MKII Deep Purple

By Michael Fischer, Writer, Cartoonist
Monday, March 24, 2008 @ 9:36 PM

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This is the way a tribute should be performed! Killer musicians honoring killer music!

MKII Deep Purple Machine Head Tribute Set List - 3/1/08 - (75 Minutes)

    1. Highway Star...
    2. Maybe I'm a Leo...
    3. Pictures Of Home...
    4. Never Before...
    5. Smoke On The Water...
    6. Lazy...
    7. Space Truckin'...


    8. Women From Tokyo...
    9. Hush...
    10. Strange Kind of Women...


    -Keyboards Michael Webb (The Wreckers)...
    -Vocals Rick Schell (Pin Monkey, Steve Earle, Southside Johnny, Pure Prairie League)...
    -Guitar Mike Simmons (Peacemakers, Simmonz)...
    -Bass Jamie Simmons (Peacemakers, Simmonz)...
    -Drums Paul Simmons (Reverend Horton Heat, Steve Morse, Petra, Black Oak Arkansas, The Shack Shakers, Defense Wins Championships, Simmonz)...

I'm a huge Deep Purple Fan! I have been ever since I first plugged in "Machine Head" when I was a bright eyed kid in school. If you were lucky enough to be alive back then. You can still remember your plastic 8 track tape going "Ka'chunka" changing tracks. (This is before RAP and crack, so these were really good times). The great thing about 8 track tapes was, you could pop one in, and it would play until you pulled it out, or it ate your tape. Needless to say, this was the beginning of a new rock era for me.

I remember the first time I gazed at Deep Purples's Machine Head Album Cover. I was ten years old standing in the album section in Target with my mom yelling at me "G-Dammit, I said no! I'm not buying that crap so put it down and let's go brainlessly wonder around the women's shoe department instead!" So that was my first challenge in life. How to get that record and a turn table?!? I remember starring at the Deep Purple Logo on the front of Machine Head stamped in chrome above a blurred photo of five faces. Ritchie Blackmore, Jon Lord, Ian Gillian, Ian Paice, and Roger Glover. I had to have that record and as luck would have it, Mom got sappy that Thanksgiving and I got "Made in Japan" for Christmas and the rest is history. A live version of "Highway Star" was even better and had longer guitar solos. As a listener, I quickly discovered it's not as much about the band as it is the music. Discovering Deep Purple is the ultimate lesson in tone, melody, feel, and fury. Ritchie Blackmore was the first one who taught me what a guitar lick was. If it wasn't for Ritchie Blackmore, most rock guitar players would be playing Ted Nugent and Jimmy Page licks.

The power and mystic of Deep Purple earns them the title of most wicked rock band of all time. They have held the Guinness Book of World Records title as the Worlds Loudest Band since 1974. Deep Purple's music deeply affected me and all hard core fans as their songs contain tremendous feeling and soul. They wrote about true stories and their material reflected the times they lived in. 1971 was a time period when studio music was recorded live, analog, had character, taste and unmistakable connection. If you weren't a Deep Purple Fan growing up in high school, you were a pen worm and not worthy of our tribe. This time period was an important corner stone for heavy rock. I guess why Deep Purple recorded "In Rock". The album cover artwork depicted their heads carved in Mount Rushmore Stone. These guys are National Monuments and deserve to be etched in rock like the Ancient Pyramids. Deep Purple has done more for my soul than any American President. It's a genius concept to put together a Machine Head Tribute show to pay honor to this triple platinum classic we all cut our teeth on.

It's a rocking March 1, Saturday Night @ The Rutledge in Music City. The Rutledge is the best sounding live club in town for bands. It's a cool venue. Small and personable with great food and an outside deck. There are a slew of rock clubs in town, but none better than The Rutledge. It's located on 4th Ave. South in the heart of downtown a few blocks from The Nashville Predators Arena. The Rutledge has been newly remolded and has the best light and sound system in town thanks to front house engineer Frank Sass. The Rutledge has a hot little bartender and waitress that would rival your local Hooters. Great place to hang out, slarf a sandwich, pound down a few cold ones, and take in a live show.

Now for all of you unfamiliar with Nashville. Don't let the Country Music Image of the town fool you folks. There are some pickers here that will ruin your ego in ten seconds flat. The rock scene in Nashville rivals anywhere in the world. Hey, that's why they call it Music City! When I was 15 years old, I bought my first drum kit from Winklers Drum Shop here in Nashville from Tommy Winkler who built Peter Criss's custom drum kit pictured on the Kiss Alive record. For me that was validation that Nashville was secretly on the metal map. As a kid moving to the south from St. Louis in 1976, I thought the most rock n' roll thing in Nashville at that time was Johnny Cash and Dolly Parton's Tits! Nashville is an industry town and a major party town, so what a perfect setting for a Deep Purple Tribute Show. I knew tonight's show was going to be good, but it was better than I imagined. Im a die hard Deep Purple Fan and this show rocked my socks!

The MKII Tribute Band cranked up @ 10 pm sharp to a rowdy packed house. Right from the beginning of "Highway Star" I was hooked! The haunting familiar sounds of my favorite record "Machine Head" filled the air and energized the crowd silly. By the 3rd tune in the set, I was emotionally forced to throw my Dio Fingers in the air. The front house sound was awesome and became warmer as each song progressed. The Rutledge P.A. has killer low end subs, and the overall sound was not ear plug bleeding loud. It was just right! During "Maybe I'm a Leo" I thought to myself, "Cool, these guys sound just like Deep Purple!"

MKII Guitarist Mike Simmons was ace at capturing Ritchie Blackmore classical staccato style. This guy in high school was playing "Kill The King" note for note when everyone else was still trying to figure out "Free Bird." Mike ripped the solo in "Highway Star" a new tailhole right from the get go. He was superb in matching the tones and whole vibe of Ritchie Blackmore throughout the entire set. Ah' the hammer ons, the pull offs, and dropping that bar! Mike Simmons ripped up the solos and played everything right down to the last lick. He also did a nice job of adding his own mustard here and there. (I would have thought less of him if he didn't play the live intro version of "Smoke on the Water" Hah ha.) He plugged into an old Marshall Stack, and used custom Strats for the killer Blackmore Tone. The only thing that could have made him more Ritchielike would have been if he sprayed his hair black, wore bell bottoms, white platforms and a black velvet jacket. No solum Blackmore glares from stage left tonight, Mike Simmons was all grins because he was having the time of his life. The entire MKII Band was way above par and did a super job performing this material! The attention to detail was totally pro.

The Dark Horse of the night was bassist Jamie Simmons. He's been playing with his brothers since junior high school when we all joked each brother would play a different instrument and form a band one day. So here they are, and still the kids at heart that grew up on Clearlake Dr. in Edge-O-Lake. I have to mention, the original bassist planned to perform this tribute "Tom Comet" (Webb Wilder) had to pull out last week because his father sadly passed away. So brother Jamie Simmons was called to duty to fill Tom's spot. Jamie Simmons learned all these tunes in just one week and I mean he nailed it! His five string bass solo in "Pictures of Home" brought the house down. Deep Purple Bassist Roger Glover would have cracked a huge Lake Geneva smile and hoisted his pint high. Jamie doesn't play with a pick either. The sound was there. These guys really did their homework right down to becoming consumed with the ghostly DVD story about the recording of "Machine Head". I've seen Jamie play bass his whole life, I know because I sold him his first leather guitar strap. Tonight was the hands down the best time I ever had watching him play live. I think Mus has finally found his mark!

I really enjoyed Keyboardist Michael Webb. It was my first time seeing him perform and he was on fire! My god this guy was sick. I mean he really tore it up. He captured the authentic Jon Lord'ism to the max with his Hammond B3 and trademark Heavy Leslie Growl. Players of this caliber make love to their instruments on stage and make it look easy. I was just blown away by his talent. His solos and the intro to "Lazy" was right on the money and he really put the band into 5th gear. His contribution to this show was pure gold. These guys took the time to put the whole DP package together here. A total of two months of rehearsal went into this performance and each individual effort showed. Great thing I like about five member bands is, I can take turns watching each musician perform individually and never get bored visually. The band was stealler, but without Michael Webb on Keyboards, this gig wouldn't have come off at the level it did.

Frontman Rick Schell did a great job on vocals. He's a talented artist in his own right and a professional award winning Pearl Drummer by trade. He was invited to sing because he's a big Deep Purple Fan. And hey, he gets it! It wouldn't be right to let some peach fuzzed American Idol wanna be butcher "Maybe I'm a Leo." There are few singers who have the pipes to hit Gillian's dog calling high note screams but Rick did a nice job very much the same way David Coverdale approached Ian's material. Bluesy. He played some smoking Harmonica on "Lazy" and jumped in on some percussion along with Paul Simmons in the middle of "Space Truckin". Ricks dueling voice solo on their live version of "Strange Kind of Women" with Mike Simmons on Guitar sounded just like on "Made in Japan". Very loose, very cool, word for word, and note for note! "Strange Kind of Women" was a cool way to rock out the end of the set and leave their calling card. The band had a good time and it came across to the crowd. After the show, you could feel that people would easily come back and see these guys do this again.

Drummer Paul Simmons was solid tonight and is one of the best rock spankers on the planet. You know your good when Robert Plant walks up to you in a European Airport and says "Hey, Paul Simmons of The Shack Shakers!" In my opinion, Pauly was the only drummer to replace Tommy Aldridge in Black Oak Arkansas and smoke his balls! Paul was like stay at home defenseman tonight doing the Ian Paice thing keeping true to the music and not flying off everywhere except when he had the green light. Paul is a double bass drummer by heart and could easily give Mike Portnoy a run for his boxing gloves. Paul stuck to tradition tonight with the one kick drum Ian Paice set up and did a nice job on back up vocals and lent Rick a hand on a few Ian screams. Paul Simmons is one of the best rock drummers I've ever heard, and if I were recording a record would choose him to play on it. He's insane and will probaly be in Led Zeppelin or Judas Priest before his career is over. Paul Simmons tours the world playing arenas and it's funny he looks more content playing Deep Purple with his brothers in a club for some gas money. It's nice to see Pauly home in his natural habitat jamming with his brothers again like old times.

That's what it's all about. If we started to play music when we were kids for the money instead of the fun, we wouldn't have never got off the ground. Much like cartoons, we all grew up on this stuff. What a perfect way to honor the music and give it back to fans. Deep Purple's 80s Live CD was cleverly titled "Nobody's Perfect" for a reason. That's the beauty of live performances like this. Sure, this tribute could use a couple small technical production adjustments which I'm sure they will polish up. Regardless I give them two thumbs up for having the balls to pull this off. This was just their first show. Imagine how good these guys are going to be this summer?!? They are going to burn it up! If I we're a booking agent, I'd roll out the red carpet for these blokes!

View Photos and Watch Streaming Video of the MKII Deep Purple Tribute Show at www.mikesimmonsband.com

Check out Michael Fischer's website www.toonsonice.com

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