The Winery Dogs
As a relatively young rock music fan, I was not alive (or at least not old enough) when any of my favorite bands were formed. Rock dinosaurs like Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin were at the peak many years ago before I was born and more “modern” acts such as Joe Satriani, Steve Vai or Dream Theater appeared when I was very young. It felt like everything that can be said about rock was already said. To be honest, I did thoroughly enjoy Transatlantic, Flying Colors and Chickenfoot, but I always saw them as a side projects and not real game-changers. The Winery Dogs are game-changers.
I did not know much about Richie Kotzen, but I have followed careers of both Mike Portnoy and Billy Sheehan in their previous bands, and hearing that they formed an old school rock-trio quickly drew my interest.
Quick Album Rundown
After hearing the album I was absolutely blown away. It’s a perfect mix between old-school rock modern sound. With “super-groups” there’s always a risk that the music will be too technical and that it would appeal only to musicians that are into that kind of stuff, but it’s great that they dialed down the technical virtuoso playing and made something that can actually be listened to and enjoyed by regular rock fans. Let’s go through some of my favorite songs from the album.
- Elevate: it’s a great song to open the album (and the concert, more of that below) – driven, catchy and pure rock. In my mind, it epitomizes the Winery Dogs sound. There are a lot of moments when Richie and Billy play the same riff in unison throughout the album, but this song has a lot of those cool moments.
- Desire: very nice, groovy rhythm.
- I’m No Angel: this one has Richie Kotzen written all over it. Cool guitar riff and excellent singing.
- Damaged and The Dying: two awesome, awesome ballads. More of Ritchie Kotzen vibe. Vocally and lyrically, these two are my favorite songs on the album. Having a different feel, they let the bluesy, soulful side of Richie’s voice shine though. As a guitarist, I love how he created the rich on-the-edge-of-breakup sound for opening riff of “The Dying”, very nice. Also, I love the goose-bump inducing chorus of “The Dying”.
- Time Machine: 10 seconds in the first listening, I though this was my favorite song in the world :). The riff is just mind-blowing, so simple, but so heavy and thick. Who would have thought that a fingerpicked Telecaster can sound like that?! 🙂 Love the chorus and guitar solo as well.
- Not Hopeless: very cool, uplifting song.
- Criminal: it’s featured on Japanese release instead of “Time Machine” but well worth listening.
After hearing the album I asked myself – why on Earth haven’t I listened to any of Richie Korzen’s work before? The guy is amazing, both vocally and as a guitar player. He’s vocal abilities were the first thing to struck me, as I always thought of him as a guitar player. A mix of rock voice with a hint blues and soul and a very respectful vocal range. And after listening to interviews and seeing in person how he plays with fingers I respect him even more. It’s not easy to play electric guitar with your fingers and still get those heavy tones. And sing on top of that. He’s definitely got my attention and I’ll have to grab some of he’s earlier solo albums.
Reactions from other people, ranging from high school kids to old-school rock fans like my parents, are also vastly positive. I even got my girlfriend, who’s not into rock music at all, to listen to the album and she volunteered to see the next show in May :).
Gig at BB King Club, NYC (March 26th 2014)
I love gigs at smaller venues, such as BB King’s. It’s more “intimate”, relaxed and easier to take photos. There’s no heavy security that touches your private parts and they don’t force you to drink your beer out of the plastic cup 🙂 I arrived 45 minutes before the gig started and was still able to grab a beer and secure a spot just next to Kotzen’s mic. I usually don’t like having an opening act, but I thoroughly enjoyed the acoustic set with Tony Harnell (of TNT).
The dogs hit the stage with “Elevate” and performed the whole album, few cover songs, one (I think) Kotzen song and “Shy Boy”. I was standing right in front of the guitar amps, so naturally, the sound was a bit guitar heavy, but I knew what I was doing :). Being that close allowed me to see really how Richie plays with his fingers and take some nice shots with my new camera.
Gig at NJ State Theatre, New Brunswick, NJ (March 26th 2014)
New Brunswick gig was probably my least favorite of the three I saw in 2014. It was fine, but it’s odd having to sit down on a rock concert as though it was a Shakespeare play. It made the band feel awkward and although they played fine, something was missing.
Gig at The Tralf, Buffalo, NY (July 26th 2014)
Buffalo gig was probably the best of the three. Billy was really in the mood playing in his home town, the audience was great and great music followed.
Gig at Z7, Pratteln, Switzerland (Feb 13th 2016)
When the “Double Down” world tour was announced, the Switzerland show in Pratteln show sounded like the best bet to get from Serbia painlessly, so I got the tickets and booked a flight months in advance. Got there an hour early to secure a spot close to the stage. Z7 Konzertfabrik venue is very cool, industrial looking place with a huge bar (and a db meter 🙂 ). British band Inglorious did a great job warming the up the crowd, performing a few of their own hard-rock songs and one Rainbow and one Deep Purple cover (awesome!). Being on three shows on the first tour and hearing the new album (like a million times), I expected a lot from the dogs. And they delivered, oh, they delivered. They performed the best songs from both albums, opening with Oblivion and closing the set with Elevate. It’s so inspiring to see a band on top of their game. Each of them kicked ass on their own, but the sum of the three is what makes The Winery Dogs a quintessential rock band of the 21st century.