Photos by Diana Gualda
The Bonzo Bash, brainchild of rock drummer Brian Tichy and a tribute to the late great Jon Bonham of Led Zeppelin (a band who needs no introduction here), is something to behold. As the first night of The 2015 NAMM Show was coming to a close, the first night of the now 3-day California Music Fest was just welcoming leading names in percussion from around the world down the red carpet. The pedal was pushed to the floor.
The 1,000-person capacity Observatory in Santa Ana packed itself to the brim. From backstage to the back smoking lounge it took scrupulous tenacity to navigate without a few splashes of lost drink. The drum kit, a Ludwig of course, sat center stage. The Bonham replica was complete with a gong and a bass drum adorned with the trademark Borromean rings. The premise: play as many Zeppelin tunes as the night could hold, with a perpetually revolving cast of all-star drummers on the hot seat. The changeover was seamless and surprisingly swift. As the final notes of one song rang out and applause ebbed, the next drummer took his seat and with a few quick adjustments during a brief intro by M.C. Tichy or others, we were off again.
Zeppelin is one of those bands with uniquely striking sounds radiating from every musician. While the staggering roster featured over thirty drummers, house band The Moby Dicks, a Bonzo Bash staple, kept the rest of the stage rockin’ along with several guest players. (Click on flyer to left for full list.)
The stage was constantly in flux both during and between songs. With so much talent on stage at any given moment it was impossible not to ride a high. We have all shared in the Led Zeppelin experience at some point in our lives and this night was not only a tribute to the music, musicians and band but to the fans as well. Perhaps the very best feature of the show is its intense and palpable sense of community.
When Burning Rain hit the stage for an all-too-short single song appearance (“Sick Again”), it was hard to determine where they began and Led Zeppelin ended. Lead vocalist Keith St John, complete with long curly hair, was Robert Plant. The way he moved on stage as well as his interaction with both the crowd and band mates was eerily reminiscent of old VHS tapes I saw as a child. Guitarist Doug Aldrich, bassist Sean McNabb and drummer Matt Starr played flawlessly and, if I closed my eyes, I could imagine I’d traveled back in time to an era I can only fantasize about growing up in. Keep tabs on other opportunities to catch Burning Rain at www.burningrain.net.
Tichy’s dream is alive and well since its inception in 2010. The Bonzo Bash’s now highly anticipated habit of coinciding with the NAMM Show looks perhaps to beg an even larger venue next year. The date will certainly be circled on this new fan’s calendar next January. I cannot think of a better way to both end the first night of NAMM and set the tone for the remaining weekend. After all, with Tichy’s 3-day California Music Fest doling out a Randy Rhoads tribute and “Ox & the Loon” The Who tribute still to come, this was setting up to be one hell of a party.