The Golden Bull Bar, Oakland, California
March 27th 2015
Have you ever gone back for seconds and found it to be better than the first go around? Well, I know that it doesn't happen often, but I got lucky and that was just the case when I saw the mighty Mos Generator for the second time in a week at the label party of the year, RippleFest 2015 at the packed wall to wall Golden Bull Bar in downtown Oakland, California.
I had just seen Mos Generator play an abbreviated set in Sacramento two nights earlier and even that brief set would have sated my rock 'n' roll hunger for a month, but to see them rip into a full throttle headlining set before a rapturous crowd set me completely right.
Ripple Music is my favorite independent record label on the planet - not only do they consistently seem to find and sign the very best bands of their ilk, they are also legendary in their support and fair treatment of their acts, and when was the last time you heard that about a record label? Even the headliner on this evening, Mos Generator, is no longer on the label, but it's all still part of the family as MG's mainman Tony Reed continues to work with label heads and co-founders Todd Severin and Pope JTE in several capacities.
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Walking into RippleFest was like walking into a holiday festival with a family you never knew. I was handed a stiff drink, a t-shirt and big hugs from the honchos and their stable. A tremendous sense of anticipation seemed to grip the room as the crowd appeared and got lubricated, interrupted only for a family portrait and some fine, fine RippleFest cake, supplied for the occasion by Mrs. Severin - nothing says a night of Metal like a slice of cake, right?
It was perfect, and no sooner had the rockers ate their cake and swilled their bourbons than it was time for hometown favorites Blackwülf to take the stage.
When was the last time you saw an audience garbed up in the wares of the opening act? It became clear the moment they tore into their set why half the crowd had t-shirts pledging their allegiance - riff and roll at its finest as the band thundered through their set.
Pete Holmes is one of the most exciting guitarists to arrive on my radar for some time, and he and frontman Alex Cunningham keep the Metal torch burning with a set of songs both brutal and compelling.
Zed came on next, and though they certainly had a challenge on their hands after the power of Blackwülf and their loyal throng, but they proved up to the task with their slightly more psychedelic blues based bluster. Guitarist Greg Lopez had me continually focusing on his side of the stage with his well informed, tasteful riffing. He's one of those guys with one foot in 1969, and the other right here in 2015, and he absolutely has it going on in spades. Another Ripple Music band to watch.
Mos Generator - as I've stated before, if this was 1975 this band would be flying around the world with their name painted on a large jet's ass, but it's 2015 and instead they have just finished driving a van across America for five weeks bringing some of the best Metal in the world to the masses.
Tony Reed is a man of many faces, whether he's reproducing stunning note for note cover versions of his favorite seventies classics, slaying London with his Free tribute band, reconstituting hard rock magic with Stone Axe, or making record after record of metal majesty with Mos Generator, he's one of rock's best content generators - anything with his name on it is certainly going to feed your rock cravings. The guy can do no wrong in my book.
Tony Reed is one of the absolutely best guitarists on the scene these days, sliding from brutal riffs into passionate solos, and throwing in tasty rhythm work while also singing as if it were his last moment on this earth to convince you that his rock is everything the genre promises. He faced an interesting challenge on this tour as he had to replace a rhythm section in the eleventh hour to make the tour happen, and like any great field commander, he pulled it off.
I'm sure that 90% of the audiences they faced on this tour had no idea that they were watching basically a new band, as they pulled it all off rather magnificently. Tony Reed came and he conquered. If you need to refresher course in what you ever liked about rock 'n' roll, look up this man and his music. You can thank me later.
All this added up to the best night of rock that I have experienced in a long time. Too often, I spend several hours trying to avoid opening bands to get to a desirable headliner, but RippleFest was an amazingly perfect night of heavy music. You can have your cake, and eat it, too.
Thanks to Todd Severin, Pope JTE, Tony Reed and his merry band of rockers, and every else that made this such a great night. Rock Ain't Near Dead, and RippleFest proves it - all night long...