. Only when I turned to look behind me was I reminded of the depressing reality of this gig.

The band kicked ass. This is the latest incarnation of Thin Lizzy, and the sound IS the classic Thin Lizzy sound. I don’t know how to put it into words, but there’s a groove and a swagger to this kind of hard rock. It’s equal parts American and Irish, riff based rock & roll with some blues and boogie thrown in. The new album, All Hell Breaks Loose, is very much in keeping to that sound and to the legacy of Thin Lizzy. This is due to veteran guitarist Scot Gorham’s unmistakeable style, as well as Ricky Warwick’s gruf croon that’s very much in keeping with the Late Phil Lynott’s style.

I must say that it was awesome finally being able to watch Jimmy Degrasso in action. At one time or another, Jimmy had played drums for Suicidal Tendencies, Megadeth, and the great Y&T, amongst many others. Nevermind about the light turnout, he was still all smiles, having a good time and trading words with the other bandmembers. Jimmy’s a great all around hard rock drummer with great dexterity and chops. I was close, real close, and could see every stroke, tom and cymbal hit. Mark from Bentley’s Drum Shop was in the crowd, I said hello and said he’s got one heck of a drum shop. Bentley’s is awesome. It’s a high quality shop, super clean, and wall to wall with gear. It rivals some of the big city drum shops…and it’s a hell of a lot better than San Jose Pro Drum Shop (which is owned by Jimmy Degrasso!). Also on-hand was Rudy Parris, a great local musician and one time contestant on The Voice. I got to introduce myself and had a few words with him. It was cool to hear him say “I recognize you!” That was uber cool. It was also interesting to hear that Scott Gorham influenced Rudy’s guitar playing style, very cool piece of info. Lastly I wanted to give a shout out to the teacher who also happened to be a Rush/King’s X/U2 fan. Great chatting with you.

If anyone has any ideas how a crappy turn out like this can be avoided, please send those ideas along to Tony at Fulton 55. It seems we both heard the same line: “Man I would have gone if I had only heard about this show.” I’m at a loss about how a gig like this can be better promoted. The set was something like the following. It was eye-popping being able to hear those Thin Lizzy songs recreated and sounding just like the studio originals, but with vigor and the adrenaline of a live situation. The new songs stood up well to the classics and the set was a great mix of both classic and new material. Great show, guys. I don’t blame you if you never come back.

All Hell Breaks Loose
Are You Ready
Bad Reputation
Hoodoo Voodoo
Kingdom of the Lost
Hey Judas
Valley of the Stones
Bound for Glory
Cowboy Song
The Boys Are Back in Town
Whiskey In the Jar

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George Clinton & Parliament-Funkadelic @ The Majestic Fox, Bakersfield CA 05/04/14

On Sunday 5/4/14, the Mothership landed in Bakersfield. George Clinton and Parliament-Funkadelic brought their other-worldly and ultra funky party to the Central Valley. I took my mom to this show for her birthday. My brother the sax player came along as well. I was amazed at the diversity of the audience. Fans from all walks of life, all shapes and sizes, and all shades of the rainbow were represented. I wrongly assumed that the house would be full of throwbacks from 1970s, but this wasn’t the case at all. And there was so much happening on that stage, it was hard to keep track of who was doing what, and every musician onstage seemed to be pulling off one amazing part after another, whether it be vocal acrobatics or technical and soulful wizardry on the horns, keys and guitars. There had to have been 16 or so musicians onstage, and George commanded them like some sort of genius-like conductor or musical director. When I think of George Clinton I can’t help but put him in the same league as Frank Zappa – eccentric, prodigy-like freaks who crafted pieces of timeless art. They were like mad scientists, and their musicians had to be at the top of their game, easily weaving in and out of multiple styles, you’d think they were super human.

Those who hadn’t stayed on top of recent events were in for a big surprise. Gone were the multicolored dread locks and tie dye t-shirts. George was now sporting fly suits on this tour, looking very slick and dare I say, pimp-like (classic pimp that is). One of the vocalists said something along the lines of “I see several bewildered faces in the audience tonight and you’re probably wondering, where’s George? Ladies and gentleman, THIS is George,” as he points over the grinning master mind, Dr. George Clinton. The crowd cheered and the show continued. Even in his 70s, the man still has that passion for performing and giving the crowd their money’s worth. The house was at best two thirds full, but that didn’t affect the quality of the group’s performance. I was disappointed that the turnout wasn’t greater. There’s a big audience in the valley for all things funk and R&B, so it greatly surprised me that the venue wasn’t packed tonight. Now that I think about it, advertising and promotion for this show was minimal, and I believe this date was a last minute addition. Regardless, there was plenty of energy in the building but it would have been cool to see a packed house.

Stand out performers this night included the amazing Ricky Rouse on lead guitar. He was wearing the black bandana. He tore it up on that guitar, playing some searing leads and he possessed a ton of showmanship. He even played parts behind his neck! Garrett Shider was also on guitar and the man had some serious chops as well. Danny Bedrossian was one of two keyboard players, however he had most of the flashy lead parts. Lige Curry played bass on this tour. Benzel Cowan was one of three drummers utilized and each of the guys along with Lige laid down a solid, funkafied foundation. Bennie Cowan was the big guy on trumpet and Greg Thomas was their sick sax player and each player added this amazing color and showmanship to the songs. The horns give this music an upbeat, celebratory and regal edge. Kendra Foster was one of several vocalists and she had to be the most spirited singer onstage. George gave each performer their due as each player was allotted a showcase or a solo. Each musician was a master at their respective instrument. And of course, who could forget Sir Nose, who added some of that P-Funk flair and showmanship from the old days. My mom comically said “that man needs to eat more” lol. The set was seamless, free of any kind of technical or performance issues. The selection of the night for me had to be “One Nation Under a Groove” with it’s reworked and mellow, ballad like intro. And some of you will want to kick my ass, but I absolutely cannot stand “Atomic Dog,” screw that song. But everything else this night was awesome! I’m very glad I got to take my mom to this show, she had a blast and she really enjoyed the set. Songs performed this night included:

Get Up For the Downstroke
Knee Deep
P-Funk (Wants To Get Funked Up)
Give Up the Funk
One Nation Under a Groove
Atomic Dog

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Bitchin write up of the San Francisco gig over at riquespeaks :