L.A. Guns (feat. Phil Lewis & Steve Riley) @ Fulton 55, Fresno CA 07/26/14

This was a lengthy show, a lot of value for the ticket price but it left some patrons frustrated. Three openers were scheduled, causing for an extended wait for the headliner and the temperature in the building continued to rise and rise, causing for a sh*tty, humid environment. Middle Finger began the show with a set that reminded me of Death Alley Motor Cult and Black Label Society: LOUD, with lots of denim, lots of hair. Local group, Tangent, followed, and they immediately struck me with some hard hitting, riff-based tunes. They reminded me of a young Y&T. These guys are great riff writers and they surprised the crowd with an abridged cover of The Who’s Baba O’ Riley. They had a very good vocalist, Fred Jimenez, it’s great to see local talent on stage. Next was another strong local act, Gutterfish. While Tangent provided classic rock influenced jams, Gutterfish delivered power pop sounds reminiscent of 90s alternative rock acts like Tonic, Vertical Horizon and Fuel. They could groove, rock out, and deliver sweet melodies. Vocalist JT Hurt was something else. His look was deceiving…with a big, feathered mop of blonde hair and a soul patch, it’s difficult at first glance what to expect from him, vocally. But he opens his mouth and wow, I was pleasantly surprised to hear strong vocals, infectious vocals erupt from this guy. It was an awesome balance of power and pop, balls and tenderness. JT Hurt sounded golden. He possessed this sweet tone especially when he sang in the high range. When JT soared, he reminded me of those rock crooners from the Sunset Strip era, imagine Vince Neil or Bret Michaels when they sang in that pure high range, that’s the feeling I had when I heard JT. And out of all the groups, it was Gutterfish’s drummer Robert Curnutte, who had the cleanest chops and the best sounding drum kit. His toms sang with clarity, with plenty of punch and tone, and his snare was killer, hell, it sounded fuckable…full bodied, medium-high pitch with a sexy and commanding snap to it. Mark Martinez on bass wasn’t the flashiest of players, but his bass lines were melodic and hook laden, I really enjoyed his bass playing. Roger McCarty’s guitar playing was very effective and rockin’, but I think the vocals and rhythm section steal the show…but I’m sure I’m biased towards rhythm sections. Initially I bitched about having to see three openers, but I appreciated hearing some variety and getting a glimpse of some good, local talent.

 The turnout was solid, thank goodness. The last rock show I attended at Fulton 55 had a disastrous turn out. And as I’ve mentioned in other reviews, the Fulton 55 regulars could be spotted, interesting characters but it made for a communal atmosphere. The downside is that there was an enclave of concert goers that weren’t necessarily there for the bands, but moreso for drinking and hanging out with friends, some even hanging out in the adjacent parking areas. Why pay for a ticket just to hang out in the parking lot and knock a few back with friends?

It’s very hard to accept that Phil Lewis and Steve Riley are both approaching 60. Phil continues to look very good for his age and the voice was in more than decent shape. A bit of straining was evident during “Never Enough,” but who wouldn’t strain through those choruses. Other than that bit of vocal trouble, the majority of Phil’s performance was spot on. It was great to see a group that was at the heart of the Sunset Strip era during the 80s. LA Guns had this grit to them, much like G n’ R did, a seediness that made them dangerous and provocative. And like Guns n’ Roses, LA Guns really did start out as drugged up boozers and squatters waiting for their big break. What I enjoy about the sound of LA Guns and what sets them apart from other Sunset Strip acts are the vocals and cinematic atmospherics of their songs, particularly their ballads and anthems. What hooked me was “Over the Edge,” most notably featured on the Point Break Soundtrack. It was exotic sounding, dramatic, slow building and it took me to some other place. It had a great groove, unassuming, but awesome nonetheless. The guitar parts were searing but ambient, it was like Tracii Guns was painting a landscape with his guitar, but with fiery colors and dark shadowing. And Phil Lewis’ voice howled and soared, and damn could he soar. I had no idea it was an LA Guns song, or that this group was even capable of creating something so compelling and memorable.

The group did great in a live setting. There was one mishap however. During “Sex Action,” there was a technical issue and no sound was coming out of Phil’s live rig. He shook his Les Paul and fuddled with controls, then looked back at his Marshall. He walked back to the amp setup along with a crew member. Phil became furious as two crew members frantically tried to identify the problem, even JT Hurt from Gutterfish offered some support and could be seen checking out the Marshall. A crew member raced upstairs and found a replacement Marshall head. They quickly swapped it out and the set resumed. The group did well, but my only gripe is that Steve’s snare sound sounded neutered. It was low pitched and almost muffled, nothing like the snare sounds found on classic Guns recordings. And while the group still retained the signature voice of Phil Lewis, the soul of the group, Tracii Guns, was noticeably absent and sorely missed.

No Mercy
Sex Action
Never Enough
I Wanna Be Your Man
You Better Not Love Me
Over the Edge
Kiss My Love Goodbye
Eel Pie
Bass Solo
One More Reason
Fairies Wear Boots
Electric Gypsy
The Ballad of Jayne
Rip and Tear
Gypsy Soul
Gutterfish performing. Note TJ Hurt’s awesome “Fuck Everything” shirt.
TangenT laying it down. Sick vista lite drum kit in the background.


Posted on July 31, 2014, in Concerts: 2012 - Present, LA Guns and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. I’m not sure what Tracii’s problem is, but it seems pretty clear that Steve & Phil really want nothing to do with him anymore.

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