Wednesday, April 16, 2014

BAND CAMP

Well, it seems that the whole camping thing has run it's course on my blog. We pretty much store our camper near Sedona and take it to Dead Horse Ranch State Park all the time. That's a tad boring to write about every time we're up there, so I've decided to expand the blog to include other stuff that takes place in my very exciting life! So, from now on, it'll include some cooking and BBQ-ing, my music, and other travel fun.



On that note, in February I attended The Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp in Las Vegas! Thanks to my Pal, Loren Wessel, he took me along and picked up the tab! (Yeah… Cool friend, Huh)! Anyways, it was a thrill of a lifetime. The guests included Michael Anthony of Van Halen, Joe Perry of Aerosmith, Eric Johnson, Steve Vai, Orianthi, and a host of famous musicians who served as "rock counselors."

Basically, this is how the whole thing goes down. You arrive, they have an orientation, and you are assigned a band unit, with a famous musician as your counselor. Then, you practice, get to know your fellow bandmates, and put together songs to perform together at the two concerts at The House of Blues. Also, you work up a few songs to jam with the guest musicians they bring in.

Our band was assigned to play "Running with the Devil," with Michael Anthony, (former) bassist of Van Halen. That was pretty exciting, being able to share the stage with a member of Van Halen! Song went well, got to play the solo, and meet and greet Mike afterwards. He's also from Pasadena, so I had a nice conversation with him about the town where we are both from.


Michael Anthony, Van Halen & Chickenfoot.

Our band called themselves "Fireball," not after the Deep Purple album from 1971, but after the cinnamon whiskey that we partook in at The House of Blues. ($9.00 a shot, might I ad)! Our counselor was Les Warner, former drummer of the band The Cult. He was a great guy to hang out with, telling us jokes, and listening to stories about everything from his childhood growing up in England, to his professional career and experiences.


Les Warner

Part of the experience included recording at the Palms Hotel Recording Studio. The producer and engineer, Mark Gray, was a super-cool Dude, who wasn't hesitant to share stories about the musicians he's worked with: Elton John, Celine Dion, Britney Spears, Michael Jackson, and many more. He said Usher was a pain in there ass to work with! Very cool getting the inside scoop on so many artists. 

The recording studio experience was very cool! Talk about a plush environment as well… State of the art gear, Marshall amps, couches to lounge and relax on, etc. etc. Spent the day there, loved every second of it!


Now, THAT'S a mixing board!!!


"Fireball," at The Palms Hotel Recording Studio.
(L to R: Les, Jason Ebbs, Sasha, Loren, Ryan, Me, Teo, and Mark Gray, (Engineer/Producer).

We got to jam with some great guitarists… Eric Johnson, Steve Vai, and Joe Perry. The song we chose to jam on with Joe Perry was "Adam's Apple," off the Toys in the Attic album, (1975). He liked the obscure choice of the tune, and complimented us and how we played it after jamming it with him.


Jamming on Adam's Apple" w/ Joe.


Our band, "Fireball," with Joe.


Me and Joe Perry.

When we jammed with Steve Vai, we weren't prepared with any particular tune, as we thought is was only going to be a meet and greet, and not a jam. So, Teofilo, our band mate from Mexico, had seen the G-3 concert with Satrianni, Eric Johnson, and Vai, and they all played (Neil Young's) "Keep on Rockin' in the Free World." So, we decided to just jam on that tune with no singing, as it's basically a 3 chord song, where we each took a solo after Steve Vai did his. Cool jam!


Hangin' with Steve Vai.

Eric Johnson gave a lecture the second day, then we got to perform with him twice. What a great artist he is! This guy can just strum a basic chord, and it sounds like an angel singing! I actually got teary-eyed when he was playing. We named an instrumental of his called East-Wes, written in honor of jazz legend Wes Montgomery. Then, later that night, he jammed with all 16 bands at the House of Blues (at the Mandalay bay Hotel).


Lecture & demonstration at The Rock Fantasy Camp Studios.


Rehearsing "East Wes" for concert later that night.


House of Blues, jamming with Eric Johnson.

Jamming at the House of Blues was very cool as well. Crowd was pretty forgiving, considering many of the musicians were amateurs, who weren't used to playing live in from of an audience. Overall, though, every band did their best, and mistakes and blunders were kept to a minimum. 


House of blues concert.


In the heat of the moment!

After it was all said and done, I think the best part for me was jamming with our counselor, drummer, Les Warner. The guy was so funny, helpful, and just a pleasure to hang out with. And, overall, the whole experience was something I'll never forget! Hell… Jamming on stage with Steve Vai, Joe Perry, Eric Johnson, and more, in a 5 day period? It is a fantasy come true!

Here's some more photos from Band Camp:


Danny Seraphine (Drummer for Chicago) w/ Joe Perry


Jason Ebbs, hired gun (great) singer.


Gary Hoey & Tony Franklin (The Firm), All-Star jam


My buddy Loren Wessel, with Tony Franklin


Phil Soussan, bassist, vocalist, songwriter (Ozzy Osbourne)


Sasha, Loren's girlfriend, w/ Rudy Sarzo & Franky Banali (Quiet Riot)


Orianthi, jamming on Jimi Henrix's "Voodoo Chile," w/ Gary Hoey


Sunday Night Jam, House of Blues, final concert

So, that's it for now. I'll be back with more travel, cooking, and music fun! Be sure to follow my group, BANDALISM on Facebook! Ciao for now!  

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

BIRTHDAY/ANNIVERSARY TRIP- UTAH

Howdy Folks!

Well, we just returned from an epic adventure to N. Arizona and up into Utah. It was the most adventurous trip we have done in the little 1962 Shasta trailer, but everything went swell, and we really had a blast. Ourmain goal was to make it up to the petroglyphs & pictographs at sego Canyon, something I had wanted to see even before I was a teenager. We mixed in a few days & nights at Monument Valley, as well as visiting Canyonlands and Arches National Parks in Southern Utah. I had recently celebrated my 50th birthday, and we began our journey on our 6th wedding anniversary as well.

Our trip began at a funky place in Flagstaff, Arizona, called Black Bart's. It's a strange combination of RV park, and western themed steakhouse/restaurant! There's not all that much to the campground, but the restaurant sure made up for that! It's a casual, yet expensive restaurant, where the servers, all students from N. Arizona University, dress up in costume and take turns getting on stage and performing, mostly singing. It was very entertaining, the food was absolutely terrific, and the service was outstanding! Like I said... It 'aint cheap, but it was 100% worth it, every step of the way.








Next morning we left for Monument Valley. Although I had been there a few times before, I was very much looking forward to taking lots of pictures there, and exploring some of the off-road trails I'd never experienced before. Got there mid-afternoon, with plenty of time to take the off-road tour on The Valley. It was really funny to see a lot of people in their passenger vehicles treating them as if they were 4x4, off-road jeeps or something. Buicks, Volkswagons, sedans, luxury cars... Traversing the rough, back roads with steep hills and rocks! No doubt- All rental cars!


















Then it was off to Moab, Utah. This part of the journey brought about the longest drive we'd encounter: About 4 hours through Bluff, Blanding, and Montecillo. We took our time, enjoying the red-rock scenery along the way. 

Moab is a funky little town, totally geared towards tourism. We stayed at the Canyonlands Campground, right on the main highway through town. Although it's not the most beautiful and pristine place I've ever camped, it was super convenient with a gas station/store right on the premises. Need a bag of ice? Cup of coffee? Toothpaste? It's a 2 minute walk around the corner. Place comes complete with swimming pool, laundry facilities, bath houses, etc. etc.




Arches National Park was VERY crowded. This took away from the exploration and beauty of the place. It was difficult to even find a parking space at photo op-stops, and hiking trailheads. Seemed like it was 90% European tourists, just by listening to the languages being spoken, and looking at the goofy clothing they were sporting! Nonetheless, it's a spectacular place, and I'd really like to return not  only in the cooler months for hiking, but not in August when it seems all of Europe is on Holiday.










After a few hours at Arches, it was time to check out Canyonlands. Now, I don't want to go so far as saying Canyonlands was disappointing, but it was, well... disappointing. I guess if you'd never seen the Grand Canyon before, you'd think this place was magnificent, and in it's way, it is. It's more of scenic drive type of place, rather than a "Hands-On" National Park experience.

Next day is was off to complete my pilgrimage to see the "Space Man' Pictographs of Sego Canyon. Back in 1972 (or so), when (Erich Von Daniken's) "Chariots of the Gods" became a film, and I saw it in the theater, I became aware of the "alien" pictures drown on the rocks by native americans, a long, long time ago. I had always wanted to see them and became interested in these rock drawings almost 40 years ago.

It's about an hour's drive or so from Moab to the creepy, Twilight Zone," almost abandoned town of Thompson Springs, where the pictographs lie 5 miles north of town. Talk about a "Hills Have Eyes" type of place... Yikes. But, a well marked road takes you back into the canyon, where there's a pull-off to park, get out, and explore the petroglyphs and pictographs. (Petroglyph- Drawing etched into the rock. Pictograph- Painting on the rocks).

I guess there are theories as to what these pictures represent. But it was very clear to me, that the indigenous people that lived here and drew these figures, wanted us to know that they were visited by creatures in space ships. I got the memo. There is an eerie atmosphere to the whole place as well, as we spent a few hours gazing at the drawings and discussing their meaning and significance.
















One the most enjoyable and unexpected parts of our trip was the route back to Moab along the Colorado River, on highway 128. I had neither heard nor read anything about this scenic byway, as we simply decided to take another route back to town different than the one we came north on. What tear! Nearly the entire way you cruise parallel to the River, along a windy, narrow road. We must have pulled over 5-7 times to catch a better view of the canyons, river, bridges, and campgrounds along the way. If you ever make a trip to Moab, don't miss out on at least a part of this spectacular journey on Hwy. 128.

Just northwest of Moab, along Hwy. 279, and past the Uranium Mine, there are more petroglyphs on steep walls just across from the Colorado River. You can drive right up to these drawings & check them out. It's also a popular place for rappelling, as there were a few guys traversing the steep rock crevices. Looks there were overweight folks even back in the day of the ancient Ute Native Americans! That, or either they worshipped little bloated deities.





Just to break up the drive and not cruise all the way home back to Scottsdale, we reserved another night at Monument Valley, and I can honestly say, I'd never get tired of this place!