I, unfortunately, was born much too late.
I missed all my favorite bands when they were peaking: Cream, Led Zeppelin, The Doors, The Beatles…everyone big in the '60s and '70s. The tragedy of a classic rock junkie born much too late is a painful experience, especially when people learn of your misfortune and brag about how many times Robert Plant sweat on them.
Thank you. I missed it. And I’m still kind of holding a grudge against my mom for bothering to have me much too late.
(Kidding…but seriously. I wish I was the age I am now but in 1969.)
However, every once in a while I have the immense pleasure of seeing an act bring to life that same spirit of music. There’s nothing better. Last night, Sunday, Nov. 13, at Upstairs at the Dino was one of those nights.
As I stood near the back of the room listening to Jimmy Thackery play a Jimi Hendrix-styled “Star Spangled Banner” with my mouth dangling open, Dino music booker Scott Sterling came to my side and said, “If you couldn’t see one Jimi, at least you got this Jimmy.”
“This Jimmy” was flawless in his blues guitar. Every note and bend was precise, but not so technical that it lacked in emotion. It was sincere blues, but done to such practiced perfection it was like you had to pinch yourself to remember it was really happening in front of you. As Thackery slid his fingers around the neck of each of his four guitars throughout the show, all a flurry of notes, it was almost infuriating to amateur guitar players looking on--how did he make it look so easy? After witnessing Thackery in action, it’s easy to understand why blues legend B.B. King laid his own guitar, Lucille, at Thackery’s feet.
But Thackery wasn’t the only one lighting up the stage. Bassist Mark Bumgarner (also known as Bumpy Rhodes) more than kept up with driving bass lines that he fit perfectly into Thackery’s wandering guitar melodies and drummer George Sheppard had everyone in the audience at attention with his face-melting solo.
Usually, when something is called "face-melting," people tend to think of a red-hot, ripping guitar solo with whammy, distortion and fast, nasty riffs. However, Sheppard succeeded in delivering the most face-melting drum solo I’ve ever seen…complete with a replicated Revolutionary War marching drum.
He caught me off guard when he broke into the solo and before I could even grab my camera my feet were shuffling toward the front of the room. It was as if the hit of the snare had grabbed my ear and yanked me forward. Arms and sticks flying, Sheppard banged away, tossing complex rhythms around the set without pause. And somehow, he kept that momentum going even as he picked up the vintage drum, hung it across his body, stood up and continued playing as he made his way to the microphone at the front of the stage and proceeded to play both the drum and the microphone/microphone stand with his drum sticks. The pitter-patter popping of his sticks on metal and drum head kept a furious pace even as he turned to return to the kit. Once again, he somehow managed to keep the rhythm going as he took the drum off and sat back down and then, as if he hadn’t melted the room’s faces enough, grabbed a second stick for each hand and started beating on the drums with four sticks at the same time. His arms flew over and under one another, beating the drums with double the impact until he suddenly let one stick fly out of each hand over his shoulders and went right on chugging with the beat. More and more and more he kept pushing until Thackery and Bumgarner suited back up, they all shared a glance, and boom, right into the next jam.
Young musicians, take note. You want that record deal? You want that cover story? You want to “make it?”
Go watch Jimmy Thackery and The Drivers. Take notes. Let me know when you’re ready.
Now, it wouldn’t be fair not to mention: Sheppard has played with Dizzy Gillespie and Frank Zappa among a slew of others and was close personal friends with Buddy Rich. They were such good friends he uses one of Rich’s old sets as a touring kit (the set he ripped on at the Dino was one of Rich’s).
Young musicians, take note once again (I don’t care your style of music), you should have been at this show.
If you weren’t, at least you have another chance with Tommy Castro, same time, same place next week (Sunday Nov. 20, at 6:30 p.m. at Upstairs at the Dino, 246 W. Willow St.). Tickets are only $15 and considering what these instrument slayers pull in other markets, that's a steal.
It’s true: I wasn’t in time for one Jimi, but thank God I
was in time for this one.