I arrived around 9:30 pm and missed the first two acts, The Reign and Rackit. Sorry guys, I will catch you another time. When I walked into the main room, on stage warming up the audience, was the band DMK. The drummer seemed to be having some technical issues but before long the wrong was righted and they started playing loud and strong.
D.M.K. (Dunbar, Merrill, Karl) is a hard rock band that was formed in the Fall of 2014. These guys are from all over the place but manage to come together to make some good music. The trio features vocalist Scotty Dunbar of Boston, guitarist Ted Merrill (formerly of Mach 22) of Baltimore, and drummer Brian Karl (formerly of Station, currently of Mick James) of Long Island. They have a revolving door of bass players and tonight was 14-year-old Jason Colombini from New Jersey’s turn. Even though these guys have been together for such a short period of time, D.M.K. has been out on the road performing and opening for such notable artists as Bret Michaels, Michael Sweet, Mike Tramp, SteelHeart, and Jack Russell’s Great White. They have also played at the world famous Whisky A Go Go in Hollywood, CA, as the opening act for Trixter.
D.M.K. opened with “The Fire That Won’t Go Out” off of their three-song debut E.P. entitled 3, which was released on March 18, 2015. This is very powerful song and Dunbar told me that this song is also very close to his heart: “I wrote this song in regards to me surviving the Station Nightclub fire in 2003 and my recovery with substance abuse issues. It’s about rising above and not letting any one particular situation or person hold you down.” [emphasis added] They played the other two songs off of the EP, which included a cover of Alice Cooper’s “Under My Wheels” and closed the set with their latest single, a fun anthem-like tune, entitled “Good Times.” I still have part of the chorus in my head: “My life! My Rules!”
These guy were fun; Scotty has one of those voices made for rock-n-roll that lends itself nicely to the ballads as well as the hard stuff. Ted Merrill plays the guitar with a vengeance, hair flying all over the place, working the stage and the audience with Scotty. Brian’s drumming, well, I don’t know if I have mentioned this before but I do love drummers, and he did not disappoint me with his hard-driven percussion and cymbal crashes. And let me not forget Jason—this kid held his own up there on the bass helping Brian keep the beat. Way to go, Jason. I look forward to hearing more from D.M.K.
Next up was Atomic Beauty—in my opinion the jewel of the evening. This gem of an original band from New Jersey was formed in 2014. The band features guitarist Nick Vallese, the strong, full-bodied voice of Vanessa Milanesi, drummer Nick Van Leer, and Mike Morgenroth on bass. These kids are a perfectly mixed cocktail of talent, youthful boldness, uncompromising energy, old-school rock and roll, and modern pop theatrics. They know how to rock and are a pleasure to the ears and the eyes. Having only been playing the NJ/NYC circuit for little over a year, they have already opened for three national acts (Steel Panther, Sebastian Bach, Zoso) and won the Stone Pony’s annual Rock To The Top contest.
Guitarist Nick Vallese is straight out of an ’80s hair-band video, with his vintage rock clothes, long flowing hair (assisted by a fan) and gorgeous face, but don’t let the pretty face fool you, this is one talented young man displaying lightning speed and control of the fretboard as he simultaneously dashes across the stage. Equally theatrical and gorgeous is frontwoman Vanessa Milanesi, her emotional melodic vocals, amplified by her mic covered in ribbons à la Steve Tyler, gives power and credence to their songs. I honestly didn’t know who to photograph first as they were equally mesmerizing on stage.
The band opened with the rousing “Last House,” the first song off of their five-song EP entitled Cut to the Chase, which was released in July 2016. “Last House” opens with the rhythm section pounding away, just the way I like it. In addition, this song has a really catchy hook and some impressive guitar riffs. They went on to play three other songs off of their EP: “One on One”, “A.R.T.”, and “Empty Bottle.” Being the drummer groupie that I am I really enjoyed their entire set; all the songs are heavily laden with Van Leer’s head-banging drum beats and Morgenroth’s pounding bass, which are a perfect complement to Milanesi’s strong vocals and Vallese’s rousing guitar solos. If you are a fan of no-holds-barred arena-style rock and roll, this band’s live performance is something that should be experienced.
BT 51 gives you a lot of music for your buck, so let’s keep this ball rolling. Next up, Dirty Black 7, a hard-rocking NYC original rock band featuring Mike Butchar on guitar, Marton Miklas on lead vox, Ron Forte on bass, and driving the bus, drummer Mike Sapienza. The band’s varying influences and musical styles all meld together into this great big Southern Rock/Hard Rock sound of edgy, hook-laden songs. They played tunes off of their first CD 7 Scars (2015) and some new stuff off of their upcoming CD due to be released this winter, entitled Black Dirty Boogie.
Dirty Black 7 has been doing time on the NYC music scene for quite a while now, playing area nightclubs such as Webster Hall, Santos Party House, The Delancey, Tammany Hall, Blackthorn 51, and The Chance Theater. They have opened for many national acts that include Fozzy, Saving Abel, Eve 6, Killer Dwarfs, Straight Line Stitch, and Winger.
Dirty Black 7 lives up to their name. Their music is definitely down-home, dirty, rock-n-roll. They opened their set with “Starshine,” off of their 7 Scars CD, but the song that did it for me was the next one, “Whiskey Is My Woman” (7 Scars). Big fan of Southern-infused hard rock that I am, this song, with its rolling tom and dirty guitar intro had me feeling like I was in a Honky Tonk bar with a whiskey in my hand. The balance of their set was just as energetic and entertaining, with songs such as “Pain Train” (7 Scars), “Justified” (Black Dirty Boogie), and ending their set with “Country Boy (Kiss My Ass)” (7 Scars). Miklas can hit those high notes and growl with the best of them when necessary. Butchar is one cool cat—his guitar playing is aggressive, soulful, and raw, and his big personality comes across the stage as he interacts with the audience. The rhythm section of Forte and Sapienza did just what they are supposed to do, keep the beat. Forte’s playing is distinctive, blending in and serving the song, and he is one of the livelier bass players I have seen. Sapienza, a monster of a drummer, doesn’t just play the drums, he plays the songs. All in all, these guys are a great live act.
Keep a look out for their upcoming CD release and get more info on this band by visiting their website dirtyblack7.com and Facebook band page. They can also be followed on Twitter (@dirtyblack7) and you can listen to tunes from their first EP 7 Scars on Spotify.
The direct opening band for the evening was Fragile Sky. Fragile Sky is an original rock band from the Lower Hudson Valley region of New York. The band features guitarist Michael Messina, David Velarde on lead vocals, Jason Nash on bass and supporting vocals, Andy Laird on drums, and Joe Curry playing the keys and synth. Messina, Nash, and Laird have been writing and performing their personal brand of arena rock music together since 2008, with Velarde and Nash joining the band in 2016. They have been the direct opening act for many national touring recording artists including Thin Lizzy, Lynch Mob, and Faster Pussycat. Their recent EP release, entitled In A Vision (2015), features the writing of Michael Messina and founding vocalist and lyricist Sean Reilly. This EP is a collection of arena rock stylized songs with driving melodies and story-like lyrical content. As per Messina, “All the songs are tales taken from the creative minds, dreams, and real-life encounters of the band members.”
Tonight they played a few songs off of their EP and some newer stuff. They opened with the title song, “In A Vision,” a song heavily laden with percussion and harmonies. The third song of their set, “Long Lonely Road,” also off of their EP, featured a lovely acoustic lead-in by Messina. They closed their set with a new tune, entitled “Invictus.” The musicians were good, the band was tight, and Velarde added a theatrical flair to the songs.
The headliner for the evening was Mike Tramp. Tonight’s show was the third stop on his 2016 acoustic “Tramp NOMAD Tour” in conjunction with his Nomad CD. Nomad was released in August of 2015 and completes what Tramp has referred to as his trilogy on his journey to show who he is and where he stands.
Tramp is best known for his work as lead singer and songwriter for the legendary hard rock band White Lion. Being a big fan of the ’80s hair-bands, this was a treat for me. A little after 12 am, before Tramp got up to play, I noticed the former White Lion frontman tuning up on the side of the stage. I had been standing in the middle of the room talking to a friend and when I looked up a large part of the crowd had shifted to the front of the stage, whereas before most of the audience was scattered throughout the room. Although this made it a little hard for me to get up close and take photographs, I managed to maneuver my way into a few choice spots.
Tramp opened his acoustic set with the White Lion track “Hungry” off of the Pride album. It takes a lot of guts to go out on stage and play a solo gig acoustically, especially after all of your opening bands were rocking it hard. With only an acoustic guitar and vocals there really was nowhere to hide if he didn’t hit certain notes, but Tramp‘s voice was in fine tune and his guitar playing was above par.
What became obvious early on was that Tramp was going to amuse the audience with some entertaining anecdotes from the past before and after each song. His set list was comprised of mostly White Lion covers, which is what this audience came out to hear, and some songs off of his solo CDs, Museum (2014) and Nomad (2015). The next song up was “Stay” (Nomad), followed by “Broken Heart” (Mane Attraction), “Trust in Yourself” (Museum), “Little Fighter” (Big Game), “Lady of the Valley” (Pride), “Living to Tell” (Nomad), “Cry for Freedom” (Big Game), “Hymn to Ronnie” (Mike Tramp & The Rock ’N’ Roll Circuz (2009)), “What Am I” (Freak of Nature (1993), “Wait” (Pride), “When the Children Cry” (Pride), “Radar Love” (Big Game), and he closed fittingly with “Farewell to You” (Mane Attraction).
It was a little tough hearing some of the White Lion tracks being played acoustically and I think that some worked better than others. One of White Lion‘s most popular tracks, “Wait”, was quite enjoyable to hear acoustically, although it paled in comparison to the original version as Tramp was unable to replicate White Lion guitarist, Vito Bratta’s, solo portion. Tramp even warned the audience that he could not replicate the solo so we should imagine Bratta playing it but the audience did not seem to care as they were all singing along. The track that resonated the most for me was one I had never heard before, Tramp’s tribute song to the late, legendary heavy metal vocalist, Ronnie James Dio, fittingly entitled “Hymn to Ronnie.” Recorded with his ROCK’N’ROLL CIRCUZ, it is an amazing homage to one of his personal heros. Tramp interweaves Dio’s bands and song titles throughout the tune with the first few lines of the chorus going like this: “Ride away on your Rainbow, Through the Gates of Babylon, In Heaven and Hell, They know you well…”
After the two-hour set Tramp chatted and took photos with fans at the merchandise table, a pleasurable end to great acoustic set preceded by a rolliking loud lineup of opening acts.
For more info on Mike Tramp and his current tour dates visit his website.