Autograph, The Aviators, Stonebreed, The Blinds, The Whisky, January 7, 2016
Even random people scampering outside of The Whisky were excited about the event that was about to happen. “Wasn’t that the band that did that Turn On The Radio song back in the 80’s?” a passerby asked me with great excitement and curiosity. Yes, Autograph was now invading the Sunset Strip, celebrating the release of the mighty Louder, their first collection of new music since the mystically obscure Buzz in 2003. After a standout set at Cathouse Live In Irvine Meadows over the summer, Autograph would make a triumphant return to the Southland, treating longtime fans and new converts to a complete set at the iconic West Hollywood venue.
Proving to be more than a one-hit wonder from the past, Autograph presented a thoroughly memorable set consisting of songs from all periods of their illustrious career. Also on the bill were local rock and roll favorites The Aviators and Stonebreed, both exuding wondrously solid performances. All three of the acts should consider doing a tour together, as this bill demonstrated a thrilling night of the past, present and future of timeless rock and roll.
The odd band out on the bill was The Blinds, who took to the stage first, and proceeded to present their own engaging brand of indie rock. A power trio who would have more in common with the Coachella crowd than with the hair metal set, The Blinds still sported some nifty locks and certainly gained the attention of the early arrivals with their wickedly vibrant selection of tunes. Citing influences such as Queens Of The Stone Age and The White Stripes on their Facebook page, The Blinds went on to win over the rockers – especially the mischievously quirky front man Jack Keats, whose searing guitar playing, intense vocals, and wildly unpredictable stage banter was especially fun to witness. Not every front man would ask their bass player “Do you think I’m pretty?” right smack in the middle of the show. Also exhibiting a good deal of resourcefulness onstage were Christopher Ibarra on bass and Sky Nickell on drums. The Blinds obviously made friends backstage with the other acts, as they were being referenced throughout the rest of the night onstage. An endearing commencement that left a lasting impression to be sure!
Stonebreed has been hard rocking your world for a good number of years now, always bringing the party to each and every show they play. The Los Angeles based collective has opened for the likes of Ratt, Molly Hatchet, Saxon, Cinderella and a whole lot more! Now adding Autograph to their list of bands they have admirably supported, Stonebreed unleashed an exciting set that really kicked the night into high ultrasonic gear. Included in the set were two new songs the band is gearing up to release in this brand new year – Tonight and Take Me were performed and received with massive enthusiasm, whetting the appetite for the fans very much ready for a brand new Stonebreed recording. And nothing in the universe can beat Stonebreed’s epic rendition of the Elton John classic Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting, which had everyone in the crowd singing along. The musicianship is Stonebreed is absolutely amazing, featuring the vast and glorious talents of Carlos Cruz on vocals, Brandon Paul on guitars, Johnny Zell on bass, and Orion Rainz on drums. Closing out their set with the celebratory refrains of Back Home, Stonebreed sealed the fact the rock and roll within the City Of Angels is very much alive and well! Expect 2016 to be a banner year for this hard working band!
The Aviators from Bakersfield made their way to the Whisky to play a direct support slot for the legendary Autograph – and what a mesmerizing performance it was! One of the winners of the Cathouse Battle of The Bands last year, The Aviators arrived ready and willing to blow the freakin’ roof off the venerable Sunset Strip establishment. Channeling the classic rock of bands such as AC/DC and ZZ Top and spinning it with a massive modern day approach, The Aviators unleashed a stratospheric set of tunes that clearly captivated all in attendance. One notices right away the absolutely incredible lead guitar work of William Slikker, all over the stage delivering a fierce and vibrant artillery of extremely tasty licks. August Young is a superbly charismatic front man in the grand tradition of all things rock and roll is notoriously known for. Daniel Boone rages and rolls with supremely fine guitar action while bassist Matt Reid and drummer Sherwin Smith-Raggio render a mighty rhythm section assault force to be reckoned with. Songs such a Tattoos, Whiskey and Wine and Set It Off were exhilarating highlights that left an indelible impression on the Whisky audience. Be sure to hop aboard the next time The Aviators play in your town as their epic live show are rip-roaring high flying events not to be missed!
The Whisky was primed and ready when the headlining Autograph appeared on the stage, kicking off an electrifying set with Deep End from their classic Sign In Please debut album from 1984. The Pasadena-based legends were in town to promote Louder, a brand spanking new recording of Autograph material. The two songs performed live from the EP were I Lost My Mind In America and You Are Us, We Are You, still demonstrating that Autograph has what it takes to write massive hit songs in 2016 and beyond! And for those wanting to hear the glories of the past, cuts such as Dance All Night, Loud And Clear, and Blondes In Black Cars sent the room soaring when unveiled live. Although missing a few key members, Autograph 2016 surely knows how to rock your world, presenting a thunderous modern day lineup ready to bring their music to a whole new generation of fans.
Guitar virtuoso and founding member Steve Lynch was in tip-top form, performing with a skill and passion that was absolutely exciting to witness. Randy Rand, who has also been with the band since their inception in 1983, supplied a dazzling low end on bass, and was a lot of fun to watch with an infectious smile displayed throughout the entire set. Simon Daniels of Jailhouse is Autograph’s new front man, and supplies a radiant energy on vocals and guitars – whether it’s the Autograph mainstays or the brand new tunes, Daniels performs with a dynamic sense of ardor and conviction. Marc Wieland is the most recent addition to Autograph, his drum playing bringing a vibrant and muscular force into the Autograph lineup.
The night was capped off by the thrilling one-two punch of That’s The Stuff and Turn On The Radio, songs that remain relentlessly embedded in this reviewer’s head even as I write this now! Surely a night that will be remembered by their fans for ages to come, made even more memorable by the meet and greet Autograph treated the fans with immediately after their performance. Here’s hoping we see a lot more of Autograph on the Sunset Strip and all over the world in future days!
(Review and The Blinds photo by Ken Morton – All other photos by Jack Lue)