Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Bulletboys - Rock 'N Skull October 18th, 2015

It goes without saying that at times we all have had that moment when we remember a moment in time when we are prompted by something.  I don't mean dejà vu either, I mean that moment where you hear the song you first held hands with your date, or hearing the bells on the ice cream truck reminding you of the time that fat kid hit you in the face with his bat that he carelessly threw when he ran to the ice cream truck.  That kind of moment, do you feel me?  So...

We've all had those moments, and sometimes it really has nothing to do with that fat kid but simply just an event that pops up of no real consequence.  I have them all of the time, sometimes they are good memories and occasionally, okay often they are bad.  I was an EMT at one time in my life so when I travel around my area I have bad memories pop up.  There are times that good memories pop up too and in fact I had one of those memories when I attended Rock 'N Skull on October 18th, 2015.  I saw quite a few bands over the three days of the music festival that was Rock 'N Skull but for me one of those moments just happened to pop up when it came time to see the Bulletboys.

I've seen a "few" bands in the forty-seven years of my life, and some have elicited those memories one of which occurred on October 18th, 2015.  When I was younger and I was attending college I was staying in a town just a short jaunt away from where I live now.  The house was home to slightly over forty consecutive Saturday night parties that I had (coupled with another house I had 73 straight parties on Saturday nights) so the chance at one time I might have a memory that perked up was a distinct possibility.

If you are over the age of 35 I would venture a guess that you might remember when MTV actually had music and one of the greatest programs ever, "Headbangers Ball."  The interesting thing about that show was that there were so many bands out of the mainstream that the youth of the day (me included) could see and experience.  One of those bands that I was able to "see" was the band "Bulletboys."  I was always intrigued by this band, they had a swagger about them on stage, or in the video however you look at it.

Every party I had back then had "Headbangers Ball" on at some time during that Saturday night party, and it seemed like everyone that attended those parties became Bulletboys fans.  The more I think back to those parties I realize first of all how much money I spent on "adult beverages" on myself during that time but also a few of my friends started to try to look like the members of the band, more specifically Marq Torien.  It became noticeable as friends began trying to grow their hair similarly as Torien, but they couldn't pull it off, not even close.

That makes sense if you really think about it because the band "Bulletboys" had this feel of a band like "Guns 'N Roses," that dirty, gritty, kick your arse kind of feel to them.  It was their swagger I think, that attitude of "we are here to blow your socks off and if you don't like it, get over it."  That is a great thing by the way, they are the bands that become unforgettable and the Bulletboys are a testament to the inability for anyone to try to duplicate them.

When I traveled to Rock 'N Skull in Pekin, Illinois I was hoping that through it all the band "Bulletboys" would be like that band I remembered from all of those days ago.  Rock 'N Skull had one of the most interesting lineups I could ever imagined but there was a certain amount of excitement about being able to see the Bulletboys.  When I was young I always worked my way up to the stage so I could get close to the action and I made sure I was up as close as I could get, within limits obviously.  After I successfully positioned myself in a protected area, a nervous anticipation of their performance kind of came over me.  It was almost that feeling of hoping the memories were the same as the current experience.

When the Bulletboys came on stage and began to play it was immediately apparent that this band had "it" still.  There is an energy about this band that is exceptionally hard to define, and it wasn't for a lack of trying on my part either.  It was so hard initially to define the energy but as is the band performed it became blatantly obvious: It was their past.  The thing I immediately took from this band was this obvious punk influence that was hardwired into every aspect of the band.  It was incredible how this band performs live, with passion and that same swagger I noticed back in those early days.

Chad MacDonald - Bass
©musicallead.blogspot.com - 2015
Every band has a heartbeat and the Bulletboys aren't without a heartbeat.  Standing on stage that day was indeed the heartbeat of the band:  Chad MacDonald, bass player.  With MacDonald there is a very eclectic, rock soul from the fedora to the leather jacket he overtly shows that interesting edge of all performers.  Here's the thing, there is so much more to this man than simply a hat and jacket, this man can flat out play bass.

The stage at Rock 'N Skull wasn't massive so the musicians switching sides during the performance really didn't happen often but that mattered not.  Watching MacDonald play was fun, he made it look effortless while at the same time he showed a complexity in his skill.  It makes it so much fun for me to see people that are like MacDonald because this man is great at his craft.

I was impressed by the showman that is Chad MacDonald, he really was interesting on stage, but after the show I talked with him and he was cordial, interesting and he showed how much he cared about his fans.  Several times during our conversation when approached by other fans he took the time, shook their hand, hugged a few, took pictures and really showed his depth as a person.  To me that is almost as important as his skill as a bass player.  He is an incredible performer and he is an absolute treat to watch!

Hard rock / metal or any derivative of is nothing without the driving beat of the drums.  Its often said that the real star of the stage is the one you never see completely, that being the drummer.  I suppose to a degree that is true, because without the crash of the cymbals, the booming bass drum and the character of the band that always seems to be the drummer, the band wouldn't be as effective in the realm of rock.  The band would sound homogenized, lending itself to mere ballads and making sure that is NOT the case with the Bulletboys is Shawn Duncan.

From L - R  Marq Torien - Guitar, Lead Vocals, Shawn Duncan - Drums
©musicallead.blogspot.com - 2015
Duncan is the prototypical drummer any metal or punk fan could ever imagine.  Its hard for a band to have a good sound, let alone the demanding sound that the Bulletboys requires without having an incredible drummer.  Duncan is really the guy that can pull it off, he was extremely active on that drum kit, loosening the cymbals at least twice as he player during their relatively short set.  At one point Duncan was hitting the aforementioned cymbals so hard that a wing nut fell off and remained there, on the stage until the end of the performance whereby the crew must have picked it up.  Duncan is a stout man, one hell of a performer with that edge to him that makes him the prototypical drummer.  If I was starting a band I would look for a guy like Duncan to be my drummer.

Nick Rozz - Guitar
©musicallead.blogspot.com - 2015
Nick Rozz.  Guitar player.  There I said it.  What else can I say about a man that is this good on guitar?  Inasmuch as MacDonald appears to be effortless in his performance so too is Rozz.  As Rozz played he reminded me quit a bit of Mike Ness of Social Distortion, and he had a similar appearance as well. 

I think that's a fair appraisal of Rozz to be honest, he was meticulous in his performance, musically spot on and it was apparent that he indeed is a master of his craft.  His stage presence is very much like Ness although I doubt that Rozz is making an attempt to be Ness on stage but he does exude this larger than life persona that makes him intriguing.  I was struck by the intensity he has on stage while being personable off stage, its a rare combination for any performer of this caliber.  He is really the consummate professional.

Thinking back to those "Headbangers Ball" days I asked myself what I remember the most about the Bulletboys.  Was it their music?  Was it "Smooth Up In Ya?"  Was it "For the Love of Money?"  I think the answer lies in Marq Torien.

Marq Torien - Lead Vocals, Guitar
©musicallead.blogspot.com - 2015
When Torien founded Bulletboys in 1987 with Mick Sweda, Lonnie Vencent and Jimmy D'Anda, Torien already had quite the pedigree.  Torien had previously played with King Kobra and Ratt before starting the band Bulletboys (that is definitely some fine company to keep isn't it).  The thing I remember most about Torien was his incredible vocal range and his showmanship, the man reminded me of David Lee Roth but with a gritty edge.

I always wondered where that edge came from and talking with Torien it became apparent, his roots were in the punk scene.  Torien and I compared stories for a few minutes whereby Torien said that growing up in Los Angeles during the heyday of punk rock he had that punk edge.  It really does show in his music, that grit made its way into some hard hitting lyrics and the music that falls over those vocals is every bit as gritty.  I suppose that becomes a testament to that entire scene that was in Los Angeles at the time isn't it?  It makes perfect sense that his background belies his personal commentary ingrained in the music itself.

Torien still has that edge, its in his vocals, its in his music and when I saw him at Rock 'N Skull it was like seeing him when that first Bulletboys CD first came out.  The man is an entertainer, he is engaging, his vocals are better than a vast majority of his peers from the same era and he has that fan based energy that great bands feed off of.  His performance was incredible, simply incredible.  He does it with such ease but he is still the hardest working performer around.  Performers like Torien make it fun to write about their appearance, and about the artist themselves.

There have been quite a few years skirt by since those parties I once held.  Long gone are those days of "hair bands," so too are the days of "Headbangers Ball" and videos on MTV in general.  While those "good old days" have come and gone, it doesn't mean those days that have come after it were bad.  The Bulletboys still make records excuse me "albums," and some absolutely incredible music contained on them.  Marq Torien is still performing at the highest possible level, and he is still performing live.

Looking back all of those years ago I can still see (at times) the faces of those that attended all of those parties.  It seemed like many of the same people were there every week with a smattering of new faces from time to time.  Though the faces did change through addition, subtraction and occasionally multiplication it was apparent that everyone was there to have a good time.  Certainly there were hiccups from time to time but it never seemed to fail that the one place where we all ended up was in the living room, watching TV, MTV actually and "Headbangers Ball."  We watched while we talked, and we provided our own social commentary from time to time, just like party-goers for eons, okay MTV hasn't been around for eons but you get the gist.

Through the miracle of MTV we saw bands that we just couldn't experience in a small corner in northwest Illinois but it gave us the drive and desire to see those bands.  Yes some of us saw some of those bands, some more than others but some attempts were futile and others fruitful but we all missed some.  I had missed my fair share of "some" but when I traveled the three and a half hours to Rock 'N Skull in Pekin, Illinois I went to rectify a couple that I had missed oh so many years ago.  When I attended Rock 'N Skull I was able to see the Bulletboys live, and one more page was filled into the book of days gone by.  I look to that first video of the band Bulletboys and I see the faces of my friends from back then which makes me smile.

Look in the mirror of your days gone by, and think of those bands you have missed, and seek them out.  I sought after a band, the Bulletboys, and I found that even after all of this time they were worth the time, and the memories.  Find a Bulletboys concert near you, or go to your favorite live music venue and recommend that they bring the Bulletboys to you because you might just relive a small slice of your life.

What an incredible show!!

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