Friday May 20, 2011 would certainly become a night of surprises for both myself and ROCKEYEZ CEO Brian Rademacher as we headed up to Teaneck, NJ once again to one of my favorite area venues Mexicali Live for what would turn out to be an incredible night of music from three great bands... JERSEY SYNDICATE, PETER BARON and Kivel Records recording artists FARCRY. I really shouldn't just say three as there was another band on the bill JADED PAST but, as usual, we arrived a little late to the venue and were unable to catch their set. Sorry guys... hopefully next time.
At any rate, as I said it was a night of surprises... the first of which happened before we even got in the venue! As we walked towards Mexicali's, we could hear the familiar chords of "Heart-N-Soul" by THE JERSEY SYNDICATE cutting through the night air only something was different. As the song rolled towards the chorus and we entered the front door, we could tell these were certainly not the familiar vocals of Stevie Samay we had come to know but instead, now belting out these familiar tunes was new lead vocalist Deanna Massey and WOW!... what a difference!
Both Brian and myself have seen this band many times in the past... even doing a CD review a short time back and a feature interview and we always thought that these guys were a good band... nothing over the top, but good. The musicianship was always there as the band provides a lot of nice, melodic chorus', some strong hooks and some very impressive guitar work and solos and it's not that Samay wasn't a good singer in her own right, but I really think that with the addition of Massey's stronger and edgier approach to the songs, this band has just taken a HUGE step forward.
Massey really knows how to command the stage and added a lot of her own style and flair to JERSEY SYNDICATE tracks like "All The Gold," "Broken Heart" and "Driving." The band itself was really on this particular evening as well and while there were a few minor "technical difficulties," it was nothing that anyone seemed to notice. The ballad "(I Don't Want To Hurt) Anymore" was simply brilliant as Massey got to show off her smoother, softer side and the last two tunes in the set really kicked some MAJOR ass. "Tell Me" NEVER sounded better as Massey's incredible voice blended perfectly with the backing vocals to produce a strong, memorable chorus and the band finally lit up the stage with their closer "Learnin' To Live." Just a great set and great job overall. The band certainly did themselves right by adding Massey who has all the chops, all the presence and everything you could ask for in a front-woman... as well as being drop-dead gorgeous! The only thing I was disappointed with was that the band was still pushing their old CD after the show. Guys really... do yourselves a favor and get this girl recorded and QUICK because I finally think this band has got all the right elements to be a force to be reckoned with now and in the future.
Next up was a performer by the name of Peter Baron. Quite honestly, there's really not a whole lot we can say about him as we went into this show never really hearing anything about him at all but let me tall ya, to our surprise, this guy was very, VERY good to say the least. Backed up by just an incredible pair of musicians in talented drummer Brian See and former Billy Idol bassist Joe Vasta, this threesome combined to produce a hard-hitting set that was more than impressive. Baron himself has a strong, rich vocal that really fills the room and equally impressive are his powerful guitar chords, melodies and solos. Both Brian and I really liked this guy a lot... especially his show-stopping rendition of THE WHO classic "Won't Get Fooled Again"... absolutely amazing as well as his own original material which we hope to get more familiar with in the future. Another great set... what more could we ask for already?
But, of course, there's the band we REALLY came to see... Kivel Records recording artists FARCRY. We had seen these guys just a little over a year ago at the MelodicRock II festival in Illinois and man were these guys impressive. Even though they were one of the first bands to go on that Saturday afternoon, they provided a set that people were STILL talking about weeks and even MONTHS later. And now with their newly released second CD entitled Optimism, it was our pleasure to finally be able to witness these guys live once again... but wait! There was something different...
For our final HUGE surprise of the evening, we found out that literally just weeks before this show AND the release of the new CD, masterful vocalist Mark Giovi (for personal reasons) parted ways with the band! But it would all be ok because he was quickly replaced by New York native Mike Ledesma... wait, wait, wait, WHO?!? Yeah, that's exactly what both Brian and I thought when we heard the news. Giovi was just an amazing, amazing vocalist. His powerful, thick voice carried this band to levels I don't even think they could have imagined. How can you think that you could fill those shoes that easily and so quickly? Well kiddies... here's the scoop.
FARCRY hit the stage opening with a cover of Sammy Hagar's hit "There's Only One Way To Rock." From the moment Ledesma opened his mouth, you could tell this guy was something special. His dynamic, soprano voice simply nailed every note perfectly and convincingly but still... it was different than what we were use to hearing from FARCRY. Sure, he sounded amazing on a cover, but how would his voice hold up against the FARCRY originals recorded by the more forceful, tenor vocals of Giovi?
As the final chords of "There's Only One Way To Rock" drew the song to a close, the band launched right into "She's Crazy" from the first FARCRY release and what a staggering difference with Ledesma now at the helm. Was it better than Giovi? No... I wouldn't say that because the styles and ranges of the two singers are completely different making them both as equally impressive for what they do. What is truly impressive, though, is that these songs are so good, so well written and this band is so tight that even with the change in vocal styles, the songs themselves are still as equally strong and hold up brilliantly in either vocal range.
This is just a world-class band at its best. Lead guitarist Pete Fry is absolutely phenomenal whether he's cranking out some heavy leads and melodies or wailing out a solo and across the stage, the precise, rich rhythms and chords or his counterpart Angelo Mazza match him lick for lick. Then, with his thundering bass lines and pulsating rhythms, Ronnie Parkes keeps the pace with earth-shattering drummer Tommy John's relentless, heart-pounding beats. (Hey, didn't that guy use to pitch for the Yankees?) Truly an amazing band to behold...
The set list continued on with a nice mix of old and new. Selections from the band's debut album included "Fine Line," the ballady "Heaven" and a killer version of "The Same Mistake." From Optimism, the crowd was treated to the new material including "Nothing You Can Do," the opening CD track "Satisfaction," one of my favorite tracks off the release "Best of Me" and the hard-rocking "Now That It's Over." Finally wrapping up the set was a show-stopping version of "LoveWon't Wait" and a perfect way to bring this incredible evening of music to a close. What an incredible, incredible performance and if you missed this one, you really missed one Hell of a show.
On behalf of both myself and Brian, we would like to thanks all of our friends who attended the show including Lisa Riggiola, Chrisya Enriquez from EventZen, John Kivel from Kivel Records, Steve "Maz" Mazza and, of course, all the bands and fans for making it such an incredible evening.
I would also like to send out some very special thanks to (once again) John Kivel, Pete Fry and all the guys in FARCRY for having me up to none other than THE COPPER BOTTOM (my favorite restaurant in the world) owned by TRIXTER's Mark "Gus" Scott for the CD release party the following evening. What a fun night hanging and talking with these guys... everyone in this band is a first-class act and just a ton of fun to get to hang out with. The food was great, the music was great AND as an extra special *bonus, Mark himself showed up later on in the evening and treated everyone to the WORLD PREMIER of the new TRIXTER song "Drag Me Down" from their forthcoming release... WOW! If this is any sign of what the rest of the CD is gonna sound like, this is gonna be one HELL of a release!!! Thanks Mark to not only you but the entire staff at THE COPPER BOTTOM and, of course, one more time thank you Pete, Ronnie, Angelo, Tommy, Dierdre and John for all your kindness and hospitality.