Friday, June 29, 2007

Air Guitar Update

Last night's US Air Guitar San Francisco Regional Championship did not bring the quality of contestants we saw last year but it was sure as hell entertaining. Beer was thrown, rock fists were raised high in the air, and bad contestants were deservingly ridiculed. Congratulations to Ricky Stinkfingers who will represent the Bay Area at the US Air Guitar Championships in New York City. He will compete against the other regional champs as well as last year's SF winner and defending National Champion, Hot "Lixx" Hulahan.

Here's a short video of Ricky Stinkfingers' 1st round performance:

And here's a video of Mr. Fine Body, the leader after Round 1 who unfortunately let us all down when he failed to "bring it" in the compulsory round (song was Skid Row's "Youth Gone Wild"):

And big props to everyone who got on stage for the free air jam to—what else?—"Freebird" at the end of the competition:

Congratulations, Ricky Stinkfingers! Make us proud in New York!

On the downside, TouchTunes sponsored the event. They make MP3 jukeboxes. They had one there that the audience could use free of charge. I feel dirty. I swear I didn't touch it.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

11 May 2007: Bustle In Your Hedgerow

11 May 2007
Bustle In Your Hedgerow (The Led Zeppelin Experience)
The Independent
628 Divisadero St (btwn Hayes & Grove) [Map]
Drinks consumed: many beers
Review at The Owl Mag

The music world has no shortage of Led Zeppelin cover bands. From the all-female Zepparella to cheesy, wig-wearing tributes like Led Zepplica and Whole Lotta Led, the music of Led Zeppelin remains alive in bars and venues around the world. So what happens when the Benevento Russo Duo teams up with Dave Dreiwitz (bassist, Ween) and Scott Metzger (guitar, Rana) and decide to hit the road as a Zeppelin cover band? In the case of Bustle In Your Hedgerow (The Led Zeppelin Experience), what happens is my number 2 show of the first half of 2007. (In case you don't know, "bustle in your hedgerow" is a line from that eternal last dance song, "Stairway to Heaven.")

I've never air guitared at a show before, but when the band opened with "Song Remains the Same," I shifted my beer to my left hand to enable optimal air guitaring. The first set was a survey of some of the most rocking Zeppelin hits including "Good Times Bad Times" and "Communication Breakdown." The second set opened with "The Immigrant Song," which I could hear from outside. It actually surprised me how good the covers were in general, but the most incredible of all was "Moby Dick." Joe Russo has already proven himself a very talented drummer, but when he tossed his drumsticks over his shoulders and played part of the famous drum solo barehanded—the audience was in awe. John Bonham's shoes are some big ones to fill but Joe Russo did it with skill and aplomb, wailing on his drum kit like a man possessed by the spirit of the great Zeppelin drummer.

The one thing missing all night was a vocalist. Robert Plant is not the average lead singer who stands behind the mic singing lyrics in a pretty voice. Because of his half-human/half-animal style, his voice is as much an instrument as Bonham's drums, Page's guitar, and the bass of John Paul Jones. Joe Russo sang for a few minutes but most of the time, Marco Benevento filled in the missing vocal part with his organ. Unfortunately, Marco seemed unable to shake the syncopated style he's used to playing with the Duo and when the organ didn't sound like a cheesy MIDI track or a karaoke version (it really stuck out in "Ramble On"), it sounded like something out of a Phish song. It just didn't work well as a substitute for a real vocalist. The exception was, of course, of "All of My Love," which sounded great. And for the record, Scott did not play the guitar with a violin bow at any point during the show.

The show was fun from start to finish, and fun is what the San Francisco music scene has been missing for some time. There was a healthy amount of air guitaring, headbanging, throwing up of rock horns, and singing along. This is one Zeppelin cover band that has earned their right to cover one of the greatest rock bands of all time.