The Atomic Punks are a Van Halen cover band, and although I typically tend to shy away from tribute bands, I had heard really good things about these guys, plus one of my fellow photographers plays bass in the outfit. I really enjoyed their set and unlike other tribute acts where I sit back and think, “My band plays this song better,” these guys had their shit together and played Van Halen’s songs better than we do. The singer looked very much the part of David Lee Roth and not only had the moves and wardrobe down but also did a great job at capturing all the little nuances that make up DLR’s voice. The guitar player played like Eddie, dressed like Eddie, had a similar guitar, the red and white striped Frankenstein, and even though he more resembled Extreme’s Nuno Bettencourt more than Eddie Van Halen, it worked. And he was fun to watch. Bass and drums were great, as were the backup vocals, and anyone who knows the ins and outs of Van Halen knows how important Michael Anthony’s vocals were to that band. This was a good start to a long day of music.Next up was Quiet Riot in the Theatre. I was lucky enough to have gotten there a bit early and got in the front row. I’ve shot this band a number of times over the years, from the Mental Health tour to present day, and I must say as for replacement singers for the late Kevin Dubrow, Jizzy Pearl has come the closest yet. He really did a knock up job, and he truly looked as though he was having fun. Jizzy paid a lot of attention to my side of the stage, and I was thankful for that. Bassist Chuck Wright also got a lot of love from my camera as he occupies stage right most of the time. Unfortunately guitarist Alex Grossi, for the most part, stayed on his left side of the stage, making it rather difficult to get the same caliber shots as I was getting for the other two. And Frankie, behind the kit on a deep stage, was also a bit hard to get, and I didn’t want to go up behind the drum riser as I am not there to become part of the show. The show was really good. I ran back p to the pool stage and moments later they hit the stage and the audience erupted. Although KIX were only in the limelight for a few years, their fans from before and after are some of the most loyal fans I’ve ever come across – and don’t think that fact goes unnoticed by the KIX boys. The guys in KIX, Steve Whiteman-vocals, Brian Forsythe – guitar, Ronnie Younkins-guitar, Jimmy Chalfant – drums and Mark Schenker – bass, are about as approachable as they come, always willing to talk, sign things, and get their photos taken with their fans. KIX’s set was loaded with the old classics but also featured a number of new songs from their latest studio record Rock Your Face Off, released in 2014. The band also released a live record in 2016, which is quite good, but as any KIX fan knows – a live CD is never as good as the live band. KIX delivers every time and are always so fun to watch. The guys have some great moves and for me, a photographer, it makes for some great photos. Not to mention the catchy songs that have the whole audience singing every word. One wonders why they never made it Aerosmith status, but I guess their old record label Atlantic had a little to do with that. At any rate, KIX is always one of my high points of the cruise and were once again.
Babylon A.D., whose first album was released in 1989, were one of those California bands that I liked but never saw. Needless to say I was really happy to finally get to see them here. The band, who were already into their second song by the time I made it into the pit, sounded amazing, and I wasn’t the only one who thought so. They drew quite the crowd of enthusiastic fans, many of them sporting Babylon A.D. T-shirts. Singer Derek Davis has a great bluesy voice and he was right on tonight. Bassist Robb Reid was one of my favorite guys to photograph as he looks like that uncle that comes over drinks too much and smokes too many cigarettes. Guitar player Ron Freschi, who I might have thought was a new member because of his youthful appearance, was also a lot of fun to photograph. The other guitar player, Dan De La Rosa, was a bit more difficult to get good frames of and spent much of his time in the shadows and had a dark guitar and dark clothing, nevertheless I did my best. And last but not least, drummer Jamey Pacheco was also fun to shoot and a tight drummer. This was a great set. Tyketto. I remember the band’s name from the eighties but I am not sure I ever actually heard them, then again, I think their biggest hits were heavy metal ballads and by 1990, when their debut album was released, I was pretty much over the ballads and was leaning more toward the punkier, sleazier side of metal. That said, I remember hearing the name now and then and thought I’d go down and see what I was missing. Walking in, the band was already into their set and the audience seemed to be made up primarily of women … which is always nice. As the band finished their song and went into the next, I realized that I was correct in my ballad band assumption. That aside, I thought they had some great talent. The guitar player played some nice solos and the singer had an enjoyable tone. The other cats sounded great too. As I shot over and between peoples’ heads, I had wished I got there earlier. Next time I will go catch their entire set and give them a solid listen.
Richie Kotzen was next and having seen this guy numerous times before, both solo and with The Winery Dogs, I knew what a true talent this guy is. However, I did not know so many other people knew this as well. Richie was set up in the Atrium – very small, no real stage lighting, and no form of pit whatsoever – so I found a solid place to shoot from, the stairs, and steadied myself for a solid show. Richie is an amazing guitar player and has so much style and soul when he plays and sings that seeing him perform really is a magical thing – almost like going to church. Testify! Not unlike The Winery Dogs, Richie’s band is a three piece and quite tight. From my vantage point I could not really capture any photos of the drummer as he was hidden behind mic stands and cables, not to mention the bassist. Richie played some great solo material as well as a couple of cover songs. It was great to see him again.