All Bad Things Must End: The Final Revïew of the Sümmer

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Get the party started. The crowd loved it.

Well folks, this is it.

This is the end.

This is the farewell tour for my summer at SurfRhythm.

And what better way to finish up the summer reviewing what I believe to be the single greatest show of all time. 

Mötley Crüe’s Final Tour: All Bad Things Must Come To An End.

If you haven’t realized by now that hair metal is my not so secret guilty pleasure, I would be amazed. While my experiences opening my mind to the ways of the surf, something I genuinely enjoyed and hope to continue doing, there is something that really resonates with me and hair metal. It just strikes the right chord, if you will.

Puns aside, let’s get to the good stuff.

But first, an anecdote.

The first time I saw Crüe was during the first leg of this same tour, almost exactly one year ago in Camden, New Jersey, on my 21st birthday. I truly believe that I can say this, and with the utmost confidence: I had the greatest 21st birthday of all time. From breaking the legal, alcoholic seal on Friday night at midnight, to waking up at 8 AM to get my new license from the DMV, which could not have been any more moronic of a decision on my part, spending the day feeling like death, and road tripping up and experiencing the show with one of my closest friends. Oh, and I got with a cougar from Camden. Or Philly. I don’t really know. I think her name was Candy, or something like that. She looked so good, and get this – it was even her birthday too! She was forty. I didn’t go all the way by any means. I think her boyfriend or something was there with her, which was bizarre as hell, but whatever! I WILL BE YOUNG FOREVER!!!

Man, that whole day was so great. I was definitely afraid that I was going to catch some kind of disease and get all my money stolen, but she was so nice and cool. Gotta love that. Rock and roll, baby.

You know, I tend to amp things up pretty hard. That is who I am. I can understand when readers look at my work, and think, “Ah, this guy, he is too excitable.” That’s pretty true. But when I saw Crüe on my 21st, I don’t think I can emphasize this enough.

My mind was BLOWN.

That was the best stage show I have ever seen, by a mile.

Even better than Paul McCartney. Paul FREAKING McCartney. A Beatle. A BEATLE.

From the lights, to the sound, to the set, the performance, and the excessive pyrotechnics (that is an understatement, it really was an… explosive show), I think it is safe to say that no one will be able to come close to the party that is Mötley Crüe’s final tour for a very, very long time.

Fast forward one year and through another lifetime of new experiences, and I was catching them again with another one of my closest friends. Almost one year to the day, Crüe had a show set up for a thirty minute drive from my house. I would have been an idiot to not go.

Because it was absolutely amazing, again.

Playing at the Royal Farms Arena in Baltimore, headbangers of all ages and walks of life came to see this final tour, and it was a solid turnout. The overall attitude seemed good. No fighting or excessive drunken idiots wandering around, with a mix of ass kicking rockers and their hot rocker wives. I did see a noticeable amount of Steelers gear for the heart of Baltimore, and it definitely made me think, “man, these guys have balls.” I would have been a little too nervous to rock my own Steelers cap, but my hair (and Jack Daniels tank top) looked too good. No harm, no foul.

Opening the show was none other than Alice Cooper himself, who put on a 45 or so minute set of his biggest hits. Accompanied by a stellar band, including Nita Strauss of the Iron Maidens, as his dynamite, bombshell lead guitarist, Cooper served as the perfect first act. Performing hits such as “Feed My Frankenstein,” “No More Mr. Nice Guy,” and his most popular song as his own finale, “School’s Out For Summer,” Cooper, as an opening act, could not have set the stage any better. Not only was his music great, but the use of props such as a ten foot tall Frankenstein monster coming out and joining on a chorus or two, guillotines for Alice’s daily beheading, swords, balloons, and snakes, presented the quintessential Cooper that we have come to know and love. Alice, age 67, still had all of his charisma and a nice rock voice to match, again serving as the perfect opener for this tour. Truly, a great decision to invite him to play throughout every leg of the tour.

Using some of the most famous songs that reference the word “Goodbye”, such as “Hello, Goodbye,” by the Beatles, and “So Long, Farewell,” from the musical, the Sound of Music, a special kind of tongue and cheek really sat well with the crowd. Only can a band that ignites a flaming pentagram and sings “Shout at the Devil” could open a show with classic Rodgers and Hammerstein show tunes.

Alice Cooper had a nice set up.
Alice Cooper had a nice set up.

 

Erupting immediately, it was clear that the party business was to be taken care of. The set list was so packed with Crüe’s biggest hits from the past forty years, I almost don’t want to even try and name everything. If you are familiar with any of their work, you could think of the first few Crüe songs to come into your head. “Girls, Girls, Girls.” “Dr. Feelgood.” “Kickstart My Heart”. “Wild Side.” “Live Wire.” “Home Sweet Home.” And they were all there, every single one. And then some more.

As if the spectacle itself didn’t cover the price of the ticket and then some, the actual sound of the band, instruments and mixing, could not have been any better. The members of Mötley Crüe might not have the same kind of musicianship and technical expertise as a group like Rush, or a classical orchestra for that matter of comparison, might have, but the band still kicked serious ass. From Vince Neil’s vocals, Nikki Sixx holding everything together with the bass, Tommy Lee truly outdoing his wildman reputation on the drums, and Mick Mars, who may be the secret weapon in the group, shredding it on the guitar, these men performed beautifully. Again, for 50+ year old guys who literally overdosed, died, and was given two shots of adrenaline to come back to life in the ambulance, Nikki Sixx’s true life inspiration for arguably Crüe’s biggest hit, “Kickstart My Heart,” I don’t think they could have played any better. Great hard rock tone, bumping rhythm, good vocals, everything was pretty much at the height of their talent.

Oh – and one more thing. It would seem pretty hard to steal a show like this, but Tommy Lee may have done so. Doing something he proclaimed he wanted all his life, the drum solo took a different turn, literally. Built 40 feet in the air and maybe more, going across the length of the arena was the Crüecify rocking roller coaster: a mechanical set up that featured a fully spinning Tommy Lee harnessed into his drum set moving across the length of the arena. Forget that this abilities aren’t quite at the level of guys like Bonham, or Keith Moon, or Neil Peart, the greatest of all time. Tommy Lee obliterated his drums to fifteen or so minutes worth of rap, pop songs, electronic music, and rock on a roller coaster over the crowd. The sea of cell phones taking pictures and video light up the faces of the crowd, and words can’t really describe in full what it looks like. An amazing feat of engineering even for a band synonymous with grand spectacle, and the most creative drum solo I have ever seen.

A shot of the Crüecify itself. This thing was mind blowing.
A shot of the Crüecify itself. This thing was mind blowing.

 

Going into concerts now, I seem to have put myself in an odd position. While still being the life of the party, I am seeing so much more through the eyes of an objective critic than just a normal observer. I thought that it may have been put to rest after dropping out of Musical Theater School (and thank whatever made up deity you believe in that I did that, because I sure as hell am), but it is truly clear how much I am able to observe, almost to a fault.

From the critical standpoint of a decently trained reviewer and someone who had seen this exact show before, there were only few small things that I caught that were not as strong as the rest of the overall picture, the first of which was the state of Vince Neil’s voice. Neil was not quite able to reach his highest screaming notes in some of the songs, but thinking about his age, past lifestyle habits, and the fact that it was a show on a Wednesday night, I would be surprised to find a singer around that could do that. Aside from that, he still sounded fantastic, no complaint there, even though he may not be as an explosive a showman as my main man David Lee Roth The second thing was the state of the pyrotechnics and the explosions. While there was still a heavy usage of pyrotechnics along with the light show, a honestly beautiful feat of rock engineering, I definitely noticed that there were one or two spots that did not make use of the full firework effect, seeing it a second time. I think I can correctly attribute that to the fact that they were playing in an arena designed for 20,000 people. Not the usual, massive outdoor show. You can’t totally burn down a venue. I’m pretty sure it says that somewhere in their contract.

But aside from those two little things?

Sheer rock perfection. Everything about the 1980’s excess, focused into a two hour performance. You could feel the heat coming from the fires on stage. Explosions were so loud, they shook your whole body. Lights were so meticulously arranged and programmed, that they have easily outdone any performer I have ever seen, and by a long shot at that.

Now, just for the record, I don’t really feel like making any comments on some of the darker parts of Crüe’s timeline, as some pretty bad things have happened over the years, and they can’t really be defended. But as a fan here for the music and the show? They couldn’t have done any better. 

While driving home after the gig, I thought a lot about this style of music, and what makes bands like these succeed to such an extent still. Forget about the nostalgia and living in the past for a moment, and think about the music itself – what really matters. One could almost make an argument that this specific style of music, hair metal, is as close to pop music as it is rock and blues, from which anything with an American, electric guitar is based. With the flashy riffs, catchy lyrics, and great image, bands like these put on anthemic shows that keep crowds energized and singing along for the whole night. While listening to two hours worth of anthemic rock on a car radio or an iPod might be a little draining, going ballistic in an arena to two hours worth of the best live music you could think about has no equal.

After signing a “cessation of touring agreement”, according to Rolling Stone’s initial reports, I think it is all but certain that this truly is the end. Listening to this music even now and watching concert videos days later, I couldn’t be any more content knowing that I was able to see this group and tour before it is finished forever. I am so glad I could witness this before it is gone forever.

And thus, like my summer at SurfRhythm, I could not be any more happy to have stumbled in and been able to do what I did. I’m not really a sappy person, and I won’t begin to do so now, but I will say that it has been a pleasure doing this all summer. While my content will not be as regular as it was over the last few months, I will be back irregularly for a few more reviews and interviews. I am going to see The Who in November, and expect to see that shortly after, as well as a few more deep conversations with local artists that I did not get a chance to meet with this summer. Still, I hope you as readers enjoyed catching up with us and taking a look at some of my Hunter Thompson – esque adventures over the last few months. I can tell you from my end, they sure were fun.

Thanks one more time for keeping up with everything. It has been a pleasure. 

I bought the ticket, and I am definitely still taking the ride.

Henry SurfRhythm

Van Halen: 2015 Tour Review

Van Halen SurfRhythm
Van Halen SurfRhythm
Van Halen at the PNC Bank Arts Center.

I think I was up for more than two days straight at the time. Five hours of sleep, after getting back to Maryland from New Jersey past three in the morning following the event does not really fix that in one night. My arms feel shredded from the amount of fist pumping I got away with doing in public, and my voice sounds like that of a sixty year old smoker. Raw.

 But then again, if you are going to party, there’s only one group that can take you over the top…

The mighty Van Halen.

Whew.

Glad to have got that off my chest.

Van Halen SurfRhythm
The Venue – the PNC Bank Arts Center.

This past weekend, I traveled up North to New Jersey to catch my most influential and still living rock band: VAN HALEN. Flying high since the original and only true lead singer David Lee Roth’s return in 2007, Van Halen’s tenure as a group has been milking the cash cow each tour, and for good reason. Even without the original bass player, Michael Anthony, these guys still know how to sell out a venue. And on a Sunday night? The place very well may have been oversold with the amount of people that showed up (nobody call the fire chief!). Playing both a mixture of their hits and some deep tracks that have not been seen or heard live since the eighties, something any hardcore fan can respect immeasurably, these guys made for quite the weekend.

But the weekend did not just start on a Sunday night.

After finishing up a late Friday night practice with my own rock group, I left for New Jersey on Saturday with one of my closest friends from high school. Hitting the most depressing of all Bay Bridge traffic, we made it up to Jersey safe and sound with a rocking playlist to keep the energy up and the windows down to feel the summer breeze. After gorging on the pizza and Italian subs already waiting for us and the requisite time spent visiting relatives, we made our way to Point Pleasant for one of the most pleasant surprises I have seen playing live in a long time.

Go Go Gadjet
Go Go Gadjet performing at Jenkinson’s. Blurry action shot? Duh.

Headlining at Jenkinson’s, an extremely popular local bar and dance club, was the group Go Go Gadjet. Coming all the way from Pennsylvania, but self professed to having spent the last ten years touring heavily on the road and fine tuning their craft, Go Go Gadjet was one of the best party rock bands I have ever seen. Simple as that. Combining one of the most eclectic set lists I have heard in a while, from Nicki Minaj’s “Hey Mama” to R. Kelly’s “Remix to Ignition”, Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”, and the finale, Billy Joel’s “Piano Man”, this group brought the party to a whole new level. I seriously thought that it was just a great DJ who had set up on stage, thanks to the out of this world light show (for a “bar band”, using the term loosely) that could be seen coming through the windows of the venue on the beach, but seeing a live group tear it up like that in front of me? Mind blowing. Looking back and thinking about it, these guys almost reminded me of a much less creative, but still talented, version of Van Halen from back in the day. While the party itself has changed since the late 70’s, it seems that the atmosphere has not. Truly, a great show. While their schedule may not be as easy to access as Van Halen’s, I would definitely recommend checking them out if you get the chance. They seem to play a lot of beach venues like this one, but up and down the East Coast, and they make for a spectacular show.

The fateful day of the concert, Sunday, encompassed an early morning with the afternoon spent at the beach. If I had to have one legitimate gripe about this whole trip, it would come politically: the consumption tax that is so heavily apparent in New Jersey is a straight up shame. After paying twenty dollars (eighteen, if we are exactly counting – I had to break a twenty for me and my buddy and am still bitter) to just sit on the beach and not even swim? I think I am allowed to be a little pissed. I was able to cool my jets as soon I saw the waves that were eight feet high, and with the recent deaths of local swimmers being taken out by the riptide fresh in my mind, just sitting down was for the best. Relaxing on the sand is still nice, and after getting a slight tan on my embarrassingly pasty white bod, I felt calm. Like the calm before the storm.

Van Halen was coming.

Jersey Shore SurfRhythm
The Jersey Shore.

Flying up the parkway and blasting the sounds of Southern California in the 80’s does not paint a clear enough picture for the pump up of seeing another classic rock show in Jersey. Yeah, Jersey has some attitude, but I would rather be there than in Times Square.

A short disclaimer –

I will be the first to say this, although after reading just a few sentences, it should not come as such a surprise: I fucking love Van Halen. Everything they stand for. The music, the image, the attitude, and the girls. Hearing Eddie Van Halen’s “Eruption” for the first time as at twelve years old blew my mind, as it did to everyone else’s. So much of my own personality fits in so perfectly with the Van Halen attitude, that a comparison made between the two could not find results to be any closer. These guys are the standard bearers for going wild, and for a wildman like myself, it is a match made in heaven. Hell, in my senior year of high school, guess what I band I sang to, to headline the most popular school rock review show as the quintessential male lead singer? Van Halen!

Henry Pazaryna SurfRhythm
I show off this photo way too much for my own good, but if you looked this good in spandex pants, you would too.

But reminiscing about the glory days is besides the point of this review.

Actually, it is the saddest comparative truth that I can make.

The performance of the Van Halen family and the greatest living frontman alive today?

I dislike comparing groups at a high focus, with so much concentration on every aspect that they put forward to an audience. Not only are you, as an audience member, not living in the moment and focusing on what you paid to see in front of you, you could lose some of your objectivity in processing what is immediately happening in the now.

That being said, Van Halen was not as good the last big hair metal show I saw in New Jersey, which was Motley Crue. It was apparent that these guys are over the hump. While anyone using that “classic 80’s” musical tone is standing on the shoulders of the guy who literally invented it, Eddie Van Halen, the first person to put a humbucker in a stratocaster body, the group that built from nothing into the culture that surrounded them, sadly, did not live up to the monuments they erected in the past. Playing the same show they have been doing since 2007, while adding notable deep tracks like “Feel Your Love Tonight”, “Light up the Sky”, “Dirty Movies”, and “Drop Dead Legs”, I had some thoughts walking away from a still great show.

Between a combination of poor sound mixing, somewhat of a lack of creativity, and a little bit of age, Van Halen did not put on the ultimately best objective show that their reputation would bill them as doing.

Van Halen SurfRhythm
The Mighty Van Halen.

Don’t get me wrong. I had an absolute blast. The show was great. Seeing your idols in front of your own eyes playing the hits they wrote before you were born is always mind blowing when you sit and think about it. These are the guys that came on the radio with “Eruption” and “Runnin’ With the Devil” and blew everyone’s collective minds in 1978. Eddie is the greatest living guitarist, and he is second only to Jimi Hendrix, the man who revolutionized the electric guitar, in my own and many other’s books. David Lee Roth is without any doubt in my mind, the greatest living frontman, by a mile. Second only to the Lord himself, Freddie Mercury. Putting those two together? It was very clear, even from the lawn seats, that the sparks still flew like the fires of Vesuvius from these gods of rock and roll playing together. Diamond Dave’s still had a Dionysian stage presence and banter, with a surprisingly good voice for how he has treated it since the 70’s. As for Eddie? Just watch the videos of his guitar solos. They speak for themselves.

The rhythm section was not slouching either, but it was clear that they were the piece that was missing something. Alex, while sadly showing his age, held his own as a good rock drummer. Nothing new or exciting, but still good. This leads me to Wolfgang Van Halen. The son of a rock god. I feel genuinely bad taking any shots at Wolfie. For a young man, only two years older than myself, Wolfie can be the butt of a lot of eyebrow raising, and for a truthful reason. Replacing one of the most underrated rock bassists and crucial back up singers of all time, Michael Anthony, Wolfie can get some negativity just being there, even if he does do a good job. And he does do a good job, make no mistake about it. As someone who could imagine trying to share glory with his son, like Eddie and Wolf himself, I don’t feel right judging Wolfie for what he does. But… I almost don’t even want to say it. Thanks to poor mixing, the bass seemed like it was not there a lot of times. It seems bad to judge one event based on one misstep, but the lack of rhythm really was apparent, and it was not the first time they have ever done this set up. Yes, it would fade in and out, and yes both his bass playing and backup singing is exponentially better from the time he first stepped in to play with his dad. But, and this seems just sacrilegious even thinking about it, I kind of agree with what Sammy Hagar (ehh) has been saying lately in response to Eddie’s pretty nasty interviews. I miss Mikey too.

Let the record show that Sammy Hagar was never in a band called Van Halen. The band called Van Halen lived, died, and was resurrected by David Lee Roth. Eddie Van Halen was the only person responsible for creating some of the greatest rock riffs and blowing collective generations of minds. Not the synth pop he pushed in 1986.

But even as David Lee Roth himself has been quoted to say, Eddie is the man who got you in the door. Diamond Dave sells you the Bibles.

Van Halen Concert SurfRhythm
A lot of people were here. It was a pretty nice set up.

I hold these guys to impossibly high standards. Unrealistic, even. That statement alone should pretty much get rid of any credibility I had, which probably wasn’t that much to begin with. In the two hour show, there was one, maybe two songs that I didn’t know every word to. I know this material better than some of my extended family members. And I would be the first one to point out what was not all there, based on any kind of studio trickery was employed back in the day (coincidentally, one of the biggest complaints of the music industry that I have today – if you can’t do it live, you shouldn’t do it at all). And a lot of it was not all there. Thank whatever deity you believe in for David Lee Roth. Homerism aside, it is clear that he is the reason for their success. DLR was on absolute fire, all night long. Too much wordplay and personality to even write down, combined with the surprise of the night, his voice being in tact?

I could only dream to have half the career that he had.

Hopefully it’s the half where he was killing it with the whole band, not just messing around.

I have had some serious writer’s block thinking about this piece. I could have written a nice review talking about my experience and be done with it, but I had a lot more on my mind than just that. This group means so much to me, and to think about a show that was only damn good? Well, does that make me the bad guy for thinking about it like that? As a musician and objective critic myself, I try to do my best to pick out every piece that I can and fix it. There were definitely some things that needed fixed. I will still, always, give these guys a favorable review, but I do want to be honest. With the bizarre vibe from the crowd, including the fights breaking out during the keyboard solo in “Jump” (Who fights during a synth solo? I am still confused about why that happened, but not really. alcohol + rock music + testosterone = not the best time for the general public) and what seemed to be a lack of dancing in the streets (something I went wild doing myself), there were some notable aspects of this concert that were not as overwhelmingly positive as I usually spin things.

I will still love Van Halen until the day I die. If I stop, someone help. I obviously need it.

This concert was great. But.. it could have been a little better.

 

My thoughts are what they are, but they should not take away from the thanks needed to family living in NJ for giving me a place to stay and food, my bro for coming with me, and most importantly, me, for just being so damn awesome.

As my last words…

“Their career may be in the twilight of what it once was, but you owe it to yourself as an American to see Van Halen at least once. “

It will take some convincing to keep me away from this group again.

Local Waves, Episode Six: Rick Hogue

Rick Hogue Local Waves
Rick Hogue Local Waves Guitar
Rick Hogue, on our right, pictured with a Yellow Les Paul.

On Friday, August 7th, after a quick break to let my stomach settle before rushing back out to the water and catching the local waves, I was able to get back up on the horse and visit a friend who I have known for many years.

As one the most influential guitar sellers in the Annapolis area–and I would dare to go as far as all of Maryland as well–Rick Hogue, the owner of Garrett Park Guitars, was willing to sit down for an interview that detailed his life through the golden age of rock music and beyond.

As the premiere guitar salesman in the area, Rick has experienced a seriously sizable share of connections between some of the most famous guitar players of all time. Even getting into the playing circuit in his later years, Rick has been a staple of the instrument sales industry for decades, and has a very interesting story to tell that moves away from the viewpoint of the performer and to the life of someone heavily involved in the behind the scenes of the industry itself.

Rick Hogue Local Waves Guitar
Rick and one of his groups.

Henry Pazaryna: So what I have basically been doing is interviewing local people, but trying to expand on that, not just artists, but people who are a part of the industry. I am interested in learning about whatever you want to share about yourself; from growing up to what your experiences have been playing music, as well as talking about your move to Garrett Park, or whichever one came first.

Rick Hogue: Well, I was born at an early age (smiles), but prior to that, I was in my mother’s womb and as my dad was a southern baptist minister for small churches in the deep south I was surrounded by music even before I was born. In the 1950’s, you had a little organ on one side and a piano on the other, and you had a choir, and that’s where I cut my teeth – listening to gospel music in the south. That all happened in the late 1950’s, but I was always around church music and the voices and harmonies stuck with me. Both my parents played and sang very well, both of them are accomplished piano, and organ players. Both had studied music at the seminary in Louisville KY where they had met. My sister and I were absorbed with music in my early life, and then like everybody else, we caught the rock and roll bug. First it was surf music, and I remember going into a summer home and finding a record player. We would listen to “Blue Velvet”, and another song called “Sleepwalk” by Santo and Johnny on these little 45’s that were left in the beach rental that my family stayed at. My sister and I would play those records over and over and it was so simple yet so all encompassing. So, I’ve been around music my entire life.

I really got hip to guitar just by seeing bands down south that were playing at these dance clubs. When my family went to a family reunion, held at a state park in Gasden, Alabama, there were dance halls there that hosted country music. I vividly remember these guys in white suits with beautiful Fender guitars amps, and this really got me tuned me into guitars. Like almost every other kid in America, my sister I wanted a guitar as soon as we saw the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan show. So my parents gave us a really crummy Sears Silvertone for Christmas in 1964, which is right over here, hanging on the wall. The action was terrible – you couldn’t play it. It was just a cheap guitar. We strummed a few notes on it, and then it got parked in a closet. I was eight years old then and all I wanted to do was be outside fishing. Later in my teens, I really wanted to play again, and my dad bought me a guitar from one of the guys he worked with. It was a 1968 Gibson B 25, a twelve string acoustic guitar, which is a pretty awful guitar as far as Gibson guitars go. It being a twelve string meant that I had to pull off six of the strings to play it as a six string. So, I just took six of them off and just hacked on it to death until I finally sort of figured things out. My sister’s boyfriend at the time, they later got married, loaned me a Yamaha acoustic, which he still has. That guitar had so much history and Mojo with it. Not only did I learn on it, he later gave it to a friend of ours to play in the hospital while he was dying of cancer. My career as a guitar guy was very heavily influenced by that one Yamaha imported guitar. Later on I met a girl and I moved to D.C. from Richmond. I got introduced to a guy named Cesar Diaz who wanted to know about my old guitars. In specific he wanted to know about my old Gibson, and soon after he and I became close friends. Cesar was one the guys who were really influential guys in vintage American guitars and especially amplifiers. He played with a couple of really big bands back in the day and had moved from Puerto Rico with Johnny Nash. He became my friend and mentor, and we would hang out every day. There was a crew of us: myself, Linwood Taylor, Colin Stock, and Cesar. We were just four guys that ran together and I absorbed as much as I could. Cesar, during that period, met Stevie Ray, he met Bob Dylan, and from there, he just went crazy, working with most all of the biggest names in rock and blues. He encouraged me to look for old gear, “You are out on the road, out there doing your medical sales, go find guitars.” So I would look around for guitars. This blue one right here is one I found, up on the wall. It was a dead mint, 1965 Stratocaster in sonic blue. Cesar sold it to John Peden, who was the photographer for Vogue and Guitar World magazine in NYC, and he photographed it for the magazine. It was a centerfold for Guitar World back in the 80’s. You know, I found guitars from him, and it sort of made me feel bad, because he was getting the lion’s share of the profits. I started going to shows myself, and thought I still did a lot of business with Cesar I started doing business on my own. After doing it as a hobby for ten years, from ‘81 to ‘91, I opened Garrett Park Parks, so named for the town where I had a PO box that I had rented to get my guitar mail and because I thought Garrett Park Guitars had a good ring to it.

Rick Hogue Local Waves Guitar
Rick’s first guitar.

I sold Stevie Ray Vaughan two of the really seminal amps that he used on “In Step”, those were bought from my store, Cesar bought them from me for him and I shipped them to the studio in Texas. The two amps that were used were a blackfaced Vibroverb, and we also sold him a small Marshall 50 Watt combo. Those two got used heavily on that record. I got to meet a lot of people back in the early 90’s when I had my store in Arnold. J Mascis of Dinosaur Jr., Buddy Guy, Lenny Kravitz, Kevin Shields from My Bloody Valentine. For a while, I was working with Goldmine, and got to know a lot of their artists. You know, you meet people through networking and other channels. I met Alex Alvarez, Lenny Kravtiz’ guitar tech, and got to play with Lenny on stage at the University of Delaware. I had actually met Lenny when he just “Mr. Lisa Bonet” back in the Cosby days and before he became the Rock Star that he is now. He would come into the shows in the East Side of New York that Skip Henderson used to put on. These were great shows, and people from all over the country and all over the world would come into the basement of this old Catholic church, and Skip donated all the money he raised for AIDS research. It was a two day show at the church, and it was in the middle of the East Side. It was nutty. It was everything you could think of the East Side being back at the time. Anyways, I met Lenny at those shows, and a lot of others – people that worked for the Rolling Stones, and on and on and on. Fun stuff.

HP: That is really cool. So when was the move to Annapolis, and what entailed with all of that?

RH: Well, my wife and I started having kids. This job is a lot of travel. You know, you are either going to shows to sell or to buy, or you are out on the road buying. You get a call, and there is a lady from say… Peoria, Illinois that has a rare guitar. You can’t just do it over the phone. Once we started having kids, I needed to stay home more and look after them. Paul (Reed) Smith and his then manager Clay Evans came by my store, in like ‘92, along with Mark Nicholson, who was a rep for Joe Blacker of Audio Associates. They said, “Why don’t you sell PRS guitars in your shop?” And I said “Well, I don’t carry new stuff, I’m all vintage,” but then I kind of started to think about it. I knew Paul, I had known him since the early 80’s, and I thought, “Hell, why not?” We are right here in town and they make the best guitars in the world, so, we started carrying them. Soon thereafter, we wanted to get Fender, and it just was a natural progression. I wouldn’t travel that much, I had little kids, and I wanted to do the right thing by them. I started doing more new retail. We did very well with PRS, and when we got Fender the sales rep said “You have to be in Annapolis. Not Arnold.” We had been in our lease for three years in Arnold and our lease was up, so we said, “Fine, we will move.” One of the things that always worked with my store is that we moved a lot. I moved when there was a better location, in some cases when I got pissed off at the landlord. If they were doing something goofy, I would pack up and say, “Ok, I am at the end of my lease. Bye.” I was on Jennifer Road for a long time, almost nine years. That really is where I should have stayed. We have moved around but I love the location I am at right now. It is vibe – y, and we have a great location for our school, and for all of the instrument rentals that we are doing. Band instrument rentals are something new for us, and that is really exciting, and a new thing we are doing and definitely want to talk up. That seems like a natural progression.

Rick Hogue Local Waves Guitar
The Gibson room.

The school is something we do, because it’s a way to give back. Yes, it’s a business, but so many kids these days are more interested in playing video games or doing electronic things, that any time we can get a kid in and get them interested, we really try to push them into the direction of learning about the craft, and the stuff that has come before and all about great, American music. Great music in general. I am not a huge fan of rap, I know people love it, but I feel like rock and roll, jazz, and blues are our greatest exports, and those things are really important to be carried on. So, we have our school, and we teach. We bring kids in, and we try our best to nurture them. Because music, as you know, it’s good when you are sad, it’s good when you are happy, you can play when you are in a great mood, and you can play when you are down. It’s always there for you.

HP: Transitioning from your work as a guitar salesman, your bands that you have played in, and not talking about the ones that you were growing up with – what is going on with the more Maryland based groups? When did you start getting into that playing circuit? And do you see yourself ever going back, or are you doing it now? What is going on with that?

RH: Musically, I will be the first one to admit that I have been a much better guitar slinger than guitar player. Selling guitars and buying guitars, and being a guitar buff, came to me easier than playing. There developed a point for me, musically, after I started this business, as late as the early 90’s, when I started to dive in and develop my writing. I said, “Hey, I am finally going to put some of this stuff down. I’ve got one hundred different sheets of papers, torn out of notebooks, that are these loose snippets of songs, and I want to play them.” So I started to hone my craft and to get better writing and playing and singing, and doing these songs. Dean Rosenthal actually was one of the guys to encourage me to get out there and play, and I would sit in with Van Dyke and Glazier, as well as Dean’s gigs. I played at the Red Door Coffee house. This was all in the 90’s. By the late 90’s and early 2000’s, I had been in a couple of bands, and I was doing this band called the Swamp Daddies. The Swamp Daddies were a neighborhood band that we had, and like a lot of bands that ended up going down in flames. It’s like a line for a Ben Folds song about “the band broke up, and two months later re – formed without me” (laughing), and that was kind of my story on that too. You go through experiences where you learn and I had to learn some lessons about humility and not get too attached and emotionally involved though It’s very hard to not take it personally. It is such a volatile mix of creative types, and with egos all bumping in to each other, there always seems to be some kind of drama or passion, whatever you want to call it. Having said all that the Swamp Daddies was a fun band and was a springboard into my playing in a band setting. After we split up, I did a couple of solo gigs with Jon Gosnell and others backing me, doing various gigs here and there. You can check out my songs at reverbnation.com/rickhogue. One of the great things about Annapolis as a town is that if you have the drive to play, you can play here. If you want to learn to be a songwriter, or if you want to play with other people, if you want to get into a certain genre and go for it, it’s open arms. This is a really strong, supportive, creative music environment here. You have to kind of punch at the wall a little bit to get in, but once you do, people are really good about sitting in and working with each other. It’s a good environment. Fortunately, for a guy like me, as an older dude that has been around for a while, I could begin to play out and have some success. We put together a project that later became the Black Hearted Angels. That was your dad, Matt Pazaryna and I, who were writing songs and put a band together. I think we played about 45 gigs and at one point, we had a pedal steel player, a keyboard player, bass player, two guitars, drums, and a female vocalist. That was a fun thing and we traveled a bit and really enjoyed ourselves. Later I formed “Feed the Good Wolf” and then the “Eastport Rescue Dogs” all of which relied on mine and some of Matts writing. To me, I have always said that I want to do this when I retire. I am working and honing my craft so at the point in time when I retire, hopefully I can be good enough to carry it and do it as a fun kind of side project.

Rick Hogue Local Waves
Part of the Fender Room – Rick has a partnership with Fender.

HP: So closing up. Are there any things that you want to advertise, not only about your shop, but yourself playing music around? Are there any last words that you want to say?

RH: I have a gig on the 29th at the Broadneck Grill in Edgewater with Jen Zakowski, Tom Frideric, and Tony Fazio. That’s my band that I am doing now, called Rick Hogue and the Revolving Doors. Which is kind of a play on the fact that we have a lot of different musicians that plug in. If I go to Richmond to play, I am going to play with a certain group of guys. If I play around here, I am going to play with another group of guys, and that usually rotates. That’s a new thing that I have been doing. Our School of Music now is doing band and orchestra instrument rentals, and that is a new and exciting thing for us. We always have cool stuff floating through, great teachers. It’s a good time to be in this.

Rick Hogue Local Waves

SurfRhythm wants to thank Rick one more time for catching up with us. You can check out Garrett Park Guitars’ website below, as well as his ReverbNation page for all of his upcoming shows. If you are in the area, definitely make it a point to check out his collection of instruments – it will not disappoint. And as always, be sure to check back in soon for the next installment of Local Waves. Catch you later.

Garrett Park Guitars: http://gpguitars.com/

Rick Hogue: https://www.reverbnation.com/rickhogue

Slightly Stoopid: Everything Is Awesome 2015 Tour Review

“I hope you weren’t planning on taking any drug tests soon, because you sure as hell won’t pass!”

*This was taken last year. Jeff Schad was busy falling of his bike in the Swiss Alps and couldn't make it this year. He said, "What other band besides Stoopid lets you get so close, and is so cool to work with in every way?
Slightly Stoopid Review Concert Pier Six
The setting for our show, Pier Six Pavilion located in the Inner Harbor.

On Thursday, July 16th, I was able to see Slightly Stoopid with the Dirty Heads play at the Pier Six Pavilion in Baltimore, Maryland. Continuing my efforts towards catching big local shows, something that was on a tiny bit of a break, I was very excited to see my first, real, big venue surf reggae show, and it paid off. Playing at the Pier Six Pavilion across the Inner Harbor from the Aquarium, I don’t think there could be any better venues for a show like this, save a California beach that each one of these groups is all too familiar with.

Before I physically got into the concert, I was notified by the beneficiary who was able to get me the tickets that I should be on the lookout for a very awesome energy. Slightly Stoopid and the Dirty Heads, despite the slightly similar geographic influence and paths to stardom, have never toured together. This was the first time that most, if not everyone in the area would have been able to see both bands playing together on the same bill. It was apparent from my first steps in that the energy my boss spoke about was already rising. One could even argue that the energy was… high.

Pier Six Slightly Stoopid Review
A candid scene as the show starts.

The first thing I noticed getting in was how pretty the physical backdrop of the concert was. A beautiful day on the Inner Harbor set the scene for youthful festivity. It seemed hard to believe that this same city, beaming in the summer sun, was tearing itself apart at the seams and burning itself to the ground only a few months ago. Everything felt safe. Security guards joined in with the elevated fun that swept over the crowd like a haze. The overwhelming presence of youth at this concert, with the majority of audience members looking like they be anywhere from high school to college aged, was another very different energy that I had never felt before on such a wide scale.

While the absence of locally brewed National Bohemian was apparent and missed, the setup for the night was fine. Crowds on the lawn and in the seated areas with two easy access points made the trip in a walk in the park, all the while being able to look out and enjoy your time on the water.

Slightly Stoopid Pier Six Review
The concert progresses and more people fill in.

Kicking the night off was The Expendables, based out of Santa Cruz, California. Considered a reggae rock band, I was able to hear more influences than just basic reggae and rock. Noted, it was classic surf reggae, but the heavier based distortion coming through the guitars and out the amplifiers made for a very special tone that accompanied the rhythmic beats. While too much being tied together could give anyone a headache, The Expendables were able to put it together. Playing hits such as “Down Down Down”, “Sacrifice”, and “Bowl for Two”, a definite crowd favorite, The Expendables were able to kick off the night with high energy. Almost too high. For the time of day with the sun shining down, pretty much ruining any chance at stage lighting, this band was seriously ready to amp it up. And I personally do not think that the crowd was ready be so amped up quite that much.

Combining the efforts of two guitars, a bass, and drum kit, this high octane set was not willing to let any sound go unnoticed, from what seemed to be heavy metal shredding to an island jam. This kind of “island shredding” was technically very cool. But, the surrounding atmosphere may not have been the best for it. If you are into party rock, I would highly advise to check out some of their work around the internet. But this group definitely seemed much more primed to play a darker, closer to night time, arena, or even big bar gig. While their music was not bad at all, I think that some liberties could have been taken by the group to play more in the mood. I am not defending having different sounding opening acts by any means. For example, without Van Halen completely blowing Black Sabbath off the stage every night they opened for them back in the late 70’s, would they have been so big, so quickly? While that discussion may be for another article, I definitely think that keeping up with the reggae hits that The Expendables did so well to begin with, as well as being able to keep the crowd going with, would have made for an even better opening than the one they had.

Pier Six Slightly Stoopid
Once it got dark, the party really started.

The second group of the night was none other than The Dirty Heads. Another reggae – rock fusion band coming from Huntington Beach, with the current line up being active members since 2003, there is not much to say other than these guys absolutely killed it. With the sun beginning to set to allow the light show to kick in as well as even more people filling in to begin the festivities, this was definitely a notable point in the night in which the music matched the mood masterfully. Playing songs like “Lay Me Down” and my new personal favorite for the night, “Medusa”, The Dirty Heads were able to pump some amazing jams and blow the collective minds of the audience. With a great crowd energy, I can safely say that I will be catching these guys if they come around again. Big venue, small venue, they put on a great show.

Dirty Heads, from a previous show at Pier 6. Our photographer was out of town. Sorry.

At this point in time, I feel it is only appropriate to talk about one of the most memorable observations I was able to take away from this specific show.

I have never seen so much weed being smoked in one place, at one time, as I did that night.

Sweet lord.

There must have been a piece of something for every four or five people that were in attendance, all of which had to have been snuck in. And that absolutely did not go unnoticed by the performers on stage. It’s like the bands were amping all of the herbal based debauchery up, making people go even crazier than they would already. I think I should probably be pleading the fifth on this whole topic, but it is just too good not to bring up. It was clear that for every four or five people attending, there was something to go around. Even some security guards were getting in on the action. I thought that the guy vomiting at the Skynyrd show I saw earlier in the summer was funny, but the security guard trying to hit something way too aggressively while crouched in the middle of a circle of people? Easily topped that sight.

Pier Six Slightly Stoopid
You think I was J.J. Abrams or something with all of this lens flare. I blame Siri.

By the end of The Dirty Heads’ set, as the sun was setting into darkness, the haze that had spread over the crowd meant everyone was ready for one thing – for the highest (get it?) billed group to begin their performance. Pre gaming the crowd with 90’s hip hop accompanied with a modern bass, presumably from one of the musicians in the band, it was very clear that people, including myself, were ready to party. I don’t think anyone could have come up with anything better than playing early rap, such as 2Pac’s “California Love”, to get the final leg of the party started. With a great crowd energy and who knows how many musicians, from guitarists, bassists, singers, percussionists, keyboard players, and most importantly the horn section, coming on and off, joining the jam, Slightly Stoopid, the top billed performers of the night, played a great set. With every song’s melodic and rhythmic structure blending in almost feeling like one big jam, the waves of music pouring over the crowd made for a great Thursday night concert on the water.

Slightly Stoopid, also from a previous show at Pier 6. Damn photographer was falling off his bike in Switzerland.

Based out of Ocean Beach in San Diego, Slightly Stoopid, along with the rest of the groups for that matter, were able to bring the California state of mind to the East Coast. From the use of reggae, to rock, to ska, and anything else in between, the combination of party music and the youthful atmosphere for a nice night. It’s no secret that I want to end up in that area before I die. I talk about it all the time. The seemingly biggest center of industry for hard rock and surf reggae alike and everything in between, the West Coast seems like one of the places to be right now. Gigs like this are instrumental into bringing that California soul out of the one place where it comes from, and the one place that is incidentally, running out of water.

Pier Six Slightly Stoopid
Boaters catching the show on the water. Pretty nice set up.

All in all, another great night. I consider myself a pretty lucky guy, but being able to go to events like these, party to great music, and meeting awesome people, is making this summer one I will remember. Personal quips aside, anyone looking for a great time with big time surf reggae music this summer is doing a disservice to themselves by not catching this tour. Seeing big concerts like this is always a pleasure, and with the tour only going until September, the opportunities to catch the one band second only to the progenitors of this whole genre, Sublime, accompanied by other hands down, amazing acts, is going quickly.

Coincidentally, the show they play in Colorado is already completely sold out. One could only imagine why.