"Everything is as it should be."

                                                                                  - Benjamin Purcell Morris



© all material on this website is written by Michael McCaffrey, is copyrighted, and may not be republished without consent

Greta Van Fleet - Hollywood Palladium: A Review


Greta Van Fleet are a hard rock band from Michigan currently on tour in support of their album Anthem of the Peaceful Army. I ventured out solo on Sunday night to catch their second of two sold-out shows at the Hollywood Palladium.

Greta Van Fleet are comprised of the three Kiszka brothers, Josh (vocals), Jake (guitar) and Sam (bass/keyboards) along with Danny Wagner on drums. The band came to prominence by making some waves in the stagnant rock genre with the release of two popular EP’s in 2017, Black Smoke Rising and the double EP, From the Fires.

Greta Van Fleet has been both praised and maligned as being a Led Zeppelin clone. The main reason for the Led Zeppelin comparisons are that singer Josh Kiszka has a Robert Plant-esque, high pitched singing voice that often emulates Plant’s signature wail. That said, the comparisons to Zeppelin are entirely unfair to Greta Van Fleet because Zeppelin is one of the handful of all-time great rock bands ever to strut the earth. Greta Van Fleet are not Led Zeppelin and never will be, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be good in their own way. Of course, when expectations are set so high by Zeppelin comparisons, let downs or resentments are sure to follow, and sure enough Greta Van Fleet has, I think unfairly, been ridiculed by many.

I was alerted to Greta Van Fleet back in ‘17 by my friend Red Dragon, who is a music afficionado exrtraordinaire. I thought the band’s songs Black Smoke Rising and Highway Tune, which are featured on both of their EPs, stood out as quality songs and much-needed solid rock hits.

The band’s debut LP, Anthem of the Peaceful Army, came out in October of 2018, and was a top-selling album upon its release. I checked out Anthem and while I liked some of it, I didn’t enjoy it as much as I did their EPs. I got my first glance at Greta Van Fleet live when they played Saturday Night Live in January of 2019. I was excited to see them on tv, but their performance was…underwhelming…to say the least. I found singer Josh Kiszka’s vocals to be pretty grating live and his overall rock star presentation to be at best sorely lacking, and at worst embarrassing.

Despite my lukewarm feelings about the band’s SNL gig, when I saw they were playing the Hollywood Palladium I quickly snatched up a general admission ticket. The ticket was moderately priced, after all the fees and such I think I paid 60 something bucks for it, and in my opinion it is always best to err on the side of going to concerts than skipping them.

Since I was flying solo, I did not , much to my chagrin, have a pre-show Shake Shack meal. Instead I waited until pretty late before heading out to the venue. When I got to the Palladium at 7:15 for the 7:00 show, the line to get in was around the block. The line went quickly though and the general vibe from fans was one of good will. In fact, a young couple waiting in line in front of me didn’t even have tickets and were trying to buy them online when an older couple walked past asking if “anyone needed free tickets”. The young couple said yes and this older couple took a few minutes and actually texted them two free tickets. Apparently the older couple’s two kids didn’t want to go to the show so they just gave the tickets away. It was an incredibly kind act and the couple in front of me were giddy with karmic bliss for the rest of our wait together.

I had never been to the Palladium before and was interested to see the space. The first thing that stood out to me was that the Palladium staff were exceedingly polite and good-natured. Both the security staff who worked the metal detectors, and the guy checking tickets, were very pleasant and warmly told me to “enjoy the show”. This may not seem like much, but considering the treatment you usually get from staff at concerts, this was extraordinary.

It was a general admission show so I scanned the area inside the Palladium and then made my way to about the 12th row of bodies from stage left. People were pretty tightly packed in and it was very warm, but the atmosphere was easy going.

The opening act, Shannon and the Clams, went on at 8:05 and the crowd received them with a subdued applause. I had never heard of Shannon and the Clams and was curious as to what they were all about. The band is made up of Shannon Shaw (vocals/bass), Cody Blanchard (vocals/guitar), Will Sprott (keyboards) and Nate Mahan (drums). The band looked coolly disheveled, as the three men wear slightly mismatched, vintage suits, with Blanchard sporting a bow tie and Mahan sporting a cowboy hat and bolo tie. Shannon, a buxom, Rubenesque blond, wore a classic mini-skirt.

Shannon and the Clams played a crisp set for about 35 minutes. The set was a driving mix of original Buddy Holly-esque retro rock, rhythm and blues and garage punk all with beautiful and precise doo-wop backing vocals. Their songs were strong and the musicianship impressive, especially that of drummer Mahan who never let the band’s momentum lag.

Shannon may be the named headliner in the band, but the straw that stirs the drink is Cody Blanchard. Blanchard’s guitar playing is a mix between Buddy Holly and Dick Dale. His singing voice is higher than Shannon’s, who possesses a gritty, lower register growl, but it is superb. Blanchard also possesses an ease and welcoming confidence on stage that is very appealing. That said, he does boast what may be the worst haircut of recent memory, a sort of thinning bowl cut/mullet combo that could stop traffic with its hideousness.

Shannon Shaw is a solid bassist and has an earthy power and undeniable charm about her. Sadly, the sound mix at the Palladium was not quite as crisp as it should have been and so her lower pitched vocals often got lost. That said, the band ended their set with a truly fantastic cover of Jefferson Airplane’s White Rabbit with Shannon on lead vocals, and she just crushed it.

Shannon and the Clams made a new fan on Sunday night, and I look forward to getting to see them again.

After Shannon and the Clams left the stage, the road crew went to work and the crowd started to swell. As the crowd swelled, some tempers flared and a near scuffle broke out near me but quickly subsided with some drunken bro-hugs and high fives.

The crowd was a very eclectic mix in terms of age. There were a lot of middle aged and old people, but a substantial number of millennials. My rough estimate would be that the crowd broke down as 40% middle-age/old and 60% teens and twenties. I did see a few moms and dads with their pre-teen kids as well.

Greta Van Fleet hit the stage at about 9 with When the Curtain Falls and were greeted with raucous cheers. What is immediately apparent upon seeing Greta Van Fleet live is that the musicianship of Jake (guitar) and Sam(bass) Kiszka and Danny Wagner, is really impressive. They are a tight trio and Jake is an absolutely filthy guitar player who plays with a demonic intensity.

The second song of the night was Edge of Darkness, and this is where things started to get interesting. The song is a rather mundane bit of rock and roll, but the rendition of it on Sunday night turned into an absolute bombshell. Seemingly out of nowhere Jake just erupted with a dynamic guitar solo that went on a combustible and entertaining odyssey. The band barely stayed with him as he just torched the Palladium and left it in a smouldering pile. He then followed it up with even more explosive playing on their hit Black Smoke Rising. These two songs combined confirmed that Jake Kiszka is the sun around which the rest of the band orbit.

Equally impressive were the rhythm section of Sam Kiszka and Danny Wagner. These guys grabbed a hold of the tiger that is Jake’s guitar playing and held on for dear life as it rampaged across Los Angeles. The chemistry between the two Kiszkas and Wagner is terrific and they are musicians to take very seriously.

The stage set up for Greta Van Fleet was pretty basic and relied a great deal on an overused smoke machine and very poor light design. The band played an, at times, uneven 11 song set, ending on a high note with a quality rendition of Highway Song. They then took an extended break and returned with a two song encore.

If you’ll notice, I have not mentioned singer Josh Kiszka yet, which is a bit unusual in a concert review. The reason for my apprehension regarding Josh is that I really, really wanted Greta Van Fleet to be great. I really want a rock band to come along that will drag the genre kicking and screaming back into relevance. Sadly…Greta Van Fleet is not that band, and the reason for it is Josh Kiszka.

Josh does hit some very high notes with authority, but he is no Robert Plant. Hell, he isn’t even David Coverdale. The reason Josh fails as a singer, and he does fail, is that his voice is totally lacking in any texture and nuance. Josh sings at a very high pitch, but that is all he is able to do. He doesn’t so much sing songs as yelp them out. He is unable to tell a story, connect emotionally or just break up the monotony with his voice. It is all one thing all the time. This was never so apparent as when the band, in tribute to the late Ginger Baker, did a cover of White Room by Cream. Josh’s vocals on that song were actually painful to listen to they were so bad.

The other issue with Josh, and I wish it wasn’t an issue worth mentioning, but it is, is that he is painfully uncool. Josh’s style is atrociously awful and only accentuates his uncoolness. Josh is a diminutive guy who looks like a Hobbit wearing a Leo Sayer wig who raided his hippy grandmother’s closet and stole the clothes she meant to burn rather than donate to Goodwill.

Josh also lacks any and all stage presence. Every single time he came on stage, which was numerous as he often disappeared off-stage for some reason, he would return by walking out and waving both hands over his head. He looked like a second grader getting off a school bus desperate to be welcomed warmly by his parents at the bus stop.

Josh has no rock star energy about him at all. He is not physically connected and can’t move well, and therefore he wanders the stage like a kid lost at the mall. When brother Jake is off on one of his meteoric guitar solos, Josh grabs a tambourine and flamboyantly plays it totally out of rhythm and looking ridiculous as he awkwardly and aimlessly, but energetically, gallivants around.

Some people, like Jim Morrison for instance, are born with “it”, while others, like Mick Jagger, have to manufacture “it”. Whether you are born with “it” or manufacture “it” doesn’t matter, all that matters is that you possess “it”. Josh Kiszka does not possess “it”. What he possesses is an “anti-it”, which is a shame because his brothers Jake and Sam definitely have “it”. These two aren’t just great musicians, unlike their singing brother, they are great showmen.

Maybe the stars will align and with experience Josh will grow and gain some stage presence, a stronger persona and identity, get a better stylist and then learn the finer nuances of singing and the vocal instrument. I certainly hope that happens and that the band become a huge success and revitalize the moribund world of rock and roll….but I’m not optimistic.

Sadly, it feels right now like Greta Van Fleet will have minimal staying power with Josh Kiszka as their front man. They can certainly grow as a band, and no doubt will over the next two or three albums…but with Josh as their singer they have a very clear and limited ceiling. Of course, since the band are three brothers and another guy, and the problem with the band isn’t the other guy, they aren’t going to replace their brother. So it seems that the Greta Van Fleet problems of today could be set in stone sans major development by Josh.

In conclusion, Greta Van Fleet are not Led Zeppelin, and hopefully they aren’t even Greta Van Fleet yet. Despite the band’s sterling musicianship, the vocals and presentation of lead singer Josh Kiszka are an albatross around its neck. The bottom line is this, the lead singer of Greta Van Fleet needs to be cooler than Greta Van Susteren, and he isn’t. Maybe in another year or two Josh Kiszka and his voice will have matured and will blossom into the rock star we truly need right now. I was rooting for him to succeed on Sunday night, and I’ll be rooting for him to succeed going forward.


When the Curtain Falls

Edge of Darkness

Black Smoke Rising

The Music is You (John Denver cover)

You’re the One

Age of Man

Black Flag Exposition

White Room (Cream cover)

The Cold Wind

Mountain of the Sun

Highway Tune


Flower Power

Safari Song


Queen - The Forum: A Review


Last Friday, July 19th, I continued my year of living musically by diving into the nostalgia pool to see Queen with Adam Lambert at The Forum. Queen are rock royalty from the 1970’s and 80’s which are currently comprised of two pivotal members from their original lineup, guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor, as well as new editions Adam Lambert (lead vocals), Spike Edney (keyboards), Neil Fairclough (bass) and Tyler Warren (percussion).

Like most rock fans of my generation (Gen X), I grew up with Queen being in heavy rotation on the soundtrack of my life, but unlike many of my friends I never really got into them like I did other bands from the era. I certainly recognized their genius, and Freddie Mercury’s astounding vocal abilities, but I just never became a super fan. For instance, I have never bought a Queen album…and it wasn’t until about 5 years ago that I actually possessed a Queen album when I got their three greatest hits compilations for free.

As much as I liked Queen’s songs, and I did like them a lot, in my eyes Queen was sort of a second level band from the second wave of the British Invasion. To me Queen existed, along with everyone else in the 1970’s, in Led Zeppelin’s long and dark shadow. As my musician friend Steam Roller Johnny once aptly said of Queen, “listening to Queen is like eating an ice cream sundae, it is delicious but it isn’t something you can eat all the time”. Even though that assessment seems spot on, there really isn’t any good reason I can conjure that I haven’t been a bigger Queen fan in my teenage and adult years.

When I saw Bohemian Rhapsody in the movie theatre last year I thought the film was pretty average fare that shed no new light on Queen or Mercury. That said, the thing that jumped out to me was the final fifteen minutes of the movie that showed Queen playing Live Aid. That sequence was electrifying and it sent me to the internet to find more live Queen. After devouring what seemed like hours of footage, I was left in awe of the band’s power and live presence.

Coincidentally…or more likely not…shortly after Bohemian Rhapsody got attention in movie theatres and at the Academy Awards, Queen announced a tour. Freddie Mercury has been dead for nearly thirty years, but the Queen machine has not stopped touring over the decades and cashing in on rock fan’s nostalgic impulses. The problem for Queen has always been…how do you replace Freddie Mercury, one of the greatest singers in rock history? From 2004-2009 Queen successfully went with the substantial and formidable talents of former Bad Company frontman Paul Rodgers as their lead singer. Rodgers is a stellar blues/rock singer in his own right, and even though his vocals are markedly different in almost every way from Mercury’s, the merger could be deemed to have been fruitful.

In 2014 Queen did a world tour with American Idol alum Adam Lambert as Mercury’s stand in. I was dubious of Lambert’s ability to go from a cavity inducing pop-star wannabe to a front man of one of the handful of great rock bands in the history of the genre. I asked my buddy and all around musical encyclopedia, music aficionado and Queen fanatic Red Dragon, if Queen with Adam Lambert was worth seeing. Dragon has seen the band many times, the most recent being with Lambert at the helm a few years ago. Dragon gave two vociferous thumbs up on Queen with Adam Lambert. That was good enough for me…so I bought the tickets the day they went on sale.

I’ve been to The Forum a few times to see concerts and it is a really great venue. While the nosebleed seats can be problematic due to acoustic issues, everywhere else in the building is a pretty good seat. Our seats were mid-arena and gave us a solid view of the festivities.

The crowd was, not surprisingly, mostly middle-aged or older. There were some younger people, and even families with young kids, but all the place there were white-haired, beer-bellied fellas and heavily made-up, fat-bottomed aging ladies squeezed into age-inappropriate tart attire. As I made my way up the stairs to my seats, I got stuck behind not one, but two, older folks trying to navigate the stairs with their canes. A women in front of me apologized for her lethargic pace and said mournfully, “it sucks getting old”. While it seemed at the time that truer words were never spoken, I would bet Freddie Mercury might argue that getting old beats the alternative. I later saw three more older folks being assisted up the stairs, to their seats, one was equipped with a full walker….a truer metaphor for the state of rock and roll could not be found.

There was no opening act so, in accordance with the band’s instructions, we arrived promptly at 7:45 for what was supposed to be an 8:00 show. The band did not go on until 8:30 but no one seemed to be any worse for wear from the delay.

Queen hit the stage with all the grandiosity you’d expect from rock royalty and the crowd erupted as they played the aptly titled “Now I’m Here”. The thing that struck me from the get go was that the band and Adam Lambert are very keen to respect Freddie Mercury and his fans. For the first four songs it was guitarist Brian May who stood at center stage in the spotlight, not lead singer Lambert.

It wasn’t until there was a brief break in the action where Lambert addressed the audience that he took a more pronounced role. During this break Lambert spoke to the crowd and mentioned the “pink elephant” in the room…namely that he was here and Freddie wasn’t. He assured the audience that he wasn’t here to replace Freddie because no one could replace Freddie. He was, just like everyone in the crowd, here to honor Freddie and his legacy. The band then kicked into a scathing version of “Killer Queen” with Lambert taking over the spotlight.

Lambert graciously and wisely embraces his role as substitute and surrogate Freddie, and his gratitude and undeniable cheeky energy are contagious as the audience not only welcomes him into the role but actively roots for him to succeed. Lambert has landed the sweetest karaoke gig on the planet and he knows it. He plays his role with aplomb and even though he constantly defers to May and Taylor throughout the show, he is able to a cohesive and quality front man in his own right.

Lambert is a fantastic singer and his voice is well suited for Queen’s catalogue. There was a palpable sense throughout the arena of people being awed by Lambert’s vocal prowess and you could feel people being more and more impressed by his singing as the night wore on.

While Lambert has a remarkable voice…Freddie was a remarkable singer. For all of Mercury’s vocal gymnastics, what made him so amazing was that his voice’s foundational power was in the lower register…and from there his astounding range took off. Lambert’s vocal power is found in his higher register, which is pretty amazing to behold but does alter the songs a bit and turns a gutteral connection with the material into, dare I say, a Broadway-esque, performance of the songs. In comparing it to dance, Freddie Mercury was Gene Kelly, who hit the bottom of the note hard, while Adam Lambert is Fred Astaire hitting the top of the note loudly but gently.

The “pink elephant” Lambert refers to is not just Freddie’s absence but the thing that he and Lambert have in common…namely their homosexuality. Freddie Mercury was gay…but Adam Lambert is super gay. If Freddie Mercury were alive to watch Adam Lambert perform he’d say, “I’m gay…but wow…that guy is REALLY gay”. To Lambert’s great credit he is unapologetically gay and people love him for it. I couldn’t help but think about the middle-aged and older people in the crowd who were swooning with every prance and preen of Lambert’s, and that in their lifetime homosexuality has gone from being shamed and marginalized to being celebrated.

It was also a striking sign of the total victory in the culture wars that one of Lambert’s great weaknesses as a front man is that he is so painfully safe. Lambert’s campiness is more akin to Liberace than it is to Freddie Mercury. Freddie was, at his core, a freak…a freak vocalist, a freak songwriter, a freak character…Freddie was aggressively a freak…it is what made him so deliciously Freddie Mercury. Adam Lambert is a nice kid with a great voice who gets a little sassy sometimes.

Brian May proved himself to still be among the rock guitar gods with his performance on the 19th, which was his 72nd birthday. May’s playing was precise and crisp, chock full of power and bombast. His voice has held up quite well too, as he sang acoustic version of “Love of My Life” and “‘39”. it was during this quieter section of the show that the audience spontaneously serenaded the appreciative septuagenarian with a hearty ‘Happy Birthday”.

Roger Taylor’s voice has held up pretty well too as he belted out solid version of “I’m In Love With My Car” and the Bowie parts of “Under Pressure”. Taylor’s drumming is another subject altogether and he has definitely lost a step. To his credit he accepts this fact and is very well aided by a Tyler Warren, who is the second drummer who covers for any weak spots in his drumming game. The Warren is a whirling dervish who works his ass off in the shadows to keep the Queen machine rolling.

The highlights of the show were Killer Queen and Fat Bottomed Girls, the rendition of which really kicked the show into high gear, as well as exquisite back to back versions of “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” and “Under Pressure”. The crowd was in a state of orgasmic delirium for the show’s climax of “Another One Bites the Dust”, “Radio Ga Ga” and “Bohemian Rhapsody” (which features a vocal cameo by Freddie Mercury and younger Queen) which led into an encore that opened with a digital Freddie mercury playing “Ay-oh” with the crowd and then erupted into “We Will Rock You/We Are the Champions”.

Overall, the Queen with Adam Lambert experience was a contagiously joyful one from start to finish. From Queen’s terrific catalogue of songs to Brian May’s guitar virtuosity to Adam Lambert’s sterling vocals and welcoming presence, the entire night felt like a fitting tribute to Freddie Mercury in every single way, and I think would have made the original King of Queen very proud.

If you are a Queen fan then you really should go see them as they are worth every penny. If, like me you are a marginal fan (or a new fan), I highly recommend you pull the trigger and spend the money to see them when they come to your town because, while they made good on their promise of ‘we will rock you’, and proved that that they really are the champions, they are getting long in the tooth and there is no telling when another one will bite the dust.


Now I’m Here

Seven Seas of Rhye

Keep Yourself Alive

Hammer to Fall

Killer Queen

Don’t Stop Me Now

In the Lap of the Gods…Revisited

Somebody to Love

The Show Must Go On

I’m in Love With My Car

Bicycle Race

Fat Bottomed Girls

Machines (or Back to Humans)

I Want It All

Love of My Life


Happy Birthday

Doing All Right

Crazy Little Thing Called Love

Under Pressure

I Want to Break Free

You Take My Breath Away

Who Wants to Live Forever

Last Horizon

Guitar Solo

Tie Your Mother Down

Dragon Attack

Another One Bites the Dust

Radio Ga Ga

Bohemian Rhapsody



We Will Rock You

We Are the Champions


Rival Sons - The Fonda Theatre : A Review


This past Thursday, May 9th, my year of living musically continued with a jaunt to one of my favorite venues, The Fonda Theatre, to see a local band on the rise, Rival Sons.

Rival Sons are a hard rock/blues band from Long Beach, just south of Los Angeles, that is made up of Jay Buchanan (lead vocals), Scott Holiday (guitar), Mike Miley (drums), Dave Beste (bass) and touring member Todd Ogren (keyboards). The band are currently touring in support of their sixth and most recent album, Feral Roots, which was released on January 25th of this year.

Rival Sons formed in 2009 and even though they have put out a solid collection of rock albums into a rock starved world over the last decade, they have yet to “hit it big”. That all could be changing this year though, as the band performed on The Late Late Show with James Corden on the night before I saw them, are slated to co-headline a tour this summer and fall with Stone Temple Pilots and even have one of their earlier songs, Electric Man, featured on a Mountain Dew commercial. In the crazy, upside down, topsy-turvy world of modern rock music, being on Corden and in a Mountain Dew ad are signs of a band’s momentum.

I was turned on to Rival Sons a few years ago by my buddy Red Dragon, who is a walking encyclopedia of music past and present. Dragon sent me some links to a few songs off of the bands 2014 album Great Western Valkyrie, and I was hooked. From there I made the expedition through the band’s earlier work, which includes their self-titled EP as well as their first full length album, the self-released Before the Fire, both of which are outstanding. The band then signed with Earache and released Pressure and Time (2011), Head Down (2012), Great Western Valkyrie (2014) and Hollow Bones (2016) and toured extensively in support of those albums and as an opening act for bigger and more established acts like Aerosmith, Black Sabbath and Sammy Hagar. In 2018, Rival Sons left Earache and signed on with Low Country Sound, a division of Elektra Records…which brings us to today.

When I saw that Rival Sons were playing at The Fonda I snatched up two tickets ($40 each) the very first day they went on sale. I had long wanted to see the band live but had never had the opportunity until now so I didn’t want to miss it. It was a wise move to get my tickets as early as I did as the general admission show ended up selling out.

My evening of rock started out with my new beloved ritual of grabbing a burger from the Shake Shack across the street from The Fonda before the show. Shake Shack burgers are either God’s or the devil’s work, for they are much too delicious to be of this world. I also treated myself to a Root Beer, a treat which I have not indulged in for quite some time, and hoo-boy if that wasn’t a tasty beer of root. A Shake Shack burger and a root beer and the night was off to a good start.

M’lady, the incomparable Lady Pumpernickle Dusseldorf and I then headed to the venue to join the line that stretched down Hollywood Boulevard and around the corner. After a short wait we were let in through security and made our way to a good spot for the show.

The thing that stood out the most to me about the audience was that the vast majority of them were middle-aged men and women. I wasn’t sure what I was expecting but I wasn’t expecting that. It makes sense though as Rival Sons are a throwback, a sort of cross between Led Zeppelin and Bad Company, that would have been right at home in the world of 70’s rock. The graying crowd represents an under-served music market that is hungry for new rock and roll, and there are very few places where they can get it. Rival Sons, with their hard-driving, guitar driven sound, are an injection of high voltage energy into the genre, and they fill that “classic rock” void for those who were raised on that music before it was considered “classic”…to them it was just “rock”.

The opening act were The Sheepdogs, a Canadian band heavily influenced by The Allman Brothers and Creedance Clearwater Revival. I had never heard of The Sheepdogs, but as is often the case, seeing them play live turned me into a fan. The musicianship of lead singer/guitarist Ewan Currie and virtuoso lead guitarist Jimmy Bowskill, was jaw-droppingly impressive. Bowskill and Currie would often play in “guitar-mony” (guitar + harmony) with exquisite precision. While their songs were good, but not great, the showmanship, craftsmanship and vitality displayed by Bowskill was well worth the price of admission alone.

The Sheepdogs went on at 8 p.m. and played for about 45 minutes. After they departed the stage the roadies then broke down their equipment and set up for Rival Sons. At this point things got interesting, but not in a good way. The show was General Admission - no seats - so Lady Pumpernickle and I had been standing in the same spot, about five rows of people from the stage, for about an hour and change when two women, one in her 60’s but dressed like a teenager in a mini-skirt and halter top, and the other, her daughter, in her 20’s, came and stood right in front of Lady Pumpernickle. We rolled our eyes at the desperate attention-seeking slutty outfits and behavior of these hussies, and to avoid irritation Lady Pumpernickle simply moved over to the other side of me, using me as a wall between her and the harlots. Lady Pumpernickle could now see the show and not worry about getting crabs…well, at least not getting crabs from those two filthy tramps. But then the patriarch of the whore family, Senor Dicknose, came stumbling through the crowd, bumping into everyone yet miraculously keeping his two beers above his head. Senor Dicknose then made the potentially fatal error of nearly spilling the beer on m’lady…and tensions rose. Now…this guy was in his 60’s, and just like his whore wife, was dressed about four decades too inappropriately. His leather jacket and jeans looked freshly bought and, like his face, harshly creased, and his Ed Hardy t-shirt was like the waving flag of his home country of Douchebagia. This guy was such a gigantic twat it is difficult to fully and accurately describe him and his leathery, fake tanned, botoxed face and super-gelled hair. Think of it this way…if Donald Trump and Harvey Weinstein had a 60 year old baby, it would be this useless cunt.

I am a large mammal, and the best way to describe me is that I look like an unfrozen caveman and a Hells Angel had a baby that the Aryan Brotherhood tried to abort by leaving in the woods to die but who miraculously survived when it was adopted and raised by a pack of rabid wolves and a pod of Sasquatch. The bottom line is this, I sort of look like trouble and maybe even the type of person who carries a battle axe hidden on his person somewhere. Senor Dicknose caught my vibe very quickly because he looked like a geriatric member of Circue du Soleil contorting himself to get around me without ever coming into contact with me. Of course, I wasn’t afraid of him because as the old joke goes, I’ve been beat up by guys half his size…and certainly half his age, so I didn’t help him out at all by moving out of his way because…well…fuck that guy. I was so irritated by this turd with feet that Lady Pumpernickle tapped my shoulder and whispered in my ear, “he’s not worth getting arrested over”. As always, Lady Pumpernickle was right…but that didn’t stop me from trying to figure out ways I could elbow this shitbag in the face and shatter his nose while NOT getting arrested.

Thankfully…sort of…Senor Dicknose abruptly left the scene after some rude words towards his streetwalker wife, and I had to listen to her babble on to her floozy daughter about what a prick he is…I guess it runs in the family. Then just as the show was about to start, another couple, the Douche and Douchess of Assholestan, squirmed there way right in front of me. Once again I was itching to go full on Hulk and smash, but Lady Pumpernickle’s calm and cool nature intervened and she reminded me that life isn’t Goodfellas and you can’t go around kicking peoples’ face in and burying them in a shallow grave upstate without dire legal consequences. I hate it when she’s right.

Right before the show started, the old floozy and her apprentice whore daughter, started literally kicking a big fat guy standing next to me. He was an older guy, there by himself, sort of a sad fellow, and they were kicking his legs and talking shit to him. It was insane. What the hell is wrong with these people? Then Senor Dicknose returned and was nudging the older, fat guy. The guy then turned to me and said apologetically, “hey, if I bump into you it’s because they pushed me.” I could see he was really unnerved, so I told him, “it’s a rock show, don’t worry about it.” He then said that if they push him into me, that he wanted me to push him back into them. I assured him I wouldn’t push him at all and then he told me he really wanted me to push him if they started it. I tried to ease his anxiety and said that I knew the patriarch of the whore family was a real piece of work, and he replied by telling me the women were “absolute cunts”…which I thought would make for an interesting Absolute Vodka ad. It is always fun to make new friends.

Then, surrounded by the House of Needledicks, Tarts and Hussys and the Douche and Douchess of Assholestan, the lights went down and, thank the good Lord, Rival Sons finally hit the stage.

When Rival Sons perform they aren’t so much a rock band as they are a street gang, and the show they put on Thursday night was less a rock show and more a tenacious rock and roll rumble. I mean that in the very best sense. Rival Sons absolutely dropped the hammer on The Fonda Theatre with the power and authority of a Norse god, and it was glorious to behold.

They opened the show with the song Back in the Woods off of the new album and the Fonda erupted and things took off from there. Unlike say, Muse, a band I saw a few months ago who put on a great and big spectacle of a concert, Rival Sons put on a down and dirty, stripped down fistfight of a show. With Rival Sons it is just them, their music and their attitude…and it is impressively forceful.

Miley and Beste’s rhythm section were relentless throughout, keeping a steady and bone crunching beat that was an anchor keeping the band’s soaring music firmly grounded on Mother Earth.

Scott Holiday’s guitar playing was Jimmy Page-esque in its majesty and dynamism. Holiday is a phenomenal player and is without question the musical center of the band. Holliday looks the part of the guitar hero, with his leather and leopard print outfit and handlebar mustache he was the cool ice regulating the temperature of a volcanically hot show.

Lead singer Jay Buchanan is the fire to Holiday’s ice, and he is definitely the straw that stirs the drink of Rival Sons. Buchanan is a charismatic front man with a magnetic stage presence who demands and commands the attention of the entire audience. Buchanan looks and moves sort of like a poor man’s Jim Morrison/Michael Hutchence, but his voice is more reminiscent of Paul Rodgers. Buchanan’s bluesy voice has a Tom Jones sort of foundational power to it, that originates deep in his soul and growls out upon the audience like dragon’s fire. Buchanan’s voice, which is so strong he actually filled the theatre on numerous occasions without a microphone, is distinct with a surprising range and level of emotionality, which is accentuated by the accompaniment of some good old fashioned rock screams.

Buchanan and Holiday are a potent and dynamic rock duo that play the role of rock star with aplomb. The two of them carry the weight of the show and their on-stage chemistry is compelling.

After the initial rush of the opening song, Rival Sons refused to let up as they cranked out four more hard driving songs that kept the energy high at the Fonda. Songs four and five of the set were the back to back combination of Electric Man and Too Bad, which brought the crowd to a dizzying frenzy.

The band then shifted gears a bit and played the soulful Jordan, off of the Heads Down album. Buchanan introduced the song as being about grief, and that it was dedicated to the people who needed to hear it tonight. The song and its performance were reminiscent of Rod Stewart and Jeff Beck’s version of People Get Ready in its emotional depth and nuance and revealed an impressive level of musical dexterity.

The band then stayed in the blues bin for the next few songs, keeping things more subdued as they and the audience caught their breath. That all came to a close with the explosive Torture off of their early career EP, and they followed that up with the pulsating Open My Eyes. From then on Rival Sons kept their foot on the pedal and never let up for an instant.

The band finished up the set with Do Your Worst and then took a momentary break while the crowd chanted for an encore. The encore was interesting because once again the band sort of shifted gears. They brought out The Sheepdogs and had them sing background on the less explosive, more radio-friendly, anthem-esque song, Shooting Stars, off of the new album. It was surprising that they went with a song that is somewhat less energetic for an encore, but it worked and the audience knew the lyrics by heart and sang along with Buchanan’s encouragement. Shooting Stars is an emotionally resonant song that speaks to our turbulent times and it carried a startling gravitas at the Fonda Thursday night.

The hour and forty-five minute show ended with irrepressible Keep on Swinging, which is ironic since I made the decision to not start swinging earlier in the night. When the song ended the drummer threw a drum stick into the area near me and a twenty something guy and a sixty something guy fell on the floor wrestling to get it. The older guy’s wife was knocked to the ground in the melee. It was insane as her husband was so desperate to have the stupid drum stick he never stopped wrestling to see if his poor wife was alright. As the deeply chivalrous man that I am, I was going to help her up but was too busy going through her pocket book which had fallen at my feet in the scrum. I did get $12, a Costco card and a hard candy out of the whole incident though so…I felt pretty good about how things turned out (relax…I’m just kidding). But this incident was emblematic of the type of band that Rival Sons are…they are so intoxicating and persuasive that a sixty year old man would throw his long time wife aside just for the chance to fight for one of their drum sticks.

While there was the downside of some in the crowd being typical L.A.-holes, overall the night was a stirring success and felt like being transported back in time to the 60’s or 70’s to see early Led Zeppelin or Bad Company play at one of Bill Graham’s famous venues The Wonderland or the Fillmore. The reality is that we aren’t living in the 60’s or 70’s, but some in the crowd certainly are in their 60’s or 70’s. It seems to me that the older audience is emblematic of that fact that Rival Sons are a very bright spot in our very bleak rock universe.

In conclusion, Rival Sons are a fantastic band who play with a mesmerizing fury and ferocity rarely seen nowadays. The band’s musical power, stellar musicianship and dynamic yet natural showmanship puts them in the upper echelon of rock acts working today. If you like hard rock music, I wholly encourage you to give Rival Sons a listen and to make the effort to go see them live, especially while they are still playing smaller venues at cheaper prices. Due to the current nature of the music industry and rock’s ever fading spot in the culture, Rival Sons will most likely never become as big a success as their rock forefathers like Led Zeppelin, Bad Company, Aerosmith or The Cult…but let there be no doubt…they do deserve to be a very big success, and their show at The Fonda was undeniable proof of that.


Back in the Woods

Sugar on the Bone

Pressure and Time

Electric Man

Too Bad


Face of Light

Feral Roots


Open My Eyes

All Directions

End of Forever

Do Your Worst


Shooting Stars

Keep on Swinging