Sunday, June 22, 2014

Carmine & Vinny Appice Drum Wars - The Chance, Poughkeepsie NY June 21,2014 - Concert Review and Photos

I first heard of Drum Wars, the band/brotherly battle brainchild of iconic rock/metal drumming legends Carmine and Vinny Appice, a bit over two years ago when they were announced as part of the M3 Festival bill in 2012.

The concept sounded cool, but the band were given an extremely short daytime slot.  It came across like their kits were rolled out on stage and they were told they could do a quick duo drum solo (yes, quite the oxymoron) while the stage was being set for the next band.  I honestly think they were only given about 10 minutes to play, but it was M3, so sometimes the memories are a little hazy, but I think it was one of those years were the schedule was off and the Appice brothers suffered for it.

Well last night at The Chance in Poughkeepsie NY, the boys were coming to town to show what they could do with a headlining set and it was a blast!

Above I spoke of the concept which in my mind is two drumming legends who have been in/played with many of my favorite bands and artists getting a band together and playing some of those classic songs while showing off some serious stick work.  We got all that.  What we also got was almost something of a comedy show, especially with Carmine who I believe if he had not started drumming with bands such as Vanilla Fudge in the 60's would have been working the Catskills circuit looking to  fill the resorts with laughs.

The show started with an offstage announcer bringing the two contenders to the stage with a humorous boxing match like introduction with each brother getting the crowd hyped up as they stepped behind their kits which were side by side front and center on stage. The only stage "decoration" on this night were two life sized cardboard cut outs of Carmine giving the finger - one including with a sign which read "No Baby Brothers Allowed".  It literally set the stage for the kinda of back and forth banter and put downs the brothers would have throughout the battle on this night.  Oh, it was on!

The band members were then announced and out came guitarist Ethan Brosh and bassist Jimmy Caputo who mainly played on a raised stage behind the drum kits (although Ethan would venture down front during some solos) and vocalist Jim Crean roaming free.

The band kicked right into "The Mob Rules" the title track of off Black Sabbath's album where Vinny Appice replaced Bill Ward and Ronnie James Dio replaced Ozzy.  It was an ass kicker.  The band sounded great and Crean did an excellent job on vocals throughout the night.

The band then played a song which was more or less instrumental but with shouts of "Drum Wars" through out that showcased the brothers pounding abilities.  After this the rest of the band left the stage and the first part of the drumming battle began with some call and response and a bit of good natured ribbing thrown at each other.

Vinny stated there was one thing they wanted to clear up before they got far into the night.  It's well known that while the brothers share the same last name of Appice, they pronounce it differently. Carmine says "Ah-Peace and Vinny goes with "Ap-Ah-See".  Vinny said once and for all he would explain the difference and as he started to tell the story, Carmine just had to do a bit of a soundcheck on his drums for about 45 seconds. Of course just as he finished (drowning out Vinny's speech the whole time), Vinny was audible again and ended with "and that's why it's pronounced differently."  The brothers are having fun with this tour (and it is obivous on stage that they are having a blast) and the set was filled with this type of humor.

At this point the band came back out and Vinny stated he would be taking over on drums for the next two songs because he is the brother who is in the bands that really matter - Black Sabbath, Heaven and  Hell and of course Dio.  The band then played a pair of Dio classics with "Holy Diver" and "We Rock".  During these tunes, Carmine came out in front of his kit, singing backup and rockin with the crowd.

Following the mini Dio set, both brothers got back behind their kits as the band once again left the stage and they had the audience sing along as they played the drum track to "The Flintstones" theme song.  It's sad to say after the first four words of the song, the audience fell apart...It went something like "FLINTSTONES!  MEET THE FLINTSTONES!  mumble mumble mumble Family...In The town of Bedrock...mumble mumble mumble..."  When this sad version was over, Carmine and Vinny then took that Flintstones groove to a heavy level and pounded out a cool track based on that theme.

At this point Vinny left the stage so only his older brother was remaining and Carmine did a great drum solo.  When he was done he pointed out how sure, while his brother played with Dio era Black Sabbath, Carmine played with Ozzy on the "Bark at the Moon" tour and the band came back out rocked that classic tune.

Carmine then said how he also has played with Vanilla Fudge, Ted Nugent, Pink Floyd and many more.  So while his brother seems to only play that one type of music, Carmine has a much more varied style.  He then mentioned his time with Rod Stewart and the band went into a heavied up version of "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy" with Carmine singing lead for most of the song!  I did just see Rod about a month ago do this very tune and while Carmine is the drum master, I have to give the vocals belt on this one to Rod.

The rest of the band once again left the stage at this point and there was another "battle" segment between the brothers which them led into Vinny's solo for the night.

After this the band came back out for the remainder of the set which started with Ozzy's "Crazy Train" and then the main set ended with another Dio cover, this time "Stand Up and Shout!"

The band left the stage for about a minute, but came back for one more - a killer version of Black Sabbath's "Paranoid" which both Vinny and Carmine played on tour with Black Sabbath and Ozzy over through the years.

The show was a blast.  Lots of songs you knew every word too, lots of laughs and the boys came out about 5 minutes after the last symbol crash to meet and greet everyone at the merchandise table.

As a side note, the night before this, by coincidence I had planned my monthly double feature movie night and it was a Heavy Metal Horror theme this time around and I showed "Black Roses" which features Carmine.  I had him sign the DVD cover and the flyer I had made up for movie night.  He got a big kick out of seeing someone had the flick and said it was a lot of fun.  He was asking about the classic scene with Vincent ("Big Pussy" of the Sopranos fame) Pastore and if everyone dug the flick (we did) and that he had actually just heard from the actor who plays Damian in the movie.  Just a great friendly guy as was Vinny who signed a couple of Dio albums I brought with me.  Took a cool pic with them both and headed home.

Obviously if Drum Wars comes to your town I highly suggest going, it's a good time.  Feel free to share, comment, email on this post and if you like it, please follow on twitter so you get all our posts.  Also if you click on any of the photos, they will super size.  Enjoy!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Steve Grimmett's Grim Reaper - Saint Vitus, Brooklyn, NY - June 10, 2014 Concert Review and Photos

Tuesday, June 10, was the opening night of Steve Grimmett's Grim Reaper mini US Tour.  This is a quick seven shows in eight nights run launching with a two night stand at Saint Vitus in Brooklyn.

Saint Vitus is a heavy metal bar and killer place to see a show.  You walk into the bar area which is long, narrow and dimly lit with video of metal concerts projected on one of the side walls (classic Black Sabbath, Dio and Guns n Roses on this night).  The bar back shelves are lined with classic mostly signed metal albums and the other side wall is the doorway into the concert area which I would guess holds in the area of 200 to 250 when packed out which it was on this night when Grim Reaper took the stage.

Just before the show I read that the last time Grim Reaper played New York prior to this night was in 1987.  I was at one of those shows (at the Mid Hudson Civic Center in Poughkeepsie, NY) 27 years ago.  It was a great triple bill right before Halloween headlined by Grim Reaper with Helloween and Armored Saint opening.  One of my friends who came to this show actually had the setlist from that gig and Steve got a kick out of checking it out all these years later when we met him after the band's set.

We were all excited for this gig, but wondered how Steve Grimmett's Grim Reaper of today who hold up to the teenage memories of the band that kicked ass at that Poughkeepsie gig.  Would Steve still have the voice?  Would his current band have the chops of the original band that featured guitarist Nick Bowcott?  There was a brief moment a couple of weeks ago when it was announced Bowcott would actually be playing at these Brooklyn gigs, but shortly after it was said he had to cancel due to tendonitis. A lot of questions to be answered.

Perhaps knowing some might have such questions, Steve Grimmett's Grim Reaper decided to immediately put them to rest by opening with one of their two most iconic tunes - "Rock You To Hell."

It sounded awesome!

Other than Steve on vocals, the lineup of Grim Reaper is Ian Nash on guitar, Chaz Grimaldi on bass and Paul White on drums.  The band is tight, energetic and appeared to love the reaction of the rabid metal fans in attendance who knew not only the two "hits" (which would open and close the show), but all the songs played on this evening.

Following up the opening title track to their third album were two other songs from that album, "Night of the Vampire" and "Lust For Freedom".  They then went into  a double shot from their debut album with "Wrath of the Ripper" and "Now or Never."

Between songs Steve continually thanked the crowd for coming out and the great response.  We then got a taste of their second album with the title track off of "Fear No Evil."

Next up was "Liar" and then Steve announced they were going to play something new, the title track from their forthcoming album "From Hell." (If "Hell" works why not stick with it!).

Three of the next four songs were back to the second album with "Never Coming Back", "Lay It On The Line", "Rock Me Til I Die" and "Matter of Time."

As stated earlier, Steve and the band sounded great, but if a vocalist ever wants to show he's still got the goods, there's always a litmus test that can't be faked - cover a song by Dio.  The band nailed "Don't Talk to Strangers" with the audience singing loudly along.

As the cheers died down after this Dio tribute, Steve announced he was going to play a song that he figured was one for the ladies and had a chuckle when one such lady in the crowd yelled out for "Suck It and See"!  If the band does look to add to their setlist when they come back to the states later in the summer for another leg of the tour, the most requested songs by the audience all night were "Suck It and See" and "Dead on Arrival" - neither of which would get played.  Instead the band played "Waysted Love."

Steve said how normally at this point, if there were a backstage they would leave the stage and come back for the encore, but since there was not they would just play through and launched into "Final Scream."

Then there was only one song left and as the opening notes of "See You In Hell" began, the audience who had been rocking out all night went apeshit and a good portion of the crowd jumped up on stage to sing along.  I love the look on Steve's Face in this shot during the audience invasion!

Steve allowed them stage time for about half the song but then somewhat shooed them off and everyone politely obliged, finishing their rocking back down on the floor.

Steve said the band would come out to the merchandise table for anyone who wanted to meet them or get stuff signed and they all did about 15 minutes later and it was a great way to end the night.

On this tour, all the band was selling was this shirt pictured below.  Evidently it was so popular it sold out after the third gig and their screen printing company was working emergency overtime to get shirts out for the rest of the tour.

It was a great night of rock and if Steve or any members of the band are reading this, we'd love you guys to come back to Poughkeepsie all these years later.  Maybe at the The Chance or The Loft at the Chance.  I'll be happy to pass on the info.

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Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Soundgarden - Webster Hall, NYC June 2, 2014 concert review and photos

This was one of those times when the ticket gods were looking out for me.

If you have a Citi credit card you know they have this "rewards" website called private pass where they offer a lot of concert ticket presales and sometimes some exclusive shows for credit card holders.  Needless to say I was intrigued when I received an email about two weeks ago saying Citi were hosting Soundgarden at Webster Hall in NYC for a 20th Anniversary performance of their album "Superunknown."  

If my recollection is correct, Soundgarden have not played Webster Hall since around 1989 or 1990 when it was called The Ritz on the "Louder Than Love" tour.  It holds a bit less than 1500 when sold out which it most definitely was on this night.

I didn't expect to be able to score any tickets (for the celebratory price of $19.94) but figured I'd give it the old college try.  

They went on sale, I entered my password, put in the limit of 2 and five seconds after it went on sale I was informed it was sold out.  Pretty much what I expected.

But I wished bad luck upon my fellow man and kept trying for the next few minutes and my voodoo wishes came true.  At about 7 minutes in,  after being told it was sold out about 50 times, someone evidently did not enter their credit card info in time and two tickets became available!  Sweet!

I would find, when talking to others at the show, that it seemed I was one of the few non scalpers to get them at this price.  Folks paid mucho dinero to attend this gig.

I don't think any of them went home disappointed!

We got to Webster Hall around 7:00pm with the ticket showing a start time of 8:00.  Upon arriving we were suprised we didn't see any line.  We talked to one of the guys working the door and he let us know the band would be coming on at 9:30 and there was no opener.  He also let us know they were going to process tickets through the attached sports bar.

Our timing ended up being perfect.  We went up the flight of stairs to the bar and there were probably about 150 Soundgarden fans there.  Once it hit around 200 they stopped letting folks in.  We enjoyed some tasty cold beverages and chatted with others and an hour passed quickly.  At about 8:15, the woman at the entrance between the bar and Webster Hall then announced they would be letting us in.

We were in within 3 minutes, bought a shirt they made just for this event (it was the only merchandise available and they sold out quickly) and grabbed a spot on the left (Guitarist Kim Thayil's) side about 3 people back from the barrier.  That bar entrance was the place to be because we all got in before they let people in the main entrance.  Sweet!

There were really only a couple of questions we wondered while we waited the hour or so before the band was scheduled to come on.  First would drummer Matt Cameron be with them for this gig?  And would the set strictly be "Superunknown" from front to back.  I expected no on the first question and yes on the second.  Luckily I was proved wrong on both counts!

There was a large curtain on the stage with "CITI" in giant letters written across it.  At 9:30 the curtain raised and the band walked out and yep, Mr. Cameron was with them.

The only other time Soundgarden have done a "Superunknown" anniversary show was at the South by Southwest festival in Austin earlier this year.  At that show, it was as advertised. Superunknown and only Superunknown was performed.

The band was super tight and the album had an extra level of heaviness in this live setting.   The band would be incredibly intense during the performance of the songs, but then mellow and wry and joking with the crowd between, telling stories about the songs they just played or were about to.  It was a cool vibe.

"Superunknown" is chock full of Soundgarden's biggest hits, so there were some mighty roars of approval from the crowd when those were played, but it was also good to see that more or less everyone seemed to know every track on this album and there was never a lull in the packed hot and sweaty room.

Quite possibly the biggest crowd reaction of the night came right before the band played "Kickstand" when Ben Shepherd went to the mic and reminded the crowd that 20 years ago when this album came out was also when the New York Rangers last won the Stanley Cup.  The Rangers are in the Stanley Cup finals again this year and this led to a "Let's Go Rangers" chant normally reserved for Madison Square Garden.

About half way through the show Chris Cornell spoke about how this album is about 74 minutes long, but that was too short for a rock show, so they would be playing longer than that on this evening.

The band stretched out quite a few of the songs and when they finished "Like Suicide," the last track on the album, 90 minutes had passed.  They left the stage but the lights didn't go up.  They were back in a few minutes and treated the crowd to a killer two song encore of "Outshined" and ended the night with "Rusty Cage" both off "Badmotorfinger."

Just a fantastic show all around.  As a bonus, on the way out the door, everyone got a copy of the newly remastered 20th anniversary edition of the Superunknown on CD.  I wondered if for many of those younger folks in the crowd (not the 43 year old fogies like me) if they even had a place to play a CD!  Ah how the times have changed...

But what has not changed it the power of Soundgarden.  The guys sound great and all the women in the audience absolutely let everyone know they though Chris Cornell was looking great.

Thank you concert ticket gods...a worthy sacrifice will come your way.

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