As usual, Anaheim was wall to wall rock for a week, but this year there was a pretty clear cut winner.
Competing with such awesome shows as Metal Masters V, Jake E. Lee and The Aristocrats at The Grove, and a raft of Uli Roth/Extreme Cream concerts is a tough business, but Brian Tichy pulled off the absolute doubleheader of the week with his latest version of the now legendary Bonzo Bash series, and his newfangled Randy Rhoads Remembered tribute.
Coordinating twenty-eight drummers through thirty-one songs is no easy feat - hell, just lining up and scheduling the event must have seemed like a life's work, but to actually make it run like clockwork over five hours is nothing short of amazing. Then there's the quality of the performances - nothing demonstrates better the love for the legacy of John Bonham than does the enthusiasm, passion, and precision every drummer, and musician on the bill provided.
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This was my first Bonzo Bash, and as I stood at the edge of a packed house of adoring rock aficionados I was truly amazed at the sheer beauty and power of the event. Actually, the best moment of the evening for myself was not a musical moment, but rather it was seeing Bill Ward get the Bonzo Bash Legend Award.
Brian Tichy had appeared on my radio show a few weeks before the event, and he told me that he had reached out to the legendary Black Sabbath drummer in an attempt to get him out for the show, and to present him with the award, but he wasn't certain that it would come to pass.
I could see the hopefulness in Brian's eyes as he recounted stories of earlier award recipients (with a great tale about awarding an unaware Carmine Appice), and I remember thinking that he was hoping too damned well to not have that happen. It happened, and Ward's long and eloquent speech was for me the crowning moment of the evening. You can watch it at the bottom of this page. At a show called a tribute, I can not imagine a better example.
Musically, the show was aces - The Moby Dicks (Chas West/Vocals, Brent Woods/Guitar, Michael Devin/Bass, Stephen LeBlanc/Keyboards) were flawless in their role as Zeppelin redux, and Tichy even looked the part in his tan suit and bowler hat. As for the drummers, everyone played great, but a few that stuck out to me were Corky Laing (ex-Mountain), Charley Benante's awesome take on Dazed and Confused, Tichy's show opener Celebration Day, and of course, the ever present Mike Portnoy, who had just lit up The House of Blues two nights earlier, providing the big beats behind Steve Vai and Billy Sheehan's reunification for the Talas/DLR classic Shy Boy at the Samson/Hartke Metal Masters V show.
Not to leave my train of thought, but it was awesome seeing Anthrax's Scott Ian standing shoulder to shoulder with Slayer's Kerry King paying tribute to Jeff Hanneman at Metal Masters V.
Vocally, Chas West had the night of a lifetime according to many who have been watching him with Tichy's semi-regular Zeppelin tribute band, The Moby Dicks. He was helped out by Oni Logan (ex-Lynch Mob), who blew mean harp and nailed a smoldering When The Levee Breaks with drummer John Hummel.
From watching an incredible array of drummers walking down the red carpet in the press area to the final ringing notes of Courtney DeAugustine's stunning take on Stairway To Heaven, I can't see how this could have been better executed. I was speaking with ex-Lynch Mob vocalist Oni Logan both before and after his performance, and it was not dissimilar to an speaking with an athlete before and after a big game.
Excited and pensive before hand, and wondering about his performance immediately after, any apprehension could have been spared, for on this night, it all worked. Rock was magic. It seemed that the presence and the tales of Bill Ward, and longtime Bonham drum technician Jeff Ocheltree brought a bit of the Black Country to this evening.
Two evenings later Tichy moved his rock history lesson forward by a decade to celebrate the life and music of Randy Rhoads, whose brief time here influenced so many guitarists, and won the love and respect of millions. Randy Rhoads Remembered was born of a conversation between Tichy and his Bonzo Bash business partner Joe Sutton during strategy sessions for this year's Bash, and their formula worked very well once again. While not as misty-eyed wonderful as The Bonzo Bash, by all accounts, for a first outing it definitely went down a success.
The guest guitarists were the word of the day, and Gus G, Brad Gillis, Nuno Bettencourt, Marty Friedman, Tracii Guns, Ron 'Bumblefoot' Thal, Alex Skolnick, Kiko Loureiro, Joel Hoekstra (Night Ranger), Phil X, Jeff Young, Mike Orlando, Robert Sarzo, Brent Woods, Phil Demmel, and Rowan Robertson all took their spins at recreating the Rhoads catalogue, as well as drummer Corky Laing bringing the room to its feet with a rowdy version of the Mountain classic, Mississippi Queen. They were joined by ex-Ozzy bassists Rudy Sarzo, and Phil Soussan. The show came to a close with thirteen guitarists simultaneously serenading the standing room only crowd with an orchestral Dee.
I must admit - this is all second hand testimony. This show was booked as an early show, starting at 7.00pm, and I was busy doing my weekly radio show, Rock Ain't Near Dead, in another section of Los Angeles. I had featured both Brian Tichy, and RRR contributor Kiko Loureiro on the show in the weeks before the shows, and it was great to talk to them as they prepared for the big night. I've watched all the extensive YouTube coverage of the show, and spoken with both participants and players - everyone agreed that they hoped they've not seen the last of Randy Rhoads Remembered.
So, as it turned out, Brian Tichy did the near impossible - he coordinated three consecutive nights of music, engaging well over 100 artists (I haven't even mentioned his Friday night Pussywhipped VIP show, which featured an all female roster of tribute bands including Judas Priestess, Hammer Of The Broads, and my pals The Iron Maidens). He did it with drum sticks, guitar picks, and a smile upon his face, which could not have been always easy. Putting this type of weekend on is a Herculean task, and my bowler is tipped in his direction.
Los Angeles isn't for everyone, but it's home to me. Great rock is never far away, and there's stories being written in real time every night. You'll find out that I'm fond of saying, "Rock ain't near dead," and it is certainly alive and well when left in Brian Tichy's more than capable hands. I'm already looking forward to seeing what happens next year.
Thanks to Brian Tichy, Joe Sutton, Noelle Kim, Nichole Russo, and everyone who made these events possible.
Bonzo Bash 2014 Set List:
1. Celebration Day: Brian Tichy
2. The Rover: Stephen Perkins (Janes's Addiction)
3. Houses Of the Holy: Michael Cartellone (Lynyrd Skynyrd)
4. The Wanton Song: Chris Frazier (Foreigner)
5. Babe I'm Gonna Leave You: Athena (Femme Fatale / Ex Wives Of Rock), Jeff Young (former Megadeth), Tracii Guns on guitar
6. Wearing And Tearing: Gene Hoglan (Testament / Dethklok), Laura Christine on guitar, Shaun Williamson on vocals
7. We're Gonna Groove: Jason Sutter (Marilyn Manson)
8. Heartbreaker: Van Romaine (Steve Morse)
9. Communication. Breakdown: Corky Laing (Mountain)
10. Whole Lotta Love: Matt Starr (Ace Frehley)
11. Misty Mountain Hop: Jimmy D'Anda, Mick Sweda on guitar, James Lomenzo (Megadeth) on bass
12. Four Sticks: Glen Sobel (Alice Cooper), Shaun Williamson on vocals
13. When The Levee Breaks: John Hummel w/ Oni Logan on vocals
14. Living Loving Maid: Seven Antonopolous (Revolting Cocks)
15. I Can't Quite You Baby: Khurt Maier (Salty Dog)
16. Custard Pie: Simon Wright (Dio Disciples, Queensryche, AC/DC), Bernard Fowler on vocals
17. Dancing Days: Rikki Rockett (Poison), Robert DeLeo on guitar
18. Since I've Been Loving You: Dave Lombardo (Slayer/ Philm) w/ Gerry Nestler on guitar, Gerry Nestler (Philm) on guitar
19. Nobody's Fault But Mine: A.J. Pero (Twisted Sister / Tred / Adrenaline Mob), Mike Orlando on guitar (Tred/Adrenaline Mob)
20. Kashmir: Brian Tichy, Bobby Rondinelli, Tracii Guns on guitar
21. Dazed And Confused: Charlie Benante (Anthrax)
22. Good Times Bad Times: Brian Tichy & Michael Devin on vocals, Robert DeLeo (Stone Temple Pilots) on bass
23. The Song Remains The Same: Ray Luzier (Korn), Billy Sheehan on bass
24. Achilles Last Stand: Brian Tichy, Robert DeLeo on bass
25. For Your Life: Brandon Kachel (Barbarian Overlords)
26. Fool In the Rain: Will Calhoun (Living Colour), Robert Mason (Warrant) on vocals
27. Out On The Tiles: Joe Travers
28. D'yer M'aker: Mark Schulman (Pink)
29. Immigrant Song: Thomas Lang (StOrk)
30. Bonzo's Montreaux/Night Flight: Mike Portnoy (The Winery Dogs), Tichy on Timpani
31. Stairway To Heaven: Courtney DeAugustine (Montrose / Frank Hannon Band) on drums/vocals, Tichy & Tracii Guns on guitar