Normally I give more coverage to the "opening" act than the headliner, and if you've read my reviews, you've heard me say "I love opening acts, they open your mind and ears". The KWS band was somewhat of an exception, because I've really loved this band since they formed. It's my kind of music. There are also times when I insist that these bands cannot be labeled "openers", because quite frankly they stand so strongly on their own, it's a double-bill. The only reason that KWS was listed on the marquee below Van Halen is because their name would not fit beside Van Halen.
I didn't even expect to be at this show, and I only got the call from the promoter the day before the show. And funnily enough, it turned out to be a very close relative of one of the VH band members. On the way to the bowl, the traffic was horrendous. Parking there can be an issue also as anyone who's ever gone there knows. It's stacked. And if you don't have seats and only a photo pass, you could end up standing around the loading dock for a long time. So for that reason I had a buddy drive me there. And we still got gridlocked in the usual teeth-gnashing L.A. traffic.
When I arrived, KWS was already playing and I thought "@#$#$!!", I missed the opportunity to shoot, because the process there is very strictly timed. Fortunately, after half-running/half-crawling up that "@#$@#$" hill, I was led in sweaty and heart-palpitatingly into the pit.
So enough about me anyway, my point here is to give mad props to the KWS band, and one member in particular, Mr. Tony Franklin. I shoot a lot of shows, I review them, and sometimes I even get to interview an artist. When I got to the pit, I thought "the bass player looks familiar". I didn't know at the time I was shooting Tony Franklin. But being that I'm a bass player of dubious talent, I tend to gravitate towards the bassist. It gives me something to aspire to. As I'm watching, this guy who has the perfect rock-star look is playing this gorgeous Fender fretless bass, in a manner that can be described as Jack Bruce meets Roger Glover (sorry if you hate the comparison Tony). In any case, it's very, very impressive. Anyone who's ever picked up a bass will attest to the complexity and the sweet nuances associated with a fretless. It's a thing of beauty, true musical art. And Tony Franklin is that artist.
Kenny Wayne Shepherd is literally "hammering" away at his guitar. This is no bullshit guitar posing, this guy looks as though he's going to snap the neck and slice off the strings, and it's all very intense. I've seen many other guitarists try and achieve this look, but I think Kenny is trying to achieve a sound, and the look just happens. The rest of the band is just so tight, there isn't a wasted note. Noah Hunt on Guitar, Chris Layton on Drums and Riley Osbourn on Keys are the other members.
What I really want to say here is how I am struck, post-show by the level of personal interaction by Tony Franklin and Kenny Wayne Shepherd. I posted many of the pictures, and got the nicest comments from both musicians. These guys must get a ton of photographers sending them photos, and whether mine are as great as they say or not, they take the time to engage photographers/fans like me with positive comments. And it's this kind of engagement that means the world to me. They create great music, and they also create all this goodwill, and I am very humbled by them.
When I realized it was Tony Franklin on stage, I thought "wasn't there a Tony Franklin in The Firm"? Yes, it's that Tony Franklin. Again, because I'm a bass player, when I listen to music, I hear the bass riffs. I remember the bass riffs. "My Generation" by The Who to me is essentially a bass riff with the other guys adding some texture. I remember all those complex, thrilling bass riffs that Tony created back in the 80's, when there was a lack of that kind of thing. Then after the show I look him up, and WOW. This guy is a monster bass player, with a signature bass named after him. He's called the "Fretless Monster". It's no wonder. KWS is a monster guitarist/songwriter, and he's got Tony Frankin on stage with him? Can you say "monster act".
So thank you guys for your kind comments on my photos, but more importantly, thank you for the years of great music. Your work has at times been a tiny little island of awesome in a sea of mediocrity. Thanks for keeping the genre alive and keeping us listening. And the next time either of you play, I hope I will be there once again to listen live.