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KNAC.COM Recaps The 2019 NAMM, RANDY RHOADS REMEMBERED, BONZO BASH, ULTIMATE JAM NIGHT And More!

By Krishta Abruzzini, Pacific Northwest Writer
Monday, March 11, 2019 @ 8:50 AM


January 24-27 At The Anaheim Convention Center And Surrounding Areas

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Photos By Krishta Abruzzini

How does one even begin to recap the annual NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) show that brings thousands of people globally together to Anaheim, California over the course of four-days? There is so much to see, hear and take in, the hardest choice of the day is the decision of what should be covered.

NAMM 2019 had over 115,000 people attend the convention that features top musical technology along with instruments of everything from a kazoo to amps, guitars, drums, lighting, studio gear and everything in between that makes up all things music. There are educational opportunities, classes that offer support for businesses, guest speakers, celebrity performances and signings, and for most attendees, whether a guest, exhibitor, or buyer, each has their own unique experience.

For this journalist, I liken my experiences at NAMM to having weird, vivid dreams, often wondering, “Did that really just happen?” It’s sensory overload on most days just walking through the event hearing nearly every instrument being played at every booth all at once, then having the likes of a superstar such as Stevie Wonder or Bootsy Collins walk by like we were all at a big casual grocery store on a normal day. In all the events I’ve covered through my years, I’ve never quite experienced anything like NAMM in that regard. Everything is a stimulant to the senses.

On opening day of NAMM, as the crowds made their way into the convention center, I noticed the organization of the show was much more streamlined this year. The entire outside courtyard area was blocked off with only those with a show badge being allowed inside the barricaded area. This made the entrance and exit to and from the show much easier and faster, which in previous years has always been a bit of a cluster. It was not as crowded on opening day, and the walkthrough to the show itself was pretty easy.

One note of interest was Gibson’s return this year, which was a welcome to everyone that had missed them at the 2018 NAMM show. A bit of a scuttlebutt ensued about the disappearance of Gibson last year in that CEO Henry Juszkiewwicz was making some bad decisions and opted out of NAMM to attend the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. This decision further led to more whispers and speculations about the financial state of Gibson itself. This left many feeling as though the music industry was in a tailspin and it was a bit of a shock to not have them at last year’s event. It was good to have them back this year being such an iconic brand. The company’s new CEO, JC Curleigh seems to be taking the brand into the right direction for the future which is hopeful.

KIDS AT NAMM:

My favorite part of NAMM has always been stumbling upon a booth and getting to see young kids (most, obviously prodigies) leaving grown men and women with their jaws dropped to the ground.

This year, I got to hang out briefly with my hometown High School friend, Randy Spendlove (who did alright in life landing a job as President of Motion Picture Music for Paramount Pictures). He brought his young son Brandon along with his friend Sam Carter, who were in so many different directions, it was hard to keep up. Their joy and excitement for being at this show along with wanting to get their hands on every instrument possible was definitely one of the highlights of this year’s events. We lost them at one point, only to discover them in the Fender backstage area entertaining the guests with the new Acoustasonic Telecasters. (See attached video). I half expected them to be jamming out versions of NIRVANA-esque melodies (Brandon has a new interest in the grunge era of rock, opposite of last year’s BLINK 182 phase, often telling his dad with an eye roll when he suggests “lame” songs, “Dad, that’s so BLINK.”). Instead these two boys layed down the most melodic, bluesy riffs with everyone in the room giving these guys the spotlight. (Brandon plays in his band BLEACH - with Sam as an honorary member. For info please visit www.bleachmusicofficial.com ) (See Video interview of Brandon and Sam)

JOHN LENNON TOUR BUS:

Another highlight for me yearly is visiting the John Lennon Bus. Founded in 1988, this organization is committed to reaching youth through music and video. The bus travels The Bus travels from coast to coast, making stops at K-12 schools, universities, Boys and Girls Clubs, concerts, trade shows, music festivals and more. At most stops the staff conducts free tours while providing an opportunity for a group of youths to record an original song and video. Each stop typically culminates in a community celebration and screening of the music and video just produced on the Bus.

The Bus often organizes a Battle of the Bands where students can engage in a friendly competition and the winning band may receive prizes. The Bus has also co-produced a course with the Digital Media Academy that is offered at several universities each summer, called "Come Together: Music and Video Production.

This year at the NAMM show, The Lennon Bus hosted a “Bass Off” with none other than Derek Smalls (Harry Shearer) formerly of the band known as SPINAL TAP. Smalls judged a large group of bass players early in the day, narrowing it down to 9, which got to “bass their faces off” prior to the Lennon Imagine Party’s showstopper Elle King on NAMM’s Yamaha Grand Plaza Stage in front of a thousand guests. Each contestant vying for the grand prize of a signed Derek Smalls Yamaha Bass and gear worth over $800. (see video) The winner, Nathan, a young kid that competed against eight other talented grown men, was a natural winner with The Lennon Bus’ mission statement. Everyone went away happy. Speaking to contestant Jim Moffatt, the only lefty playing a right handed bass that evening said he had the time of his life. Through the years I’ve been covering The Lennon Bus at NAMM, I’ve found everyone that either visits the bus during the convention, watches their annual Imagine Party concert, always comes away with a smile, happiness and of course, a feeling of peace. Please visit www.lennonbus.org for more information on this incredible non-profit organization.

NAMM BOUTIQUE GUITAR SHOWCASE:

In the past couple of years, NAMM has set up a special section on the main floor specializing in highlighting small businesses making guitars, called the Boutique Guitar Showcase. This has the luthier community, that were typically relegated to the downstairs area of NAMM, to being able to present their beautifully crafted instruments along side the heavy mainstream hitters.

One of my favorite boutique guitar makers is McSwain Guitars. The custom electric guitars this company produces are not only incredible pieces of art, (many of the guitars come with a matching wall mount) they are highly playable. The company has designed guitars for Slash, Steve Vai, Duff McKagen, Scott Ian, Tommy Lee, and Jerry Cantrell to name a few. One of my favorite guitars actually features the specialized art of Ralph Steadman, made just for McSwain Guitars, with excerpts from Hunter S Thompson’s book, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas adorning this beast. (See video interview) For more information and to check out these incredible guitars, please visit: https://www.mcswainguitars.com

NAMM AFTER HOURS PARTIES:

Along with the million things to see during the convention, there are the after-parties hosted by many artists, NAMM, and various exhibiting high profile musical instrument names. Here’s where things get competitive and crazy. Which party to go to after the convention floor closes for the day? The after-show parties on opening day alone were hefty. Gibson had its showcase featuring Nancy Wilson of HEART, Dusty Hill (ZZ TOP), and legendary Peter Frampton. BashFest had its annual show combined with Randy Rhoads Remembered and Bonzo Bash (LED ZEPPELIN) -((Coverage for BashFest with KNAC.COM coming soon)). It’s hard to be many places at one time, and I’m always amazed when I’m able to attend more than one function, how many musicians travel throughout the shows to make their appearances.

THE ULTIMATE JAM NIGHT:

I came in early for NAMM this year, just in time to catch The Ultimate Jam Night at the world famous Whisky a Go-Go on Sunset. In its 4th year, The Whisky has hosted this weekly Tuesday residency from 8pm to close. This weekly event, (like so many during NAMM) feature a myriad of musicians getting up and playing covers, with a twist and true to its name, it’s an unrehearsed jam with some of the biggest names taking the stage. (see photo gallery)

Hosted by Paulie Z (legendary frontman for THE SWEET, and television personality ZRock) and organized by multi-platinum album selling bassist Chuck Wright (QUIET RIOT), they unite some of the world’s greatest musicians into a 4-plus hour show like no other.

The show I attended featured as the “House Band”:

  • JAMES LOMENZO (JOHN FOGERTY, MEGADETH, BLACK LABEL SOCIETY)
  • KENNY ARONOFF (JOHN FOGERTY, SMASHING PUMPKINS)
  • BRENT WOODS (SEBASTIAN BACH)
  • PAULIE Z (THE SWEET)
  • BOB MALONE (JOHN FOGERTY)
With guests:
  • JAMES LOMENZO (JOHN FOGERTY, MEGADETH, BLACK LABEL SOCIETY)
  • KENNY ARONOFF (JOHN FOGERTY, SMASHING PUMPKINS)
  • BRENT WOODS (SEBASTIAN BACH, CHEVY METAL)
  • CHRIS BRODERICK (ART OF DEFIANCE, MEGADETH)
  • PHIL DEMMEL (MACHINE HEAD, VIO-LENCE)
  • ROY MAYORGA (STONE SOUR)
  • TAIME DOWN (FASTER PUSSYCAT)
  • TEDDY ZIG ZAG (GUNS N ROSES, ALICE COOPER)
  • STEPHEN PERKINS (JANES ADDICTION)
  • DUG PINNICK (KING’S X, KXM)
  • CHUCK WRIGHT (QUIET RIOT, ALICE COOPER)
  • SEAN MCNABB (LYNCH MOB, DOKKEN)
  • JEFF SCHROEDER (SMASHING PUMPKINS)
  • DILANA
  • JOEY VERA (ARMORED SAINT)
  • MITCH PERRY (SWEET, MSG)
  • IRA BLACK (I AM MORBID, LIZZY BORDEN)
  • ERIC MCFADDEN (GEORGE CLINTON & THE FUNKADELICS)
  • JIMMY D'ANDA (LIES, DECEIT & TREACHERY)
  • BOB MALONE (JOHN FOGERTY)
  • BRANDON COOK (BLACK N BLUE, DILANA)
  • BRIAN GELLAR (THE ATOMIC PUNKS)
  • DAVE WHISTON (RICK SPRINGFIELD)
  • DEBBY HOLIDAY
  • DEVON PANGLE (THE NANOS)
  • AUGUST ZADRA (DENNIS DEYOUNG)
  • ZOE LOMENZO
  • GILBY CLARKE (GUNS N’ ROSES, SLASH’S SNAKEPIT)
  • GEO EVAN GEO (RACE NO MORE)
  • GEORGE ADRIANNE
  • JEFF BUEHNER (DILANA, THE RUSSIAN BRIDES)
  • FERNANDO JARAMILLO (DILANA)
  • ANTHONY STASI
  • SCOTT MARCEAU
  • JASON HOW
For future shows/lineups, please visit:
http://ultimatejamnight.wixsite.com/ultimate-jam-night

DIMEBASH:

Opening night, my team opted for DimeBash this year. The name PANTERA, Dave Grohl and BBQ just seemed to be the right ticket.

The sold out event, paying tribute to the great, late Dimebag Darrell Abbott, was an allstar show featuring FOO FIGHTERS’ Dave Grohl, Corey Taylor (SLIPKNOT) and over 55 musicians including Scott Ian (ANTHRAX), Nita Strauss (ALICE COOPER), Dug Pinnik (KING'S X) among so many others. The evening also featured sets by FIREBALL MINISTRY and Rex Brown’s KILL DEVIL HILL.

Dimebag’s “Hag”/longtime girlfriend Rita Haney said in a press conference, “Crazy thing about this event is, you never think the last one can be topped. But when this much creativity comes together in one room, dude, watch it go! It will light you up! The vibe is always so incredible.”

Tragically, and with no sense, Dimebag was gunned down onstage during a performance with his band DAMAGEPLAN in 2004, something that hits home for everyone, especially in the music community whether it be performer or concert-goer. Sadly we lost his brother and PANTERA bandmate last year as well, Vinnie Paul due to heart disease. The music community is a tight knit group, the loss of these two is a hard hit. I will note that the Grammys failed to give mention of Vinnie’s passing at this year’s award ceremony, which is such an epic fail of grand proportions.

It’s wonderful to see this annual show with so many in attendance paying proper tribute to these musical family legends that influenced music so profoundly.

This was one of those shows, as I wrote in the beginning of this article, that seemed more of a weird fever dream than that which was real. I went outside in the backstage area for some fresh air (that smelled heavily and wonderfully of fresh campfire wood burning). I looked over to see where it was coming from, and lo and behold, it’s Dave Grohl actually firing up a barbeque. I had to do a double take, as that couldn’t be right. I knew going to this show there would be a barbeque, but my assumption was that someone, anyone else would be actually manning the barbeque. Donned in his apron, Dave was feeding fresh wood into the large BBQ pit.

Dave has a lot of tales about his love of barbeque. Evidently not just a FOO, but a FOOdie as well. After spending time being pitmaster at many FOO FIGHTERS’ shows (who knew), he has quietly launched a catering business called, Backbeat BBQ. Dave recently fed the fire crews and support team of LA County during the Woolsey Fire.

I’ve seen the FOO FIGHTERS a few times in arenas. I’ve always said that somehow, albeit a huge stadium show, with Grohl at the helm, it has always felt more like an intimate evening seeing a friend’s band play at a local pub. I’ve never witnessed this with any other band. I once saw Grohl get onstage with Sir Paul McCartney, and the look on Dave’s face was priceless. Humbled beyond measure, it was just so cool to see someone almost act as if he had no clue how he got up on that stage, let alone getting to play.

I’ve always held the theory that the biggest of the stars are truly the kindest and most down to earth (with exceptions of course). Dave Grohl proved this, and I just have to question if there’s anything this guy can’t do and do well. The barbeque consisted of the most mouth watering brisket I’ve ever eaten, seasoned perfectly, and I’m grateful for the experience beyond words and still pinching myself as a reminder that it wasn’t a weird dream.

At one point, Dave stops barbequing abruptly and says, “Oh crap, I have to go play.” Without removing his apron, he straps on his guitar and runs on stage alongside Scott Ian, Corey Taylor, Rex Brown, Nick Bowcott, and Charlie Benante to bring the house down with KISS"Love Gun".

Such an amazing night of music, musicians and remembrance...and brisket. (See Pictures)

To visit Backbeat BBQ, visit: https://www.facebook.com/backbeatbbq/

The setlist for the night:

  • "Revolution Is My Name"
    (Pantera cover) (Kyng, Chris Broderick, Jose Mangin)
  • "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath"
    (Black Sabbath cover) (Kyng)
  • "Parasite"
    (KISS cover) (Phil Sandoval, Gonzo Sandoval, Nick Bowcott, Tanya O'Callaghan, Jason Christopher)
  • "Rise"
    (Pantera cover) (Phil Sandoval, Gonzo Sandoval, Rick Thorne, Jason Christopher)
  • "Hell Bent for Leather"
    (Judas Priest cover) (Phil Sandoval, Gonzo Sandoval, Kirsten Rosenberg, Bob Tyrell)
  • "Victim of Changes"
    (Judas Priest cover) (Mark Zavon, Dewey Bragg, Courtney Cox, Johnny Kelly, Bob Tyrrell)
  • John 5 and the Creatures Medley
    ("Fly By Night", "Smells Like Teen Spirit", "Sleep Now in the Fire", "Heartbreaker", "Every Breath You Take")
  • "The Art of Shredding"
    (Pantera cover) (Courtney Cox, Kirsten Rosenberg, Tony Campos, Art Cruz)
  • "A New Level"
    (Pantera cover) (Doc Coyle, Tony Campos, Rick Thorne, Art Cruz, Chris Broderick)
  • "Cowboy Song"
    (Thin Lizzy cover) (Mark Zavon, Nick Bowcott, Johnny Kelly, Tony Castaneda)
  • "Jailbreak"
    (Thin Lizzy cover) (Dug Pinnick, Nick Bowcott, Bob Tyrrell, Johnny Kelly)
  • "Cold Gin"
    (KISS cover) (Doc Coyle, Joey Vera, Mark Zavon, Jason Christopher, Josh Villalta)
  • "I'm Broken"
    (Pantera cover) (Nita Strauss, Doc Coyle, Tony Campos, Josh Villalta)
  • "Psycho Holiday"
    (Pantera cover) (Courtney Cox, Jason Bittner, Ra Diaz, Tommy Vext)
  • "Mouth for War"
    (Pantera cover) (Jason Bittner, Kyle Sanders, Christian Brady, Doc Coyle, Jose Mangin)
  • "Cowboys From Hell"
    (Pantera cover) (Gene Hoglan, Joey Vera, Randy Weitzel, Jason Christopher, Laura Christine,)
  • "Cemetery Gates"
    (Pantera cover) (Gene Hoglan, Courtney Cox, Tony Campos, Dewey Bragg, Randy Weitzel,)
  • "Manic Depression"
    (The Jimi Hendrix Experience cover) (Dug Pinnick, Chris Broderick, Dave Lombardo)
  • "Mandatory Suicide"
    (Slayer cover) (Sen Dog, Dave Lombardo, Nick Bowcott, Jeremy Wagner)
  • "Planet Caravan"
    (Black Sabbath cover) (Doc Coyle, Joey Vera, Dewey Bragg, Chris Broderick)
  • "The Number of the Beast"
    (Iron Maiden cover) (Nita Strauss, Chris Jericho, Courtney Cox, Kirsten Rosenberg, Tanya O'Callaghan)
  • "Message in Blood"
    (Pantera cover) (Kyng with Dewey Bragg)
  • "Love Gun"
    (KISS cover) (Corey Taylor, Rex Brown, Nick Bowcott, Scott Ian, Dave Grohl, Charlie Benante)
  • "This Love"
    (Pantera cover) (Corey Taylor, Charlie Benante, Nick Bowcott, Rex Brown, Chris Broderick)
  • "Walk"
    (Pantera cover) (Corey Taylor, Rex Brown, Scott Ian, Dave Grohl, Chris Broderick, Charlie Benante)
  • "War Inside My Head"
    (Suicidal Tendencies cover) (Mike Muir, Scott Ian, Dave Lombardo, Ra Diaz)
  • "Fucking Hostile"
    (Pantera cover) (Corey Taylor, Dave Lombardo, Rex Brown, Phil Demmel, Scott Ian)
All proceeds benefit the following. To donate, please visit: MusiCares https://www.grammy.com/musicares/donations Guitars for Vets http://www.guitars4vets.org/

ULTIMATE NAMM NIGHT:

The finale of NAMM after shows was none other than The Ultimate NAMM Night held at the Hilton on January 26th. It was truly the most coveted ticket for after show parties at NAMM this year. With an incredible lineup, which included a reunion of David Lee Roth’s, Eat ‘Em and Smile band, Steve Vai, Billy Sheehan and Gregg Bissonette and a hefty rumor that Mr. Roth himself might show, everyone was vying for a ticket. Although DLR did not show, the band performed the TALAS classic, "Shy Boy" and QUEEN’s "Tie Your Mother Down", with Jeff Scott Soto (SONS OF APOLLO, YNGWIE MALMSTEEN) on vocals. Billy Sheehan was asked if he would be into doing a reunion of the Eat ‘Em and Smile era with David Lee Roth, Sheehan says, “It’s all up to Dave. If he decides to do it, we are ready to go and I would jump at it any time.”

In true Ultimate Jam Night tradition, the show basically moved its residency from The Whisky, to the ballroom of the Hilton, and pulled together world class musicians for unrehearsed jams, many of who may or may not have ever played together before. The Ultimate Jam Night wouldn’t be complete without the two cute go-go dancers to complete the tradition. (See photos)

The lineup included:

Full band performances in set by:

  • FLOTSAM & JETSAM
  • SWEET
  • MARCO MENDOZA’s EL TRIO
With VERY special guests:
  • STEVE VAI
  • BILLY SHEEHAN (THE WINERY DOGS, MR. BIG)
  • TONY FRANKLIN (THE FIRM)
  • GREG BISSONETTE (RINGO STARR, DAVID LEE ROTH)
  • BRETT TUGLE (FLEETWOOD MAC, DAVID LEE ROTH)
  • CARMINE APPICE (VANILLA FUDGE, OZZY OSBOURNE)
  • DOUG ALDRICH (WHITESNAKE, DIO, DEAD DAISIES)
  • JEFF SCOTT SOTO (SONS OF APOLLO, TSO)
  • RIKKI ROCKETT (POISON)
  • ROY MAYORGA (STONE SOUR)
  • SIMON WRIGHT (DIO, AC/DC, UFO)
  • MARCO MENDOZA (WHITESNAKE, THIN LIZZY)
  • DUG PINNICK (KINGS X, KXM)
  • FRED COURY (CINDERELLA)
  • STU HAMM (JOE SATRIANI, STEVE VAI)
  • PHIL DEMMEL (MACHINE HEAD, VIO-LENCE)
  • HEIDI SHEPHERD (BUTCHER BABIES)
  • CARLA HARVEY (BUTCHER BABIES)
  • TOM HUNTING (EXODUS)
  • JACK GIBSON (EXODUS)
  • CHARLIE BENANTE (ANTHRAX)
  • IRA BLACK (I AM MORBID, LIZZY BORDEN)
  • JASON CHRISTOPHER (PRONG, MINISTRY)
  • DEWEY BRAGG (KILL DEVIL HILL)
  • MARQ TORIEN (BULLETBOYS)
  • MITCH PERRY (SWEET, MSG)
  • BRENT WOODS (SEBASTIAN BACH, CHEVY METAL)
  • KAT DYSON (PRINCE)
  • PHIL X (BON JOVI)
  • BRETT SCALLIONS (FUEL)
  • DIVINITY ROXX (BEYONCE)
  • VERNON REID (LIVING COLOUR)
  • ROBERT MASON (WARRANT)
  • SEAN MCNABB (LYNCH MOB, DOKKEN)
  • GEORGE PAJON (BLACK EYED PEAS)
  • PJ FARLEY (TRIXTER, ERIC MARTIN)
  • TAL BERGMAN (JOE BONAMASSA)
  • TJ DENNIS (ROBBIE KRIEGER)
  • STEVE SMYTH (NEVERMORE, TESTAMENT)
  • BILL HUDSON (I AM MORBID, TSO)
  • PAULIE Z (SWEET, RUBIX KUBE LA)
  • SVEN MARTIN (JONATHAN DAVIS, RUBIX KUBE LA)
  • ADAM KURY (CANDLEBOX)
  • BRIAN QUINN (CANDLEBOX)
  • PATRICK STONE (BUDDERSIDE)
  • RACHEL LORIN (SOLO ARTIST)
  • RICH WARD (FOZZY)
  • MARK WOOD (TSO)
  • GUY GELSO (ZEBRA)
  • RANDY JACKSON (ZEBRA)
  • BRAD LANG (Y&T, BURNING RAIN)
  • DAVE SCHULZ (GOO GOO DOLLS, BERLIN)
  • ALEX KANE (LIFE, SEX & DEATH)
  • ANDREW COLE (NO JOKE THE FILM)
  • BENNY HARRISON (JOE BONAMASSA)
  • JOE RETTA (DIO DISCIPLES, HEAVEN & EARTH)
  • CHRIS RALLES (PAT BENATAR)
  • DAVID GOODSTEIN (JACKSON BROWN)
  • DEBBY HOLIDAY (SOLO ARTIST)
  • ED ROTH (ANNIE LENNOX, MONTROSE)
  • JOEY HEREDIA (STEVIE WONDER, EL TRIO)
  • RALPH RIECKERMANN (SCORPIONS)
  • JOEL KOSCHE (COLLECTIVE SOUL)
  • TIFFANY (SOLO ARTIST)
  • LAURA KAYE (MARK WOOD BAND)
  • MARK ALBERICI (TIFFANY)
  • OLIVER ALBERICI (TIFFANY)
  • JAKE BARR (TIFFANY)
  • CODY WAGGETT (TIFFANY)
  • STEVE WEINGART (RING OF FIRE)
Horns, Strings & Percussion:
  • ALEX CSILLAG (SAVE FERRIS)
  • ANNE KING (ROD STEWART)
  • DALE EDWARD (CONFUNKSHUN)
  • DANICA PINNER (HAIM, DEADMAU5)
  • ELIZA JAMES (BURT BACHARACH, PAUL ANKA)
  • KAITLIN WOLFBERG (DWEEZIL ZAPPA)
  • KATJA RIECKERMANN (ROD STEWART, LADY GAGA)
Background Performers-
  • MAUREEN DAVIS
  • MONICA SCHNEIDER
  • ATARA GLAZER
  • SEAN ALEXANDER BART
ULTIMATE NAMM NIGHT Dancers-
  • OLGA ATTACK
  • APRIL SHOWERS
For information on weekly Ultimate Jam Night shows, please visit: http://ultimatejamnight.wixsite.com/ultimate-jam-night

RANDY RHOADS REMEMBERD/BONZO BASH

Written by Photographer/Director Diego Gonzales from Diego Gonzales Pictures with assistance from KNAC.COM Contributor Francisco Zamudio

The first time I heard a heavy metal song Randy Rhoads was playing guitar. Courtesy of a Diary of a Madman cassette tape, enthusiastically presented to me by my uncle Ben, I discovered a passion that lives in my core to this day. Randy Rhoads Remembered (RRR) paired with Bonzo Bash was not just a concert, or gathering of some of the finest Rock and Metal musicians walking the earth, it was an emotional experience. Held at the Yost Theater in Santa Ana, and timed with the annual National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) convention, the event is an ultimate celebration for the fans of Randy Rhoads and John Bonham. The evening was filled with two healthy sets of some of the greatest Rhoads and LED ZEPPELIN hits performed by a mix of modern-day heavy hitters and true living legends.

There is something to be said for seeing your music idols delivering their music with the very intent and intensity that it was created for. I stood in awe of Rudy Sarzo pounding the neck of his guitar to "S.A.T.O." from Diary of a Madman. RRR founder Brian Tichy held down the drums, Rowan Robertson nailed the solo and Andrew Freeman (LAST IN LINE) hit the high notes. During the song, I had this moment when I thought, there is Rudy Sarzo. It’s really him. He’s really as good as I saw on TV and imagined when I heard his recordings. He really shared the stage with Randy Rhoads. I felt like I was seeing a best friend celebrating his music with a joy and enthusiasm that only the powers of legends could bring. That moment, I actually felt like Randy was there. I felt like he was looking down, from his big silhouette on the stage banner backdrop, beaming with pride.

At another moment, I heard the familiar rattle and the stone-chiseled key riff for "Crazy Train". Rudy continued to carry the bass, Tichy drums. This time, Chris Jericho from FOZZY and Michael Angelo Batio (NITRO) stepped onto the stage. Michael Angelo was wearing a long black leather trench coat and was wielding his Dean signature double neck flying V. One then questions how it is earthly possible to play such an original instrument, let alone make it sound so incredible. Part way through the song, double V in hands, he looks up at the Randy silhouette as if to personally acknowledge his presence. During this nod, I was able to take a photo of him looking up. A strange cool flare of green stage light ended up on the photo. Surely, many people can acknowledge the quality of sound and entertainment at the show, but I was left with yet another sign of the presence of something larger.

Lee Kerslake was honored with the Randy Rhoads Remembered Legend Award. Joe Sutton and Brian Tichy did the honors with Kathy Rhoads D’Argenzio and Kelle Rhoads. Rudy Sarzo was on stage. With a special surprise visit, Producer Max Norman was then pulled on stage to also be recognized for his work with Randy on Blizzard of Ozz, Diary of a Madman, and Tribute.

Earlier in the evening, I was introduced to Chas West by much respected Rock/Metal Producer and guitarist Roy Z Ramirez (Halford/Bruce Dickinson/TRIBE OF GYPSIES). He had just finished working on Chas’ solo album West Bound. Jimmy Burkard also plays guitar on the new album. Roy Z also mentioned that he produced, co-wrote and played on some tracks for SPIRITS OF FIRE with Tim “Ripper” Owens that has just released their new album.

Later, I was able to see Chas and Roy perform "You Can’t Kill Rock and Roll" with Brian Tichy. I finally absorbed the true gravity of these people as musicians when they took the stage. Chas’ vocals were an anvil-like anchor for the night, and he was a go-to player carrying heavy picks for both RRR and Bonzo sessions. Some of the songs he was tapped to play are not to be attempted by even the most seasoned musician. His personality, stage presence, and vocal rock talent left no question he could rock star at the highest level. No one would be leaving there forgetting this guy sang this night. Roy Z layed down some solid riffs and mixed in some cool fret-hand-only flavor and whammy bar flashes. Throughout his playing, he pulled some lengthy solid wailing notes and then balanced some highest-level shred runs with solid anthem riffs. During Bonzo Bash, Jimmy Burkard did some wicked Jimmy Page that couldn’t be beat. The man doesn’t just play flawless, note for note, and with religious accuracy, he brings fire to the songs. Jimmy’s got all the solos in his pocket, and he powers a Les Paul chord the way it was built to sound.

During the transition from RRR to Bonzo Bash the showcase turned from spotlight on guitars to spotlight on drums. A breathtaking amber acrylic monster drum kit equipped with a Bonzo-worthy gigantic gong took center stage. Drummers like Stephen Perkins, Daxx Nielsen, Kenny Aronoff, and Stix Zadinia (STEEL PANTHER) made the kit just dance. ZEP tune after tune was a pinch yourself moment. Even the drummer and bassist from ANTHRAX, Charlie Benante and Frank Bello, teamed up and soloed for some songs. Charlie carried an intensity and heaviness. Frank, bass slung low, delivered every note by moving his entire body with force. The motions came through in the music.

As if it weren’t enough, Carmine Appice walks to the front of the stage carrying a drum slung over his shoulder. He looks back as his brother sits behind the amber drum set. He then takes part in some MOBY DICK jam that made everyone just glow. That night, Vinny would be honored with the Bonzo Bash Legend Award. He was surrounded by Carmine and Phil from LAST IN LINE.

Chas, Brian, Phil handled their usual parts when a gold-top Les Paul is carried on stage. I hear a familiar ZEPPELIN slide riff that has unmistakable groove. The sound began to match the movement of the crowd. My counterpart Francisco taps me on the arm to point out that Doug Aldridge is responsible. A couple days later I ran into him on the upper deck at the NAMM conference. I told him his performance was smashing, and he reacted with a level of personability and humbleness that makes one shake one’s head. You just have to considering that he literally moved the whole venue. He took a selfless moment to point out that he was just a kid fan that went to see Randy Rhoads perform live. With the respect he conveyed you could see how one guitar hero clearly sparks another.

Some other stand out gems that night included Gregg Fox commanding the keys. He reverently brought that familiar eerie brilliance to classic Ozzy/Randy/Zep tunes. At one point, Tichy proved his metal by jumping out from behind the drum kit to wail on a RR classic using a 1980’s polka dot black and white Jackson flying V. He yells at the crowd that it’s an “eighty!” He made a clear statement that it’s something to behold to see someone so talented at two very different instruments. Phil Soussan (LAST IN LINE, Ozzy Osborne, Billy Idol) was a key player and brought excellent rhythm with his gigantic bass and the expression he played it with. Bruce Watson and Michael Bluestein from FOREGINER lit up the stage. The smiles they brought to the stage and the crowd spread like wildfire.

Looking back on the night, I realized that I missed a moment of Doro Pesch or Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal on stage. Then I think, oh, nice talking to talents like Jean Beauvoir or Tim Ross from BLACKFOOT. They were all there, as fans and performers, for the legends of Randy and John. One just wouldn’t know who was going to be in the crowd or on stage at any given moment. Proper tribute was paid and the torch was lit again for all of us Rock and Metal fans.

If you want to remember and then continue to live the best moments of your heavy metal life, I highly recommend you attend any of the two upcoming concerts for Randy Rhoads Remembered: Saturday, March 16th at Count’s Vamp’d in Las Vegas and Sunday March 26th at The Canyon at the Rose in Pasadena.

Check out some interviews and footage below!


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