Roger Reis

Roger Reis

Friday, 10 February 2012 17:11

AlterEgo rocked at Tiger O’Stylies


AlterEgo is a musical ensemble that just kicks ass! They have an ability to keep an audience in seats watching every move they make. Their show at Tiger O’Stylies (6300 W. Ogden Ave. Berwyn, Illinois) just rocked all the way through the show. They were fantastic.


The band AlterEgo sounded great all night long on Saturday. The sweet sound system at Tiger O’Stylies might be oversized for the room, but it rivals the PA at most clubs twice this size. With a mix and matched set of cabinets from JBL to Yorkville, they fill the room with a crisp clean sound.


Mark Berry on lead vocals has a great range and hits notes with perfection. His vocal ability proved that he isn’t just a guy who could sing karaoke and joined a band. The quality of his vocals was superb throughout everything he sang. His stage presence was strong as he talked in between songs and danced as if no one was looking. Occasionally he was looking out of the corner of his eyes at the audience to see if they were enjoying the show and they were.


Vern Cranor is a hard hitting drummer that kept the clock going throughout every beat of each and every song. This professional player hit the skins on his kit with dynamics. He has skills that show within the snare rolls that rang out. He had some good hand over hand techniques as well that were comparable to Max Weinberg. He had just a small kit and he didn’t need anything fancy. This guy could’ve played pots and pans and made them sound good.  


The low end was provided by Rik Menconi and his awesome bass rig. Playing through an Eden bass amp and his sweet Musicman bass, his tone was superb. The amazing feeling of oomph came from the stage in sweet ways that were almost stealth like. You didn’t just hear him play, you felt him shake the club. His fingers flew around the neck of the bass and held everything together as he locked with the drummer.   


Larry Roberts played his guitar and nailed everything he did. The man is a walking juke box from the 80’s. He pulled off great songs like it was second nature to him. Not a lot of bands have a show with such a wide range of songs from the pop era of the 80’s and this man seemed to be leading the show. He played through a Line6 amp with an ESP/LTD guitar and he was great. The band at one point left the stage for a few minutes and he played some of Van Halen’s guitar licks including “Eruption.” 


AlterEgo is entertaining from the start of their show until the finish. The band clearly knows how to set the tone for a party and keep the crowd drinking at all times. Within every note that they played they rocked the house until well after 2:00 a.m.

The songs they covered were great selections to choose. The song “Safety Dance” (Men Without Hats) may have been the highlight of the evening. No other band is doing this song and they did it so well. They also performed “Beat It” (Michael Jackson), “Jenny” (Tommy Tutone), “Your Love” (The Outfield), “Let’s Go” (Prince) and “Hungry Like the Wolf” (Duran Duran).


Another highlight of the night was when they did “Sexy and I Know it” (LMFAO). The song had the girls in the crowd dancing and shaking their money makers. The lyric ran through the little club, “Girl look at that body.” It was definitely not the normal song for a cover band to do. It was a lot of fun. They played songs from Cheap Trick and Buck Cherry as well. The never ending source of music just didn’t seem like it was ever going to stop.


During a break for the band AlterEgo the guitarist brought another band up on stage with him that does music with cookie monster style vocals. As it was musically entertaining, it was not what the concert goers wanted to hear or came to hear. During their two song performance people had enough of that music and the bar thinned out. It is amazing how a band can lose a crowd by making a huge mistake like playing heavy metal at a pop rock show.


Overall the night was a great night for music and AlterEgo really knows how to entertain a crowd. As they finished up their final song you could see in their eyes they were exhausted. They had poured their heart and soul into their performance. It was felt within every amazing second of the show. They know how to rock!



He Said She Said is a power pop rock dance band that knows what the crowd likes. Their show at Chicago City Limits (1712 W. Wise Rd. Schaumburg, Illinois) just kicked ass. At no time were asses just sitting in seats. If you were at this show your feet were tapping or you were dancing up a storm. In front of the stage was a good group of fans dancing all the way up until after 2:00 a.m. They were fantastic!

Lead Singer Tamara Mooshey came forward and charged up this crowd with a strong performance. She was dressed to kill in skimpy clothes, but she wasn’t dressed this way to hide her talent. This woman has a good vocal style that fits the type of music they are doing. She never stopped and neither did the band.

The hard hitting ball of energy drummer Matthew Koller came to this show for one main reason, to rock. Don’t let this group fool you. They are doing a bunch of dance hits, but they truly know how to slam and having this drummer within the band keeps them slamming in time all night long. His clock is right on the money with every beat. 

The low end master Carl Kusch thumped his way around on stage like a seasoned professional. The bass master played through a huge bass stack that was painted like the Chicago flag. His fingers were picking away all night with precision moves on stage. He had the moves and all of the skill to keep them dancing in front of the stage as he locked with the drummer as they became one.

Kerry Ridout completes this four piece band with class. The six string was like an extension of his hands. He played a lot of the funky harmonies that made the songs complete. As this group is mostly oriented around pop, rock, and dance there weren’t a lot of guitar solos that came from him, but the rhythms and leads he played take more skill than being a wanker.

He Said She Said is full of energy and very entertaining if you like this kind of music or not. All four members of this band will sing within songs and vocally they have very good harmonies that compliments the musical covers that they did. Every song was done true to the original. For the lucky people in the audience they really got a treat.

The band pulled off popular rockGuitarist Kerry Ridout  songs like Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” and Bon Jovi’s “Living on A Prayer.” They played to perfection Cheap Trick’s “I Want You to Want Me’ and it sounded very close to Live at Budokan. They played all of the dance hits including a surprising song by Lady Gaga “Bad Romance.” It was nothing but high drive music all evening for the entire time they played. This group might have more energy than the Energizer Bunny.

They did have a young lady come up on stage to play guitar with them for a few songs and she held her own during everything that she played. She was rock solid with her guitar addition to the band and fit their style too. Although her real name is a mystery, she simply goes by Sharky.  

He Said She Said is a power pop rock dance band that knows what a crowd likes. Their show at Chicago City Limits was nothing short of fantastic. If you attended this show and you didn’t enjoy it, you might want to check your pulse, you may be dead. This band can act like a defibrillator just shocking you all the way through to your soul. They are amazing entertainers.


 Guitarist Kerry Ridout

Friday, 10 February 2012 16:54

Glen Burtnik; Multi-instrumentalist


“Anytime someone chooses to record a song you've written it is a thrill and an honor,” Glen Burtnik.

So many people go to their local music shop to buy an instrument and within a year or so they are frustrated and try to sell it. They wind up in pawn shops, on e-bay, craigslist, or stuffed away in a corner of an attic or crawlspace left to be forgotten. Thank the lord almighty that the multi-instrumentalist Glen Burtnik didn’t give up. His talented creativity could’ve been stifled along the way. 

His old instruments didn’t wind up going to a pawn shop either. “No way. I used to smash up my old guitars. I smashed up my first drum kit too. What an idiot!” Glen has learned not to smash up instruments and regrets doing it now, but he never stopped playing. He was asked what instruments he plays and he responded in a very humble way, “Guitar, bass, piano, some banjo. Drums a little, not so much anymore. I’m not really great at any of them, but I can get around on them all.” From his fans and musicians point of view he is very modest. The creative talent that lies within this man is incredible. He may not be on the cover of a virtuoso magazine anytime soon, but this guy can write great songs and has proven so to the masses.

When he was about ten years old Glen began taking drum lesson. A few years later he started goofing around on guitar and this stone started to roll. As he started to gather skill some early performances came his way, “with the school band at assemblies and stuff. Then a couple of little dances with some bands. My first singing guitarist gig? Wow. Maybe 1971 in Rutherford, NJ.”

Glen Burtnik is a musical workhorse. He has been a working musician with earliest releases going back to 1978. Glen wrote songs that appeared in movies like; “Bill And Ted's Excellent Adventure,” “Don't Tell Mom The Babysitter's Dead,” “Son In Law,” and “Armageddon.” He had experienced success within the 80’s and ended up joining Styx. They both appeared on A&M Records at the same time. In 1990, he started his first stint with Styx with writing and co-writing on some great songs for the album Edge of the Century. Styx toured for the album and went back on hiatus.

In 1992, Patty Smyth and Don Henley performed the song “Sometimes Love Just ain't Enough” that was co written by Smyth and Burtnik. The song reached gold status by RIAA standards and hit the number one spot on the Billboard Hot 100. Obviously this kind of success was a great feeling for Glen. He continued with his skillful musical pen and co wrote on the Randy Travis hit “Spirit of a Boy, Wisdom of a Man.” Some people think he is lucky, but truly this man makes his own luck.

Glen’s success continued when he got the chance to tour with Styx again in 1999 with a completely different lineup. Doing a guitar and bass switch off he filled the shoes of Chuck Panozzo who will come out only for a few songs at shows. Burtnik revisited old songs from the first album they worked on and continued onward up until recording the album Cyclorama and the tours that followed. There has been a common misconception about a song on the album. “Kiss Your Ass Goodbye” at first listens could be misconstrued as a slam at the most recent departure of previous member, Dennis DeYoung. This is not true.

Glen responds, “As for “Kiss your ass goodbye”, the persistence of this rumor that the song was written about Dennis is an indication of; One, an inability to comprehend lyrics; Two an obsession with a certain Midwest rock band; Three, low intelligence.” He apologized for his response and continued with, “I think it’s very obvious what the song is really about,” and he is right. He did endless live shows and soon after decided to depart Styx to be closer to home.

Glen parted ways and continued to write and release his own music. He has appeared on several albums and no doubt will ever stop working. “I guess, at this point I don’t have a main instrument. I hover somewhere between the guitar, the piano, the bass and songwriting. I sing a little as well. I am okay at each and suck equally at each as well.” He has a way of putting things into perspective that is just not true. “I usually like to start on guitar and then go back and forth to the piano and guitar.” For guitar gear his equipment of choice or by chance is, “Probably an inexpensive Epiphone which somebody gave me is my most ‘friendly’ guitar. It doesn’t sound as good as my Martin, but it sure feels fun to play. My fave guitar amp is a tiny little Fender Pro Junior, 15 watts through a little 10" speaker!”

One of the biggest influences for a lot of bands and musicians still to date is the Beatles. What better band to influence any musician then the one that did it all. Glen is an artist. Give him a tuba and he will get you something out of it. “Well, my heroes aren’t always my influences. I adore Jimi Hendrix, but that isn’t my style of playing guitar. Influences? Everyone from Stevie Wonder to Regina Spektor.”

Glen was asked questions like; ‘who is your favorite Beatle?’ and ‘what’s your favorite Beatle song?’ “I love all four. Those cultural icons, when they worked together with George Martin, became like extended family to me. Older cousins or uncles I will always look up to. Naming a favorite Beatle song is difficult, as there are so many classics. I adore “She’s Leaving Home” and “Eleanor Rigby” for their lyrics. I love “Within You Without You” and “I Am The Walrus” as recordings, “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” and “Helter Skelter” rock so mightily. Just too many killer tracks.”  

“I enjoyed meeting Paul McCartney and I loved being introduced to Ringo. I’ve had amazing fun and the list of working with musicians I admire is endless. Like producing a Brian Wilson vocal, for instance and working with Jan Hammer, Neal Schon, John Waite, Kenny Aronoff, Marshall Crenshaw, Sam Moore, Edgar Winter, Phoebe Snow. The list goes on.”

Glen plays in a Beatles cover band that is just phenomenal that appears annually in Chicago and New York. He appears at, “Beatles conventions, as a hired member of a band called Liverpool.” They have been known to make it out to Geneva, Ill. as well. He played for a little while in a Police cover band called Synchronicity II that unfortunately doesn’t exist anymore. “I am currently involved in a number of projects. Among other things, I write, record and release my own songs on iTunes, produce large revues; The British Invasion, The Summer Of Love. I perform with The Orchestra, a band featuring former members of ELO.” He just doesn’t stop!  

Some great solo albums that show off his writing talents are Retrospectacle, Slaves of New Brunswick, and Solo (You Can Hardly Hear). His writing talents have a modern feel to it and show off a lot of good vocal harmonies and pure refined talent. He does work for charity at Christmas and shows his humanitarian side. Not a lot of musicians give back to the public, but this man sure does. He has gone to play some huge shows and never has forgotten where he came from. He is a truly a class act.

Glen Burtnik is a multi-instrumentalist that has played with great musicians. He had success within movies, songs, and has been able to stay in music for a number of years. As the man continues within music, he will continue to write and release songs. Musicians are a dime a dozen, but good ones are hard to find. This man from New Jersey is a great musician. Thankfully he didn’t give up music and his first guitars didn’t go to a pawn shop. It really would have been a waste of talent if he had chosen any other profession.





Music is a part of the body and soul of most musicians. It becomes so much a part of their inner being that the musician and the music actually become one. This unique quality can be found within Dani Rabin and Danny Markovitch the leaders of the eclectic jazz rock group Marbin.
Recently Marbin sat down with Buzz for an interview. They discussed their influences and their upcoming tour with Allan Holdsworth. Come and watch the interview with the great band Marbin!

Tuesday, 31 January 2012 17:24

Trainwreck ~ Play that funky music white boy

There is nothing like hanging out with friends at a local night club while a good band is playing live. The music goes through to your soul and sets the tone for the evening. It can be an amazing time as the soundtrack is unveiled by the group on stage. Within the band Trainwreck it is a guaranteed good time for all.

The name of this group is Trainwreck, but they don’t sound like a big group of metal cars crashing into each other. It is just a name. These guys know how to set the mood for a party and get everyone in the crowd involved.

As the music began at Papa T’s in Burbank, Illinois, these guys played the “2112 Overture” by Rush. The four piece rock band took the song, jammed the hell out of it, and the place went crazy. Interestingly enough, the date was 1-21-12 and surely they played it because of the date of the show.

As their set unfolded through the night they kept playing one hit after another within the classic rock world. Performing a condensed version of all three sections of “Another Brick in the Wall” was a highlight of the band’s night. They played their own arrangement of the songs and immediately went into “Young Lust” after that. You can’t go wrong with playing Pink Floyd. It’s always a crowd pleaser.

The songs kept pouring out getting the people off their feet to dance and move about the room. An excellent version of “Simple Man” was great for the beer drinkers. A fairly well behaved crowd also enjoyed “Freebird,” “Sweet Home Alabama,” and what show would be complete without the Alice in Chains song “Would?”

Drummer Patrick Murphy slams his drum kit with hard precise hits within every song. He keeps the band’s clock on the beat and also sings lead vocals within a lot of songs. The talents within him shine through and he is fun to see play. Within the Chicago music scene he is definitely the cream of the crop of musicians.

Patrick’s brother Jimmy Murphy takes the center position on stage for some sweet vocals as well along with some tasty licks on the guitar. His rock guitar style is an important part to the band as any other member. He knows just what to play and it’s never overdone. He is very skilled at his instrument of choice and within a solo will stay more true to the original musical work of art.

At the stage left position is Jim Tomaszewski on guitar and vocals and he can hold his own on the six string. There is no doubt that this man has skills and knows his way around his instrument. He will throw in some flashier stuff at times doing some finger tapping. It’s quite obvious that he was influenced by Van Halen and he could pick a worse guitar player to be influenced by. 

·Kathy Robinson Tomaszewski

Providing the low end and some very smooth vocals is Kenn Keyser. This south paw player fills the stage right position, but thanks to a nice wireless system he can be seen walking about the room interacting with the crowd. His playing compliments the others well in every song and he locks with the drummer.

This band’s main goal is to bring an “arena sized” show to local music venues and they do it so well. They will play a lot of songs true to the original, but on some songs they throw in a nice creative twist showing that they can think outside the box.

As this band has no rules other than to entertain, they will do it by any means necessary. Kathy Tomazewski, Jim’s wife, came up to sing a few songs and the girl has a set of pipes. She belted out “Heartbreaker” by Pat Benetar and it was definitely a worthy version. She also sang “Barracuda” (Heart) and “Call Me” (Blondie) and hit the notes with ease.

This band always seems to have the girls at their shows and no Trainwreck show would be complete without the twins Carla and Angela Annerino. Referred to by one bar patron as “The Doublemint Twins” these two are always there to support bands and take pictures.

In front of the stage people were cutting a rug during most of the songs played. The song that had everyone moving was “Play That Funky Music (White Boy).” Your feet can’t stop moving during the song and there was even a white boy trying to break~dance. Everyone had fun and if they didn’t they were dead. 

 Unfortunately all good things must come to an end and so did this show. They didn’t end it without hitting on some great songs like “Paranoid” (Black Sabbath) and “Free for All” (Ted Nugent). Ending their night was the Neil Young classic “Rockin' in the Free World.” It was a good time.

As the night came and went way too fast it will be a pleasure to see the band Trainwreck again. These guys rocked the house and kept you musically entertained all night long. It was a pleasure to be amongst friendly people and enjoy some live music. It was a night to remember.

AC/DC has long been one of the greatest rock bands to ever exist. They have inspired so many for forty years to play kick ass rock music. Some of them got it right like the AC/DC cover band TNT Chicago. These guys without a doubt know how to rock a house just like the boys from down under.

On a day that most regular people wouldn’t venture out, TNT Chicago took the stage at Penny Road Pub and tore the place up. The snow that hit Chicago caused quite a few fans and even one of the guitarists to miss this show. The band made the necessary adjustments and the show went on as scheduled. In the Chicago Metro area, this is the AC/DC show to see live.

Lead singer Jim Irwin usually doesn’t play guitar in this band, but the seasoned musician stepped up to the plate and covered the rhythm guitar as well as his required vocals. Honestly, the second guitarist wasn’t missed at all musically. Irwin covered all the rhythms just as if it was normally part of the show.

Bass player Stevie Conlon is the low end master within this group and sings backing vocals as well. The limber fingers rolled out the notes during every song keeping the rhythms tight. Feeling the bass within your chest and body made you feel as if you were part of the song.

Completing the other half of the rhythm section is Peter Jones on drums. He kept the timing with precision hits as wood chips occasionally flew off of his sticks. As the drums locked with the bass it really seemed as if this rhythm section became one entity.

Mike Sawinski filled one of the most important roles in an AC/DC band, the lead guitar role of Angus Young. Not just any guitarist can pull off these incredible licks handed down from a masterful band, but somehow Mike pulls it off just like the record. He is just phenomenal!!

As the night went on, the band played so many songs to perfection it was sick. All four of the musicians that showed up were of top notch caliber and played to amazing levels of expertise. WOW!!

The long list of songs within their set were a treat to hear. Songs like “Back in Black,” “Whole Lotta Rosie,” “Sin City,” and “Back in Black” shook the floor and walls of Penny Road all night long. These guys didn’t just come out with the hit songs. They went back to some “B” side material as well. For the real AC/DC fans, this was an impressive show.

 The band gathered audience participation on “Thunderstruck” at the beginning to help lay down a nice groove. “Ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, Thunder!” bellowed from the stage and the audience. They pumped the crowd up well and did their jobs as entertainers.

During the song “TNT” a young lady by the name of Debra was invited on stage to sing and dance with the band. She provided an extra show by shaking and dancing around for the guys in the room. Behind the microphone she appeared to be having the time of her life. When the song was over she was smiling from ear to ear. She animated the words, “Knockin' me out with those American thighs” as she grabbed her own during “You Shook Me All Night Long.” The temperature within the room seemed to go a little higher within her erotic dance moves.

The band kept playing until completely exhausted. Every bit of the show was a great time for all the attendees to this concert. The courageous fans that had the balls to make it through the snow were just amazed. It was a great time.

The members of AC/DC would be proud to see their songs done right. All the little intricacies of this band were pulled off by TNT Chicago flawlessly. Very simply, these guys F’n rock!! It’s about time someone covered this band so true to the original. If you go to a TNT Chicago show wanting to see blood, “You got it!!!!”    

Tuesday, 17 January 2012 12:38

Sin After Sin ~ Metal Gods!!


Huge rock bands like Judas Priest are imitated all the time. Cover bands climb out of the woodwork to put together bad versions of the works of art by this iconic band. Some of them are just horrible, but others are quite amazing. Within the band Sin After Sin are five talented musicians that if you close your eyes, you think you are actually listening to Judas Priest themselves.

On a freezing cold January night, Sin After Sin took the stage around 10:00 P.M. at Bobby McGee’s (10139 S. Harlem in Chicago Ridge, Illinois). This group of professional musicians played the music of this great heavy metal band note for note. To enjoy this band you don’t have to be a fan of Judas Priest. If you truly enjoy music, these guys are musical entertainers.

For the real Judas Priest fans, this is a treat to see. These guys pulled out songs that Priest themselves don’t even do anymore. They will perform more from a diehard fan perspective than anything else. This is the most elite version of a cover band that could possibly ever exist and thankfully they are here in the Chicago area.

Each musician within this group is a show all by itself. The rhythm section is about as tight as you can get. With the thundering tree trunk fingers of Brent Sullivan on Bass, it locks with the timekeeper on drums, Ed Pukstis. The hard hitting drummer and the bottom end paint the canvas for the rest of the band to shine on.

Vocalist Steven Reimer nails the high notes like never seen before in any cover band. His range and sound is very wide and dynamic. The guitars are provided by two six string masters, Al Contreras and Briant Daniel. Both of these guys know all the ins and outs of their instruments and display it well within every song.

Songs that can be heard within a Sin After Sin show are; “Electric Eye,” “Dissident Aggressor,” “Hell Bent for Leather,” “Desert Plaines,” “Exciter,” “Starbreaker,” “The Ripper,” “Green Manalishi,” “Stained Class,” “Devil’s Child,” “Grinder,” “Diamonds and Rust,” “Breaking the Law” and many more.

There may have only been five guys on stage, but this band owes a lot of credit to the sixth man for the night, the sound man. The man behind the board had a very good ear for mixing. He even had a portable mixing pad so he could walk around the room and make adjustments depending on what he was hearing in the different parts of the room. He provided a very high quality level of sound for Sin After Sin and made this cold January night a party to remember.  

The band Sin After Sin is an awesome act to see in a live setting. They perform all the great songs of the band Judas Priest. This group of musicians will take a stage and completely and totally satisfy the heavy metal music fans in attendance. Any opportunity to see this band live should be taken. The heavy band Sin After Sin are truly “Metal Gods!” 


Very rarely does an entertainer take a stage and just knock out the audience. From the moment an entertainer walks out on stage they are thinking about one thing, a great performance. The setting for this show was The Venue inside Hammond’s Horseshoe Casino. The puppet master himself, the one and only, Jeff Dunham was the Saturday night entertainment and he was hysterical.

From the time Dunham stepped on stage, the audience didn’t stand a chance. He hit them with one powerful joke after another like it was a hit from a prize fighter. First a left – then a right. Some of the audience members had a hard time breathing with all the comical hits. The audience never stood a chance; it was an unfair match up as this comic’s jokes are just too strong.

Doing two sold out evening shows back to back with his family of ventriloquist dummies; Dunham was a five alarm fire that could not be put out. His laid back approach when he first came out made someone say “how is he going to do this?”, but a book should not be judged by its cover. With a mighty power Jeff hits you with comical stories. As he starts to tell the stories, witty one-liners spawn off the story giving you a few seconds in between the laughs and building you up to the big ones.

He changed from one dummy to another during the show and went into comical interludes with his cocky arm decorations as his mouth piece. Jeff works in a way that most ventriloquists do. He lets the dummy make most of the insulting or off color jokes except Dunham goes a little further. You won’t see him do any tricks like drink a glass of water while the dummy talks. He is far beyond trying a novelty prank.

Each of his dummies has a personality that is different than the others which makes you wonder if Dunham has multiple personalities himself. Certain ones are more respectable characters and others are not. Doesn’t seem to matter who he has with him, Walter, Peanut, or Achmed, or any of the others, the show is a guarantee to be a side splitting moment. His performance had the crowd hurting because they couldn’t take any more.

The 3,400 seat theater appeared to be completely sold out and the happy feeling coming from the stage was being felt within all the seats. No where amongst the crowd could you find a person not laughing. A few young ladies in the balcony sent happy feelings back to Jeff with a “We love you!” It was a good performance.

The time came and went quickly as Dunham was already saying goodbye leaving everyone wanting more. He finished up and the lights came on. Most of the lucky individuals who saw this show were still laughing when they were getting into their cars to make the journey home. It’s not a concert they will soon forget.

Dunham has reached tremendous success with his comedy over the past few years. His most recent success places him at the number three position for top grossing comedy acts in the two previous years and looks like 2011 will be no exception. This just proves that he is more than just a flash in the pan comic. He has put smiles on the faces of so many over his time in comedy and it’s fair to say he is an expert within his craft of stand up ventriloquism.

When Jeff Dunham started to perform at The Venue inside Hammond’s Horseshoe Casino, no one really knew what to expect. No one knew this rock solid entertainer was going to hit them so hard with his comical wielding. He was more than just hysterical. He was priceless.

Thursday, 15 September 2011 16:34

Big Head Todd and John Hiatt Live at Ravinia!

Sunday nights at Ravinia in Highland Park, Illinois is the place to be in the summer. It does matter who the artist for the week ending celebration is, but sometimes just being there is all that matters. One of the last good outdoor concerts for 2011 was John Hiatt & The Combo with special guest Big Head Todd and the Monsters. Special they were and definitely good bands to see with someone special.
On the warm evening Big Head Todd and the Monsters started the show out and did so with style. The wonderful music being played out for the concert goers was very easy on the ears. Since the late 80’s this band has been knocking ‘em dead in concert halls across the country.
The band was led through a valiant performance by the big head himself, Todd Park Mohr. He played and sang all while hitting the mark every time. As he brought the crowd to their knees a few times during the show begging for more, Todd himself was one cool character hamming it up for more applause.
Behind Todd was a monumental band. Brian Nevin on drums had just a rock solid performance and could be heard within every hard hit that he was having a good night. His sticks were tapping out the meter with clock like precision. He laid down the ground work for everyone to follow and they did.
In comes Rob Squires on bass guitar and he gives everyone a lesson on how the bass is really supposed to be played. There have been lots of low end legends that have been admired for their skills, but the underrated Squires needs to be looked at a little closer. His playing is amazing! The bottom end locks with the drums and they become invincible. A rock solid rhythm section is what they become.
On keyboards Jeremy Lawton fills out the band nicely. The black and whites got a good tickling during this performance. His mix and support within this group brings it all together to make a band of monumental proportions. They are Big Head Todd and the Monsters.
During the brief intermission some audience members ran to the bathrooms while others went to go get in line for refreshments. Some ran out to the designated smoking area for a couple. Others just sat and relaxed in the seats.
John Hiatt & The Combo was up next and Hiatt picked away some country folk rock ditties that were pretty amazing. He went to town again and again on his guitar giving it a good once over a dozen or so times. How can a band follow up Big Head Todd? They better be on the caliber of John Hiatt.
John Hiatt was out on tour promoting his new CD Dirty Jeans and Mudslide Hymns. The songs he did play from this newly created art work were nothing less than a masterpiece. This definitely was a performance well received by the audience.
Some of the older gentleman were either past their bedtimes or just partied too much before the concert. Their wives or girlfriends gave nudges to them a few times as they nodded off in their seats as the show did run beyond nine. One lady saw her companion nearing the snoring mark and insisted that they leave immediately and so they did.
The night continued on with a great rhythm section backing John Hiatt. The Combo was a simple bass and drums combination that wasn’t so simple. These two musicians were a show all by themselves. The grooves that were done up for everyone’s enjoyment couldn’t have been more on the level. The show continued like this for the entire performance of John Hiatt & The Combo. They were amazing!
Ravinia has an ability to bring out the best in talent for their stage. They put on great shows all summer long unfortunately the 2011 summer calendar at Ravinia is running thin. John Hiatt & The Combo with special guests Big Head Todd and the Monsters is a great way for Ravinia enthusiasts to say goodbye for the summer. The evil old man winter is just around the corner and we will daydream about these warm moments with good music, family, or friends. A smile comes to our face and we once again thank John and Todd for this magnificent show and a night out with that special someone. It’s a moment that won’t soon be forgotten.
Thursday, 15 September 2011 16:19

Henry McCullough; A tough act to follow

Henry McCullough is a classic rock music legend. He has the ability to handle a six string as well as any of the other guitar masters from his era. He has appeared on classic rock hits with Joe Cocker and Paul McCartney and is a very cool guy to converse with. He himself is a tough act to follow and definitely didn’t let it go to his head.

Henry recently talked with Buzz and shared some interesting stories and laughs. He had his first band at 14 years old as a three piece with an accordion player that could only play in “B”. His first guitar was a no name model that was black and had f holes. As he traded up, each one that he went to after that started to get better. He got an ES355 at one point that ended up having problems with the neck. He didn’t know about the truss rod in it which is used to adjust a neck. He traded it off to get a Fender Telecaster which later he regretted doing.

In 1999, one of his precious guitars, a cherry red Gibson ES335 went missing after a plane trip. “The guitar was never more than six feet away from me. I played it for thirty – two years. Go to pick it up. The suitcases came through, but no guitar.” He did get an insurance reimbursement check for a low-balled amount for this vintage piece.

He described his lost guitar as if he was talking about his first born. The guitar had been given some custom detailing to make it unique. There was a painting on the guitar of the inside cover of a Grease Band album, some shamrocks, and it would not be complete without a semi naked lady. “Tried to find another one. Got one and had it re-fretted, but it wasn’t quite right.” On one journey, “I busted the headstock on it. Had it fixed and then it played better than ever before.”

After over a decade, he and the guitar are soon to be reunited. They found the guitar for sale and are negotiating to buy it back. As the guitar is a vintage piece he has to buy back his own property for an inflated amount, but is happy to be able to see it again. Playing an ES335 is amazing; it’s such a sweet guitar that you can’t blame him for loving it so much. It’s not like a Les Paul which, “is like riding a bucking bronco if you don’t hold it right” explains Henry. For amps he goes back and forth between two Marshall Combos, a 40 and a 50 watt. “I don’t use any pedals,” he just plugs straight into the amps. The tones he gets are very nice.

Everyone has different influences. “I don’t have a guitar influence. I was more influenced by the sounds of rock ‘n roll. We were mostly influenced by skiffle. It was the punk of the day. It just took someone that could play in D, G, and A. Skiffle lit the fuse for rock ‘n roll.”

During the recording sessions for Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, the guys in Floyd had been interviewing people asking questions looking for something spontaneous. As they tried to get Paul McCartney to come and do it, he was busy at the time and looked at Henry and said, “Go see what they want.” Henry went across the hall and they started to ask the questions. Henry being a funny guy answered all the questions the same way stating, "I don't know, I was really drunk at the time!" and history was made.

Henry recalls some of his fondest moments in performing live. Obviously a very good time for him was Woodstock. “Rain started during, “With a little help from me friends.” God was our light show. It was just a gig to us at the time. It was really something else. Holiday land about twenty miles out. We were flown in an hour before your gig and then flown out. It was really a short lived thing. It was a very strong performance which activated Joe’s career internationally. I was also the only Irishman to play Woodstock.” He said he likes to tell the story now and embellish on it a bit too with a few “Irish white lies” he says jokingly. During that time “it was the youth explosion in ’67 and ’68. Then you had Altamont, things went haywire and people got edgy.” Another favorite time was, “any given moment of Wings over France. All of it was something else. Took an old bus, painted it like Peppers” and they toured like that. As far as a favorite time, just too many times to mention.

Henry was asked about his favorite recording sessions. “That’s a hard one. “My Love” session maybe.” If you look at it from an outsider’s point of view, he stunned McCartney with the solo. “I didn’t have an idea what I was going to play. He asked me and I said I don’t know. It made him nervous.” Once Henry was done McCartney was quite happy with the work.

Henry doesn’t have any plans to go into the recording studios at any time soon. “Recording costs …. I don’t have that kind of money anymore. Things aren’t as easy today.” He talks about doing session work now, “with a recession going on and houses handed back, fees have gone down. What you were getting five years ago you aren’t getting today. I work with a guy up the road now when he has work for me. It’s nice because I don’t have to go far. I live in Ireland; there isn’t a lot of work here.”

McCullough has so many great solo masterpieces to listen to. Poor Man’s Moon and Unfinished Business are both some incredible and more recent works of art that deserve a listen. He does have plans to go to France in April and is doing a New Jersey Beatles convention. “I don’t have an agent anymore” which makes it hard.

The humble man that Henry is, he still has moments of being somewhat star struck by meeting a celebrity. “I recently got to meet Mike Tyson.” He talked about meeting Tyson and that he was very nice and cordial with him. “He shook my hand and it was like meeting Elvis.”

Henry is back in the position in which he started in during 1962, playing in pubs. Nowadays he “takes things as they come and deals with them.” He does enjoy a bit of the music coming out now. “Some of the blues guitar players that are coming in are great.  I don’t listen to music anymore. Maybe something easy on the ears.” Nowadays Henry likes “to come sit and watch some T.V.” and who wouldn’t.

As it is quite obvious that Henry McCullough is an accomplished guitarist and a classic rock legend, he is also just a down to Earth man. He enjoys telling his stories, which draws you in making you concentrate on what he was saying. It gradually forces your ears to listen to every word. He enjoys making people laugh. He recently made the comment about Paul McCartney that, “He was a tough act to follow.” Mr. McCullough needs to know is he was part of the tough act to beat. Filling the role of guitar player for guys like Paul and Joe Cocker says a lot, but he isn’t just a regular guy. He is truly a class act.

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