Night three of the 2015 California Music Fest brought with it another tribute. After a raging kickoff night of Zeppelin at the Bonzo Bash, followed up by night #2 of heavy metal shredding at Randy Rhoads Remembered (which Rock World unfortunately had to miss), the conclusion of the festival had a tall order to meet. As an even bigger fan of The Who than either Zeppelin or Rhoads, I was buzzing with anticipation for The Ox & The Loon – tribute to The Who bassist John Entwistle and drummer Keith Moon, and rock community extraordinaire Brian Tichy’s newest extended-roster tribute.
The music was loud and hinted at The Who’s early punk influences. But disappointingly, it didn’t come close to the energy of the Bonzo Bash. Perhaps it was simply due to an at-this-point exhausted NAMM crowd and/or competition with another major NAMM-related Saturday night event, but the 1000-person capacity Observatory wasn’t even half-full. On its third consecutive night of six-hour long sets, house band The Moby Dicks must have been fighting through it too. The M.C. did his best to keep it lively, joking during changeovers and tossing out merchandise from the merch booth that had more employees than customers.
Photos by Diana Gualda
The second stage of the Observatory was empty this night, providing no respite from subpar renditions of The Who’s classics like “Squeeze Box” and “The Kids are Alright.” Although these can easily be considered their “pop” songs, the crowd just milled about. There was nothing to grab onto and call your own on this evening. Several players were great, but a smaller venue may have helped to focus and intensify the atmosphere into something more exciting.
During one changeover, a photographer in the pit asked to have an unused mic stand moved so he could get an unobstructed shot…only to be singled out and rudely mocked by a certain American flag-adorned guest singer/bassist, right over the mic.
That’s when I chose to leave. There was nobody in the joint, the time in between songs was interminable and the jerk that verbally lambasted a photographer put a not so glorious exclamation point to the night for me.
I love The Who. Their music influenced and influences some of my favorite bands. It pains me to report that the Ox & the Loon was a lackluster night. Expectations of a repeat Bonzo Bash atmosphere left me wanting much, much more. Other glowing reviews make me wonder if I somehow ended up at an imitation gig at the wrong venue. On the plus side, the Ox & the Loon show has much room to grow and I hope to return next year, optimistic for a grand improvement and that coveted feeling of “going out with a bang.”