It was a rockin’ New Year’s Eve with New Blues Revolution as they performed in a special holiday show with Blue Hwy, and Los Lobos at The Canyon Montclair in Montclair, California on Tuesday, December 31, 2019.
For those not in the know, don’t expect blow-by-blow coverage or any overly detailed playlists here. Your rarely rockin’ rock journalist rarely breaks free from beneath his almost ever-present laptop to actually ever attend live events anymore. Indeed, the last live NYE gig reviewed was at the Ace Hotel in Palm Springs in 2016. Ergo, it was a special (albeit infrequent) occasion.
The focus here will be more on the overall experience, as the event simply cannot be truly done justice via traditional journalistic standards. So pour yourself an ample adult beverage and read on, as your solo scribe attempts to adequately describe an all too seldom enjoyable evening out in the real world ringing in the New Year away from his youngest son and four-legged children and “grandkits.”
None of my select sexy sidekicks or femme Fatale photogs were available to escort and/or chauffeur your friendly neighborhood newsman. They were either out of town, had medical issues or were no longer with us (in anything but spirit). Still, after a shower, and a sloppy trim of the ‘stache, out came the now dusty night club black suit.
Having donned said suit, your hesitant headline writer slipped a notepad and a blue Grifols pen into the inner pocket of the favored leather blazer hoping the money he was given for that morning’s plasma donation at Biomat USA in Upland 9ould cover any unexpected expenses.
It was time to hit the road in the trusty black 2006 American-made Saturn Ion. He was at a distinct disadvantage. He was not only alone but also had no grass, no mescaline, no acid, no cocaine, no multi-colored uppers or downers, no booze, no beer, no wine, no ether, no amyls, no whippets, poppers or even energy drinks. Not that he truly requires any of that to navigate in the real world but once you’ve been out of circulation for a few years, one does tend to consider these things.
The Canyon Montclair
The Canyon Agoura Hills was familiar territory. The Canyon Montclair was not. Thanks to an older goateed gentleman named Ricardo, your rusty writer finally found his way into the venue. After checking in with a lovely lass named Mia, he explored the new environs.
Blue Hwy . . .
Southern California-based band Blue Hwy, not to be confused with Blue Highway, opened the evening at 7:15 p.m. Blue Hwy includes Rob Donofrio (vocals and bass), “King” Roger Ehrnman (tenor saxophone), D.J. Alverson (guitar and vocals), and Steve Rios (drums) Their performance included a couple of interesting adaptations of popular songs and their own numbers. They faced the challenge of warming up the audience which included a few too many people who were still eating.
Of course, that’s the way it works for the first band at any Canyon concert. The big spenders buy dinner with their required minimum of drinks. In fact, with prices what they are, this audience was not the same as the oft’times entertaining assortment of folks found at free gigs or festivals.
. . . and the audience . . .
Still, there was an interesting assortment of ages, races, and (in this day and age one must also note all) genders. There were women in sexy boots and old men in pricey suits, girls in heels and boys copping feels. There were active old bitties and chick with pert –well, you get the idea.
. . . and drinking
People watching is part of the fun for yours truly. He prefers to down drinks with the tuneful talent after a gig. After all, your all-too-often penned-in penman learned all too early that while alcohol often inspires interesting insights on assorted artists and audiences the next-day notes are as illegible as a drunk doctor’s prescription pad. (In other words, when I drink too much I can’t write right, right?)
A couple of happy, extremely active ladies, new friends of the previously mentioned Ricardo, were the few to first get up and dance at this point. Rumor had it they were specifically there to see New Blues Revolution. After performing for a good half hour, Blue Hwy played their final song and it was time for New Blues Revolution to perform.
New Blues Revolution
L.A.-based band New Blues Revolution went onstage at 8-ish. Your rockin’ reviewer was especially interested in this evening since this was the first time he would see the current line-up: Bill Grisolia (lead vocals and keyboards), Chap Cooper (guitar), Fred Beato (drums) and John Denault (bass).
New Blues Revolution opened their set quite cleverly and effectively with a cover of Al Green’s “Take Me To The River” (covered more popularly by The Talking Heads in 1978.) They made it their own and yet it remained familiar enough to immediately get one’s attention.
NBR also performed another fan fave, “Let Me Go.” The performance came with real guts and the topical lyrical references to social media too. They know what their fans like.
The band especially displayed their tuneful talent as musicians when even frontman Bill Grisolia set aside his mic for his keyboard on the instrumental “Pink 7.” It added a unique touch to their set. It’s also great to see them offer audiences an unexpected moment too.
Another highlight of their set was “Lately (I Didn’t Miss You).” The song simply works especially live. New Blues Revolution also ran for a good half hour and they played as if they could have kept on rockin’.
They had the audience ready for more music. Indeed, even before the close of their final song many people were now doing everything from the Younger Generation Stand and Sway to the We’re-Old-Enough-To-Not-Care-What-Others-Think 4-Step.
After what felt to be a slightly longer set-up and soundcheck, the East L.A.-born band finally broke into their first number, “Short Side Of Nothing.” Luckily, even those in the audience who didn’t Habla Espanol enjoyed themselves. Music may be the universal language but two opening acts and three and a half hours potential drinking time didn’t hurt either from the looks of the attendees.
They also performed an expected tune or two from their new Christmas disc even though they admitted that the holiday was already over. More importantly, they included their fun, crowd-pleasing cover of Ritchie Valens’ “Come On, Let’s Go.” Their encore included the expected but anxiously awaited cover of Valens’ “La Bamba”.
It sounded both a bit faster and looser than the studio track, yet had people singing along to the well-known chorus. (Mind you, this reporter had Weird Al Yankovic’s lyrics “La lasagna, La lasagna, La lasagna, La lasagna” stuck in his head.) Then, suddenly, right before 11 p.m., it was all over as the headliners left the stage.
Survey said . . .!”
The audience all too quickly dispersed. Outside the entrance, a man we’ll call Thomas said he had “enjoyed the show immensely” and asked that his appreciative comment be passed on to Grisolia. Another man, ”Chesney”, also praised New Blues Revolution noting that while everyone knows Los Lobos he had come to see NBR.
Those who had paid for the entire evening returned inside to wait for their free midnight champagne to ring in the New Year and perhaps purchase souvenirs of the evening.
Yours truly returned long enough to bade goodbye to the band and headed out early in hopes of beating the traffic. After all, we all know about those stereotypical California drivers.
It’s bad enough when they’re driving sober in the sunshine let alone driving under the influence at night in holiday traffic. Overall, it was a great way to spend a special evening with New Blues Revolution, Los Lobos and Blue HWY. Good show, guys!