Greg Golden Band feat. Keith St. John, with special guests Frank Hannon and Twanna Turner

Article By David Clendenen
Photos by Frankie James

It’s always a big event when the Reno-based Greg Golden Band visits the Sacramento area and Saturday night, November 3rd, was no exception as the usual crowd of hardcore fans, bikers and famous musicians from all over Northern California packed into The Boardwalk in Orangevale to catch the show. But this night was to prove exceptional, not only in terms of the performances of all involved but also due to the guest musicians sharing the stage with the Greg Golden Band that night, a lineup which included Danny Kurywchak, Todd Baumgartner of Blackwater, Twanna Turner, and last but not least Frank Hannon of Tesla fame who would take to the stage later—sometime in the third act—as an unannounced surprise guest. And yes, there were three “acts” to this show: three 90 minute sets comprising a total of 48 songs.

Opening local rock band Tonic Zephyr infused psychedelic energy and got the gathering throng into maximum music appreciation mode with an exceptionally solid set of their own, a lyrical and mesmerizing sonic odyssey led by the inspired and textural guitars of J.T. Loux, the exquisite vocals of Madi Gold and solid backing by the rhythms of Reilly Olsen on bass and Ricardo Ucles on drums.

A short while later The Greg Golden Band hit the stage and the now-energized crowd roared back to life as the band launched into their first number, an oldschool-headbangin’ cover of the Stones’ “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” so when the first chorus wheeled around charismatic frontman Keith St. John implored the audience to join right on in, prompting the crowd to cheerfully belt out that “it’s alright now!” as he hovered the mic out over the crowd. Having accomplished his mission to get the fans jumping Keith turned the mic over to the dynamic Lowell Hackney for lead vocals on the Stevie Wonder classic “Superstition,” on which Greg’s ever-resourceful and long-time rhythm guitarist Jeff Montgomery played a harmonizing lead guitar alongside Greg’s to great effect, followed by the GGB’s Far Away. Lowell then turned the mic over to Jeff for a couple more of the band’s classics, “Old School Rock n’ Roll” and “Burning Hearts,” on which Jeff played a 12 string Washburn acoustic as he sang his heart out. The irrepressible Lowell then relieved Jeff on vocals for still more crowd-pleasing GGB classics like “Far Away,” and “Cherokee.” Guest and fellow Reno vocalist Todd Baumgartner from the band Blackwater sang “Call of the Wild” in a highly spirited performance that really resonated with the audience. Then it was Keith’s turn at the mic again. Well you get the idea—there was always a fresh vocalist waiting in the wings so there was no reason for any one of them to hold back at all, and of course they each gave it everything they had. And the whole time Greg Golden himself was playing with reserved precision, perfectly dialed-in but still only just getting warmed up at this point. The band wrapped up the first set with a few more songs that really truly rocked and had several people dancing; songs which included a blistering version of Kenny Wayne Shepherd’s “Blue on Black,” Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower,” and Freddie King’s “Going Down,” featuring Danny Kurywchak playing lead guitar like a man possessed by Blues demons. The Rolling Stones’ “Honky Tonk Women” had Keith St. John briefly relieving rhythm-maestro Michael Young on the drums while the innovative and multitalented bassist David Strelz took over the lead vocals and Twanna Turner, lovely “fonk” singer and daughter of the late Ike Turner, sang backup in her first onstage appearance of the evening. That was answered by Deep Purple’s “Smoke On The Water,” where Greg took his trusty Goldtop Les Paul to the front of the stage and proceeded to unleash that epic solo with such conviction that he effectively upped the ante for the sets that were soon to follow and left the audience raring for more as the musicians took their first break of the evening.

So when the band returned to the stage there were high expectations to be met. The band has a usual repertoire but they like to mix it up as well, and tonight there were also guest singers yet to be featured. Twanna Turner returned to the stage, this time to front the band with her powerful, soulful voice as they covered a set of classic R&B hits that included B.B. King’s “The Thrill is Gone,” The Temptations’ “Papa Was a Rolling Stone,” Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Proud Mary,” which of course was popularized by Ike and Tina Turner and is now an important part of Twanna’s own family’s musical legacy. A number of other great classics rounded out the set.

For the finale the audience received a Hail Mary pass of hard rock, heavy metal and blues that would set new standards for concerts to come. “Voodoo Chile” was presented in wild, wicked, Hendrix-true form. ZZ Top’s “Waitin’ For the Bus / Jesus Just Left Chicago” was another solid rendition. Rainbow’s “Man on the Silver Mountain” was the gnarlier, slower and heavier version that Doug Aldridge played with Dio in later years. “Rock the Nation,” familiar to many as a Montrose classic was another crowd favorite. At some point Frank Hannon took the stage. It’s always fun to hear Frank play because he is so very good on the guitar, and has not only a great voice but stage presence and showmanship that really draws the audience’s focus. “Rock ‘n Roll Hoochie Koo” was a wild rocker, “Sympathy For The Devil,” was heavy and great, and was followed by a brilliant performance of “Little Wing” which included some of Greg’s own improvisational flair in addition to Frank’s traditional Hendrix-faithful soloing, then “Rock Candy,” which was obviously familiar territory for longtime Montrose frontman Keith St. John whose own stage presence perfectly complimented Frank’s skillful rendition of the rock legend’s classic arena-rocker.

Hendrix’s “Red House” was a fitting closer for a show of such epic proportions in general, and guitar talent in particular. For this show the Greg Golden Band delivered a huge amount of kick-ass rock and roll that will not be soon forgotten by those of us lucky enough to attend.

Keep an eye out for the next time the Greg Golden Band comes around…you won’t be disappointed!

Terry Lauderdale Rules!

Image of Terry Lauderdale

Terry Lauderdale is a true guitar virtuoso. Since the early ’80s he’s been in several bands, including Sabotage, Die Sieger, Champion, Acid Tongue and Heathen. These days he’s in an acclaimed Van Halen tribute band called Hot For Teacher, and he’s in a Randy-era Ozzy tribute band called Ozzy Alive! (see them December 30th at Holy Diver in Sacramento, California.) He’s in a UFO tribute band called Strangers in the Night. So he covers just about every note ever produced by Eddie Van Halen, Randy Rhodes and Michael Schenker (roughly sixteen quadrillion notes) just to keep his fingers warm, because he’s also in The Terry Lauderdale Band. And he does side projects like TL Solo, also full of brilliant original material, that he does with Skylar Thomas on keys. He just did one of those gigs on the hangar deck of the USS Hornet for the Blue Angels at Fleet Week in San Francisco. (The Blue Angels are all fans of his, and vice-versa.) TL Solo have also performed at the Whiskey A Go Go in Hollywood. Let’s see. Ah yes, he also gives lessons. Why not? Nobody will ever catch him.

So when he agreed to demo one of our Tantris stainless steel guitar picks for us we were grateful he could find the time to help us out. What he delivered was simply insane!

See for yourself…

Tantris Pick Demo

 

 

Terry Lauderdale’s Facebook Page

Hot For Teacher

The Terry Lauderdale Band

Ozzie Alive!

ROCKSKOOL

Guitar Lessons

Heathen tracks of interest: “Arrows of Agony” and “Silent Nothingness” from The Evolution of Chaos.

Razor Queen – Super Mega Everything

Louie’s Cocktail Lounge in Rancho Cordova, California, October 27, 2017

Image of Razor Queen

Razor Queen

 

Image of Super Mega Everything

Super Mega Everything

 

Friday night the mighty Razor Queen took the stage with a powerful hard rock set that opened with a  solid “warm-up“ cover of Alice In Chains’ “Them Bones,” then launched right into “Guardian Angel” to kick-off five consecutive tracks from their debut CD, Kingdom of Dysfunction. The rhythmically whiplashing “Holy Nights” was followed up by the power ballad “Only Love,” then “Sweet Alcohol” and “Last Shot,” with a Zeppelin cover and one more original to follow.

On the surface these original numbers are all instant classics. With kick-ass, driving rhythms and powerful lead vocals matched by well-composed guitar fills and riffs, always with an interesting modern vibe that subtly borrows from a variety of genres ranging from power metal to post-hardcore while remaining solidly rooted in accessible hard rock rhythms and chord progressions, each of Kingdom’s tracks is a well-composed rocker with an infusion of pop sensibilities that makes for a disc loaded with true hit potential.

But on a deeper level, poetic lyrics on themes of abandonment, alcohol abuse, suicide, love and redemption prevail, and arrangements that are multi-layered and nuanced all reflect the songwriting and musical talent of the artist solely responsible for crafting the truly superb rock CD that is Kingdom of Dysfunction.

Razor Queen was founded and is fronted by Cortney DeAugustine who singlehandedly wrote and produced the entire disc, drawing upon her experiences growing up in a fatherless family and later enduring the aftermath of the suicide of Ronnie Montrose, with whom she was touring at the time of his death in 2012. (The band’s name Razor Queen is an homage to a song called “Razor King” that Ronnie Montrose performed during his tenure with Gamma). Cortney also skillfully performed all of the instruments and lead vocals on the CD. It was indeed a solo project until she assembled the current band for live performances, but Razor Queen now consists of a highly talented team of veteran rockers: Scott Johnson of the rock bands Rogue and Savannah Blue covering most of the lead guitars, and Johnny Rowland of the metal band Restrayned covering most of the rhythm guitar, though he eventually punches in for an absolutely blistering solo on the final number, “Burn.” Throughout, Chris Ellis, who also hails from Restrayned, solidly nails down the bass with perfection and style, though his signal was a little light in the otherwise perfect live sound mix.  Cortney says she took the “Tesla approach” to her guitarist lineup, combining Scott Johnson’s traditional hard-rocking style with Johnny Rowland’s modern metal flair. “Tesla has always been one of my fav bands of all time for several reasons, but the way that Frank Hannon and the other original guitarist, Tommy Skeoch blended together was a very integral part of their sound. Frank is like Scott in the sense that they are more classic organic bluesy players and Tommy and Johnny are similar in the way that they are both much more hard rock/metal based players. When that combination is set in motion, it is really magical.”

She knows of what she speaks. As it happens, Scott temporarily replaced Tommy in Tesla back in 2006, and Cortney herself got her start touring as the drummer for Frank Hannon with his solo band Moon Dog Mane in 1998 while Tesla was still on hiatus. Between touring with Frank Hannon and later with Montrose as opening bands for Judas Priest and Def Leppard (among others), Cortney is accustomed to rocking packed arenas from behind the drums. She cites John Bonham as her biggest influence, and she showcases her considerable skills by performing covers of some of the venerated Zeppelin drummer’s most challenging numbers.  So at the show on Friday night, after the first set of five originals from Kingdom of Dysfunction, the band launched into Zeppelin’s “Moby Dick,” then gave the floor to Cortney who then proceeded to broaden her tribute to Bonzo by artfully annihilating her drum kit during the extended solo as the crowd cheered her on the whole way through.

To wrap up the set the band returned to Kingdom of Dysfunction once more with “Burn.” Not to be confused with the Deep Purple classic, this modern-sounding piece features soft, tantalizing verses and one exquisite bridge punctuated by heavy crashing chorus sections culminating in pyrotechnic guitar solos: the aforementioned metal virtuosity of Johnny Rowland followed shortly thereafter by an equally energetic and innovative solo by Scott Johnson to bring it on home.

The show marked the band’s triumphant return to the stage after a year-long hiatus following their headlining of RevFest ’16 in Southside Park in Sacramento late last year, an all-day event featuring a killer lineup of mainly NorCal heavy-hitters: Kingsborough, Mudface, Skyler’s Pool, Long In The Tooth, Restrayned, Super Mega Everything, Shirlee Temper, and Gamma, all in support of Razor Queen, who brought the house down in their first-ever live performance. It was great to see the same Razor Queen lineup back now and sounding better than ever. This time they were returning the favor and opening for Super Mega Everything who had supported them so masterfully at last year’s event.

Performed live, some of the recording’s nuances necessarily get lost. There are very subtle sonic layers to some of the songs on Kingdom that wouldn’t translate perfectly to the stage anyhow, for the same reasons Pink Floyd’s performances don’t have quite the same kind of effect live as they do between headphones in a darkened room. But any loss of subtlety was more than made up for by a powerful presentation consisting of heavier, tone-laden guitars, more explosive rhythms, and dynamic vocals that were even more charged with energy than the recorded versions, all of which added up to an exciting performance that kept the live audience pumped up and ready for more to the very end.

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I first saw Super Mega Everything at RevFest ’16 and was instantly a fan. It’s almost impossible to describe the incredible music this popular NorCal band produces, but it’s tempting to compare them favorably with King’s X, whom they cite as an influence. However SME is indeed its own band, featuring powerhouse vocals by the amazing Star Cannon, who commands center stage with her mesmerizing and engaging performance style; eclectic and multi-textured guitar work by Frank Garay, sometimes heavily layered with effects to produce sweeping soundscapes and always full of rich tone; dynamic, and masterful drumming by Matt Evans; and the bass craft of Odell Robinson which can only be described as sublime. Odell plays a 12-string Hamer bass which has 4 arrays of 3 strings in lieu of the normal 4 strings found on a traditional bass. Presumably he has each array tuned to span 3 octaves. He plays almost all of the songs with a pick, which enables him to produce melodic riffs interspersed with crushingly heavy chords as if he were playing 3 down-tuned guitars simultaneously, a technique he uses at just the right moments, with great precision and to tremendous effect.

Super Mega Everything’s music is deliciously heavy and groovy, entrancing, and is delivered with true passion from each of the band members.  If you’re in Northern California be sure to check them out.  You won’t be disappointed.

Odell Robinson is also a disc jockey who goes by the on-air moniker DJ Judge on www.thecaperadio.com. You can hear him on Sundays from 9 A.M. to noon, playing musical selections and interviewing artists, music producers and the like.

 

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