I am amazed by the bands I see every year, they are at times some incredibly well known, well established acts and other times they are little known bands. In 2015 I saw 157 different acts perform, and much like a band on a massive tour it becomes cumbersome remembering where I was on a particular date. Sure its possible to remember a music festival or one of the iconic acts but at times it is nothing more than a simple name that sticks out never to be forgotten.
Rock bands are notorious for their on and off stage antics replete with groupies, one-nightstands, advanced "pharmaceuticals" and gallons of adult beverages. Novels have been written about the exploits of bands and the members of the bands, heck there have even been movies written about them (one of the greatest movies of all-time "This is Spinal Tap"). Today there seem to be fewer acts that live up to that billing, what do you expect with all of the "teen idols" today catering to the prepubescent girls that scream for the likes of that Bieber guy (I refuse to use his complete name). While hip-hop and the person I named a sentence ago are seemingly all people remember in music today there are plenty of artists that can still bludgeon their fans with music so hard they forget the other stuff.
As I travel about the republic enjoying live music (take a page from Nike "Just Do It" yourself), I see those bands that used to rock and still are. For every Def Leppard, Motley Crue (R.I.P.) and Social Distortion there are up and comers that relish their foothold in rock. Saving Abel, Volbeat, Texas Hippie Coalition and so many others will slap you so hard that your great, great grandparents will feel it but lying somewhere in the middle there are the "tweeners." You have just asked yourself "What in the hell is a "tweener" didn't you? Let me explain.
In the terms of music a "tweener" has nothing to do with the awkward world of the pre-teen / early teen, in fact if it does then someone should call the authorities. In music terms a "tweener" is a member of a band that came in some time in the life of a band that has already had success. A "tweener" would be considered a person that has come into a band after someone left the band such as AC/DC for example. As I write this AC/DC is in flux following the departure of Brian Johnson and the singer that comes in to replace him (it sounds like Axl Rose at this time, more on that in another article) would be a "tweener." Interestingly enough Johnson would be by definition a "tweener" as he took over full-time vocal duties following the unfortunate passing of Bon Scott.
Before you go all medieval on me that "tweener" definition means NOTHING about their talent, it simply means that they joined a band and weren't an original member. Need proof? Think about Ozzy Osbourne and his band following the death of one of the greatest guitar players of all-time: Randy Rhodes. After Rhodes Ozzy had the likes of Brad Gillis, Jake E. Lee, Zakk Wylde and Gus G. come into his band and each of those guys is beyond brilliant but by my definition "tweeners."
When I traveled to Bolingbrook, Illinois February 12th, 2016 it marked the second time I visited "Tailgaters" having been there to see Lita Ford, I knew what I was about to experience, I really did but the name of the band was a "tad" perplexing. The name "Hookers and Blow" really resonates the era of rock I mentioned earlier but even all of these years later I still caught myself almost whispering the name. I'm an old dude, okay not old, seasoned but when talking about the name I almost felt like our grandparents talking about sex. I would talk about the upcoming show and how excited I was but the minute I got to the name I would whisper it almost.
Its a shame that I felt like that because the pedigrees of the members of this band make you excited because they are that freaking good. The band is made up of an incredible group of performers: Dizzy Reed (Guns 'n Roses - vocals, keyboards), Mike Duda (W.A.S.P. - bass), Alex Grossi (Quiet Riot, - guitar), Johnny Kelly (Type O Negative - drums) and Don Jamieson (That Metal Show). Each member brings something to the table that complements the other members of the band making one heck of a "super group."
The "master of ceremonies" if you will is Don Jamieson from the former VH1 show "That Metal Show." With a quick wit, a sense of humor that would make Sam Kinison envious and the experiences that only a person that has been part and parcel to some of the greatest acts in music, Jamieson will make you shake your head, begging for more. Jamieson will keep you shaking your head as you laugh so hard that your whole body hurts. That's the plus of having a comedian "open" a concert in my eyes because you aren't always sure what you are going to get with another musical act but Jamieson kills it every time he is out there.
When I mentioned Randy Rhodes earlier I talked about the guitar players that followed his footsteps after this untimely passing but Rhodes also left the band Quiet Riot and was replaced by Carlos Cavazo, interestingly at some point in the future Alex Grossi took over the role of guitar for Quiet Riot. That passing of the torch didn't happen until 2004 whereby other guitar players assumed that role at various points along the way. Grossi is a brilliant guitar player, he really puts me in the mindset of Cavazo and Rhodes, he is such a talent and he makes it look effortless. He has energy and he seemingly has the swagger that guitar players in a metal band MUST HAVE. In all honesty his role in this band is cemented in his skill.
Drummers have a reputation of being the wild ones of the bunch just look at Keith Moon and John Bonham, they had that undeniable characteristic that set them apart from many contemporaries, and Johnny Kelly follows right along with them. Think for a moment about what a drummer is, he is the speed of a band, the gas pedal and Johnny Kelly is that guy. Kelly was the drummer for the band Type O Negative from 1994 until the band disbanded in 2010 following the tragic loss of Peter Steele. Type O Negative was metal with a dark, nasty edge and one of my favorite songs by the band has to be "Love You To Death." It's dark, and despite the relative steady, slow sound Kelly's drums are the pulse of the song, its control, that is what Kelly brings to the table. Kelly is so much more than that though, he feeds off of the crowd during and after the performance. He is personable and was always smiling, the guy is freaking great!
Here's a neat piece of trivia about my blog, one of the very first articles I wrote was about Stephen Pearcy and the Ratt Bastards at the Mississippi Moon Bar and that night I met a couple of members of the band. Performing that evening for Pearcy on bass was Mike Duda. That night Duda took literally two or three hours just talking to us after the show and that always stuck with me, its really part of the reason I actually wrote that first article. Flash forward to February 12th, 2016 with Duda playing bass for "Hookers and Blow" with the same energy and precision that a bass player must have. How hard would it be to play in W.A.S.P. for Blackie Lawless, the man is a legend but I can tell you emphatically the reason he plays for Lawless and "Hookers and Blow" is because he is incredibly gifted. The man moved the entire night and he never missed a beat, once again Duda proved how skilled he is and judging by how long he spent talking to fans after the show proves how much he values his fans.
What if I were to tell you that Guns N' Roses had a guy performing with them since 1990 that played piano and keyboards? Would you point out the seeming lack of keyboards / piano on songs like "Welcome To The Jungle" and "Sweet Child of Mine?" What if I pointed out that with the release of "Use Your Illusion I and II" had heavy use of keyboards on songs like "Civil War," "Live and Let Die," "Yesterdays" and "November Rain" and I told you that Dizzy Reed was the guy that performed those keyboard parts? Well I wouldn't be lying because Reed did indeed perform on most of those songs and in the auspices of "Hookers and Blow" Reed plays keyboards and sings lead vocals. Reed really shows why he has the resume' he does. I was excited to hear Reed perform and the guy did not disappoint. Vocally he fits so well within the songs they performed which were a mishmash of songs across the board, the guy really has a gift, he was a what I really want every lead vocalist be: energetic, funny, skilled and loving his fans.
The venue that is Tailgaters in Bolingbrook, Illinois is a fascinating place, I have visited there once before to see Lita Ford and the staff is top-notch as is the entire venue itself. It's a great place to see and hear live music so when the opportunity arose to see "Hookers and Blow" came up we jumped on it. I was transfixed wanting to see what kind of product they would give us and wasn't disappointed. This band is one of the reasons I tell readers so often to support live music because unless you do the opportunity to see a band the caliber of "Hookers and Blow" doesn't happen unless you make the effort to go out and spend the time. Supporting local music doesn't only mean supporting local bands but local venues as well because without an establishment like Tailgaters you don't see a band like this.
Earlier I talked about "tweeners," groupies, consumption of a variety of pharmaceuticals and the exploits of some music acts I also talked about the contributions those performers can have in regards to that of an established band. In the grandiose, flowery terms I described the crux of the matter is that I heard about a performance of a band called "Hookers and Blow" and knowing the caliber of the members of the band it was an immediate no-brainer. As this band wanders about this country it behooves you to take that same no-brainer approach and go see them live. When you do see them, make sure you take the approach to have fun, support local venues and sit down and enjoy one of the best bands that are out there. I promise you the next time I get the chance to see them I will be there.
What an absolute treat! Great job guys!!!