Segarini: Rival Sons – Prelude to my next column

The Bobcast Bob May 6th 2013 CroppedThis column was originally posted on September 12, 2011. I am reposting it today as a prelude to today’s NEW column, which will be posted later tonight. Four years since my introduction to Rival Sons in 2010, and over three years after this column was written, Rival Sons not only continues to be the best rock band currently working, they may be the best rock band ever.

I have not tweaked or changed anything in this column, so some of the info is out-of-date, but that doesn’t change the things that were true and happening at the time. Rival Sons represent much more than the music they play. Rival Sons may be the catalyst for a monumental shift in the musical landscape as it currently exists. Regardless, this is music that if you haven’t heard it and call yourself a fan of rock, will put a huge-ass smile on your face, a bounce in your step, and some new LPs/CDs to wear out from beginning to end.

Read this, then come back later for the update.

Segarini: Rival Sons: The Return of Real Rock and Roll

You see them everywhere. In the malls sitting in the food courts, skateboards or backpacks at their feet, on the sidewalks of big cities and suburbs alike, an army of 14 to 20 year old kids who share a common bond that seems somehow out of place in today’s world. They are here and there, dotting the 21st century landscape like little anomalies, indistinguishable from their peers but for one thing; their t-shirts don’t sport the names or images of Ga Ga’s, Beibers, Drakes, or Adeles. Instead they proudly display the heroes of generations long past their ‘best before’ dates.

Post ‘80s generations to whom these classic rock heroes are revered more for the music they created 40 or 50 years ago, and not out of nostalgia, not a touchstone to their youth, their fondest memories, or a time when the world didn’t seem so twisted. A time before common sense was turned on its ear and mortgages and health problems replaced partying and watching the sun come up half cut and bleary eyed from one too many beers, one too many tokes. How, you have to ask yourself, did these kids even find this music, let alone fall in love with it? Music that still thrives on the street and in the clubs and concert stages, but no longer has a place on the radio or at the record companies whose focus has shifted from music to product, from career building to easily replaced commodities, from multiple album cuts to hit singles, from individual vision to committee written songs and marketing strategy/hype, and from taking risks to loaded-gun pragmatism. Zeppelin, Hendrix, Cream, and the Stones, The Doors, The Who, and of course, The Beatles, that’s who are on these t-shirts worn by kids who were born decades after these musical icons broke up, died, or disappeared. These kids don’t love this music out of nostalgia, they love it for the same reasons their parents and even their grandparents loved it; it is vibrant, honest, speaks to the human condition, and…well…it just plain kicks ass. This music…is timeless.

So how is it that generations after this music owned the airwaves, (and the hearts and souls of its fans), can classic rock radio continue to play the same tracks by the same artists rock radio was playing 30-40 years ago, yet deny their listeners the current classic rock being made, and all that has been made since the mid-eighties? Could it be that they are not aware of its existence? Nah…that’s impossible…isn’t it? Maybe it’s because they forgot the Beatles sprang up from Little Richard and Chuck Berry. The Stones from Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters, and Led Zeppelin from, well…a whole bunch of lesser known blues and rock artists. Maybe…just maybe, it’s because there hasn’t been a band so undeniable that radio hasn’t been shaken awake to the fact that classic rock is a genre that is still alive and vibrant. Kept alive the same way great rock has always survived…by the people who love it, young and old, in the clubs and on the internet. Late at night laying in bed, a million kids, a million iPods, and a million downloads of Kashmir or Fortunate Son or Midnight Rambler have managed to create new generations of musicians and fans whose thirst for real rock and roll has led them to form new bands, write new music, and for the rest of us to seek it out, not on radio, but everywhere else. All it needs to break free is that one undeniable band….

I first saw Rival Sons about a year ago in a little bar called Cherry Cola’s Rock and Rolla Cabaret and Lounge, a bar so confident of its cachet and heritage that even after being open for over a year, still hasn’t bothered to put any signage over the door or anywhere on the club. You either know where it is or you don’t. People who go there once always come back, and why wouldn’t they? Its patrons all hear about it through word of mouth from people they trust. That’s how the world works these days, how knowledge spreads. No hype or press release needed, just the reality of something great, something unique and deserving, something that speaks for itself, makes you want to tell everyone you know about it, something that makes you feel like you belong to a group of like-minded people who have stumbled across hidden treasure. Like Cherry Cola’s, Rival Sons is that something. Photo byDarkoPhoto

Glenn Hughes and Cherish Stevenson, the owners of Cherry Cola’s are a one-two punch of beauty and grace, and brute force and intensity. Fueled by their passion for the club, their staff, and their patrons, they share a love of music rare in today’s club owners. They actually care about the quality of the bands that grace the Cherry Cola stage. Along with Dave Hollander (who books the place with them) they pick and choose the artists who play there, guided only by good taste and gut feeling, they hand out the opportunity to those they feel are deserving, and let their patrons decide for themselves if the band has a shot or not. They are rarely wrong.

Glenn, a fireplug of a man with the tenacity and focus of a pitbull, has the kind of love of music that is almost non existent in club owners these days. Like the fabled Elmer Valentine of the Whiskey A Go Go in Los Angeles, Doug Weston of The Troubadour, and Bill Graham and Chet Helms of San Francisco’s Fillmore and Avalon Ballrooms, Hughes has an ear for the real deal, and a short fuse when it comes to bullshit and posturing. It was he who twigged to Rival Sons early on and made sure the rest of us got to hear and judge for ourselves.

“They were in town doing a show on an outdoor stage at last year’s Molson Indy in Toronto and came in and asked if they could do a set here”, Glenn tells me in a voice that sounds like a shot of Jack Daniels being poured into a glass full of gravel, “I figured what the hell, why not? 8 bars into the first song I thought, who the fuck are these guys?”

Who indeed?

‘These guys’ are (L to R) Mike Miley, Scott Holiday, Jay Buchanan, and Robin Everhart,  and together they are a dichotomy so unusual that they stick out like Katy Perry’s nipples when compared to what else is going on out there. For example: They are, to a man, vegetarians, but play a meat and potatoes variety of rock and roll so long missing from the mainstream radio and record releases we get these days that most bands trying to play it either don’t know how, or end up sounding like a pale imitation of the real thing. Rival Sons didn’t arrive at how they sound by plotting a course, coming up with a plan, or attempting to recreate a bygone era. What they did, Jay tells me, is walk into a room and play together. It clicked. They knew when they heard it, and so they’ve just kept playing. No need to tell the other guy what to do. Rival Sons, like all great bands, LISTEN to one another when they play, each man comfortable with his responsibility to deliver, all of them trusting one another to reach deep and push the others up a notch, a perpetual motion machine of risks, dares, and challenges, each daring the others to man-up, show me something, make me better. Their audiences are lucky to watch this process, they constantly dial up the energy, the intensity, and can drop to a whisper in an almost telepathic unity, making the audiences I’ve been in lean forward toward the stage, waiting for the inevitable explosion of sound that always follows the calm, disarming lull that only proves the fact that great rock and roll is simply a matter of tension and release, power contained and unleashed.  Scott comes up with his own licks, his guitar almost a voice, so melodic are his lead lines, and the man is a master of those licks and riffs that bounce off the lead vocal, always there when needed, but never in the way when one of Jay’s lyrics cuts through. Miley and Robin are a rhythm section connected at the wrist and ankles, intuitive, able to feed off of one another in that kind of symbiotic relationship usually reserved for the Joe Montana’s and Jerry Rice’s of the world, and so solid as to make what they play sound sooo easy until you try to do it yourself. These guys know when NOT to play, something most young bands won’t learn until it’s too late. This is the band all those 14 year old kids in classic rock t-shirts are looking for…they just don’t know it yet.

Watch this: Rival Sons on Rival Sons

I got wind of an afternoon meet and greet for Rival Sons during NXNE where they would perform a short set for the press at Cherry Cola’s. The invite came from Glenn Hughes and Eric Alper, the Sons Canadian liaison (and, next to Jann Arden, my favourite Tweeter on Twitter). I walk in the front door and am startled by the presence of one Randy Bachman. “What”, I ask him, “are you doing here?” “Have you heard this band?” he asks me, his eyes big and round, like he has just discovered bacon flavoured chocolate, “They’re unbelievable! Mike Miley is the best drummer out there!” Well, I’ve known Randy for a long time, and the man’s taste in music is legendary. I was happy to agree with him. I have never seen him out like this, or this knocked out by a band before. Good, I thought, I’m not crazy.

Rival Sons toured Europe for the first time back in June. The end result was an offer for a tour in Japan and another tour of Europe, and being asked to replace one headliner when that band couldn’t perform. Ron Wood greeted them backstage at one show and welcomed them into the rock and roll world. Talking to Jay Buchanan on the phone during a leg of the tour when they were supporting Judas Priest he said, “This is the last time the world gets to underestimate us”. No truer words have ever been spoken. Jay and Bob at Cherry Cola’s Summer 2011 Photo by DarkoPhoto. See more at Darko’sWebsite

Their latest tour brings them to Toronto in October opening for Evanescence. No matter how many Evanescence fans walk into the show, more Rival Sons fans will be walking out after the show. That’s just how strong their music is. They’re off to Europe after that headlining their own tour.

Are there comparisons to be made to the classic stars of yore? Of course there are. There are flashes of Jim Morrison’s good looks in Jay Buchanan, coupled with a voice as good as the very best singers in rock. Robin Everhart’s bass playing channels John Paul Jones and Entwhistle and others, but Robin brings his R&B and jazz roots into play like no other rock bassist before him. Scott Holiday’s guitar playing may remind of Page, Beck, and others, but his signature riffs and chording are uniquely his, and Mike Miley sounds nothing like John Bonham (though many compare the two) but he does share Bonham’s inventiveness, power, and taste. This is a real rock and roll band, proud of their influences, but prouder still of the originality they bring to the table.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; the girls all want to do them and the boys all want to be them. When they play, this band’s music removes panties faster than a bottle of Jager or a diamond ring. When they play, the guys in the audience all wax poetically about the playing, the songs, and the power. I listen to Rival Sons and want to eat a steak, have a few shots of Eagle Rare, buy a Harley, and have sex with the hottest girl in the room.

I have seen them several times, fortunately for me, in small venues they likely won’t be able to play much longer. Luckily for all of us, they are one of those bands that sneak off to play their favourite small clubs when they have a day off on tour. Hopefully, that will hold true when they’re here in Toronto on October 25th at the Sound Academy.

One thing I know for sure…30 or 40 years from now, there are going to be a lot of 14 year old kids on hoverboards wearing Rival Sons t-shirts.

Count on it.

Pressure and Time

Young Love

SaveMe

=0=

Segarini’s regular column appears here every Friday whenever he can finish one in time.

Contact us at dbawis@rogers.com

DBAWIS ButtonBob “The Iceman” Segarini was in the bands The Family Tree, Roxy, The Wackers, The Dudes, and The Segarini Band and nominated for a Juno for production in 1978. He also hosted “Late Great Movies” on CITY TV, was a producer of Much Music, and an on-air personality on CHUM FM, Q107, SIRIUS Sat/Rad’s Iceberg 95, (now 85), and now publishes, edits, and writes for DBAWIS, and continues to write music, make music, and record.

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One Response to “Segarini: Rival Sons – Prelude to my next column”

  1. […] Dissecting Pop Culture Since 2011. Great Music. Great Stories. Great Googa Mooga. « Segarini: Rival Sons – Prelude to my next column […]

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