Category: My favorite musicians live

Stick Men 2017 – The Coach House

Check out the full gallery here:

So many fanboy moments. I got a chance to shake Tony Levin’s hand after the show. TONY LEVIN! I think gained some sort of superhuman power just by shaking his hand.

Markus Reuter was awesome as always. Level-5 was badass.
…and of course, my favorite drummer in the whole wide world Pat Mastelotto. (Yes, there was a part of me that was giddy, although not as far as a little girl would be at a Justin Bieber concert). It’s been 2 years since I saw Pat last. So tasteful in his drumming and the way he grooves. Of course he could play complex odd time signatures, but he could also be playing a tune in 4/4 and make it sound the most interesting thing in the world, keeping the listener’s attention (and sometimes on his/her toes). Just amazing.

Pat was also graciously enough to introduce me to Markus and Tony after the show. Hopefully next time I see him, it’ll be less than 2 years from now.

NAMM 2017

This was my first NAMM show visit. Ever.

You hear about the madness by everyone, but as Morpheus would say, no one could be told what it is – you have to see it for yourself.

The crazy crowd, the number of vendors (6000 of them, according to the NAMM website) were outstanding.

Show floor

Folks such as RME, who only had rented a small booth at the AES Show in the fall, without any gear set up to promote seemingly a little disinterested, was the complete opposite at the NAMM show – huge rented booth area setup like a lounge with computers set up with the interfaces and headphones to demo. They even had a fake bar setup in the middle.

Walking around the show floor, you’d see random famous musicians/celebrities, long lineups of people waiting to getting an autograph and their picture taken with their heroes. Fans of all genres of music were there. While the large crowds of people remind me of being in the public in cities like Hong Kong, Seoul or New York, everyone one at the NAMM show was there for music. Being immersed in the positive energy was witnessing an active celebration of life.

One would walk through the show floor, through a hall of guitar vendors, thinking you have seen most of what’s available. Continuing the trek, you would find another full hall of guitar-related vendors – adjacent hall, upstairs, downstairs. Pure madness.

One would also find a small number of exotic/ rare/ experimental/ instruments as well. Those, I find, are a lot more interesting to see, because, really, how many guitar delay pedals does a person need?!

Of course seeing Ronan, Diego and Peter is always fun. Talking to Greg and chatting about geeky-recording-stuff was fascinating. He just has a unique perspective and interesting way with words on describing anything that goes into recording/production.

What’s amusing were the number of Chinese knock-off companies. These vendors sell microphone copies that reuse the exact same model names as the original counterparts from the original companies. There’s even a company that’s called “Mickie” – an obvious attempt to immitate “Mackie”. Even the font used in Mickie’s logo is the same as Mackie’s. I’m surprised how these companies aren’t getting sued.


Go upstairs and you’d find more guitars by PRS, Gibson and Fender empires, but you’d also find rooms and rooms of grand pianos. It felt like I was in heaven. From personal experience, being in a retail piano showroom has never been pleasant. In some ways, they are even worse than many guitar retailers. Piano salesmen are always unreasonably pushy, looking for a sale before you even get to try out any instruments. Well, they very much dislike like it when you try out their pianos. For the amount of money spent, a customer can’t even try out the touch or get a sense of the tone of the instruments – not the greatest people on earth.

Side story – One example was the Fazioli company in Vancouver Canada, who decided on their location to be in a retail mall. It was an expensive location and one would assume that their choice of location was to bring brand awareness to the folks that have never heard of them before. However, the store was always empty whenever I passed by. I was in the market of a piano at the time and was doing personal research, walked into the shop at this particular location. The sales person/ store manager was reluctant to allow me to try out their floor model and hardly even half welcoming. Within 2-3 minutes of playing, I noticed through the store window that I was drawing a decent crowd. The store manager, still visibly uncomfortable of the piano being played, ordered me to stop. That’s how they treat a prospective customer, trying out the instruments, giving a free performance and drawing a crowd the store.

Things were very different at NAMM. Fazioli, amongst all other vendors, such as Kawai/Steinway, Young Chang, Schimmel, didn’t care one bit about their grands being played. They were there to be played, as long as you want. No sales person to constantly haggle you. Plus even seeing the abundance of grand pianos just makes things seem like heaven.


Every year during NAMM, artists would perform here in town during the evenings. Saturday night was the X-JAMM event at M3 Live, a venue not far away from the convention center.

This was the lineup:

Andy Timmons
Mike Keneally
Tony MacAlpine
Andy West
Cameron Allen
Teddy Kumpel
Travis Larson Band
Mark Lettieri

I finally got a chance to meet my friend Anthony from Make Weird Music in person. Make Weird Music was one of the sponsors at the event, and Anthony was graciously kind to invite me to the VIP section, which granted me close access to the stage.

Players with ridiculous talent filled the stage.
Andy Timmons’ playing was emotional, had such great tone with ridiculous passages (as always). Mike Keneally and his band was powerful. Bryan Beller was playing new basses after his were stolen recently and Bryan still sounded like bad-ass awesome Bryan. Andy West from Dixie Dregs on stage trading solos with Andy Timmons (who was also in Dixie Dregs before), Mike Keneally, Travis Larson on stage was fun to see. Cameron Allen had some very interesting composition and ridiculous crazy chops. Teddy Kumpel, improvising with his band on stage with fun sounds were extremely fun to see. Looking over my shoulder, I could see Mike Keneally cracking up at the fun quirky parts Teddy was coming up with. The entire crowd seemed to agree as well. Travis Larson Band was great, as I remember them when they opened for The Aristocrats a year or so ago. Jennifer Young from the band’s such an amazing bass player. Mark Lettieri was great and the band’s rhythm section was extremely tight. If I remember correctly, I think Tony MacAlpine played his entire set without stopping at all between songs and managed to end the show before the Anaheim curfew at midnight.

The energy was very positive in the room amongst the audience and the performers. Everyone was having a great time. It’s nice to have like-minded fans of this type of music all in the same place.

Mike Keneally Live at The Alvas Showroom 2016

Last weekend, I went to catch a Mike Keneally show with Gregg Bendian and Doug Lunn.

Watching Mr. Keneally is always a special treat. It was my first time seeing him play a Steinway Grand live. Let me tell you, it was the most beautiful experience I have ever experienced. The sequence of unexpected surprising complex harmony/ note choices, perfect instrument in a great sounding room, amazing touch,… it was as if all planets were aligned for this special moment.

Mike Keneally ended the show with “The Barbarian” by ELP. That was the first time I had ever heard the tune. So badass! Without knowing what it was, I asked him after the show if that final chord he played was a “Tarkus” chord, purposeful played as a tribute to Keith Emerson (who just passed away earlier this year) and he said that whole 2nd half of the tune he played was actually from ELP’s debut record – a tune named “The Barbarian”. He said he started off with his own tune then morphing into the cover. He then agreed that “The Barbarian” is an awesome song with a giddy smile/grin that I’ll never ever, ever forget. 😀 😀 😀 :D. He started off on the Steinway then went over to the the Organ patch off the SV1 and for the explosive cover. Oh, drive level was set to 6 for most tunes. All EQ settings at around 6, with a bit of hall reverb. Yes, I’m such a geek… 😀

Here’s the original tune by ELP (- the first song in this video), in case you had never heard of the tune before.

More Cool Interviews with Legends by, Plus my personal rant on my decision to gravitate towards writing weirder music

Here’s my newest favorite show/site, one that features interviews with unique legendary musicians with genuine talent, uniqueness, musicianship (be it composition-wise and/or playing techniques) – musicians playing in genres that aren’t exactly perceived as ‘mainstream’, and might be considered as ‘weird’ by the general public.

Their recent interview with Steve Vai was another spectacular one, particular the first portions of it when he said that if you need to ask/question yourself why you’re making music, then don’t do it, and that you need to write as if you don’t have any expectations of anyone ever going hear the music, if your ultimate goal is to be true to yourself and sounding unique.

[Rant Alert]

This resonated with me because that’s the way I started to look at things after my first album myself. While I was proud that I was able to release a record on my own and I did some experimentation with playing styles that I wasn’t yet comfortable with, there were a number of pop-ish songs that I was not entirely genuine to myself, because I was constantly second guessing and wasn’t sure whether or not an audience would like my writing. When it was time to make the second record, I figured that be hell with it. Who knows who will ever listen to my music out there and if I don’t have work that I could stand behind and be fully proud of, then it’s not worth the financial budgets, months and years of blood, sweat and tears (and other sacrifices) to make my records. Unlike artists that fully depend their surviving finances on creating music that serves the liking of their audience, I have the advantage of having a day job that would supplement that portion. That advantage does matter… especially since I don’t really have an audience, don’t have my own band and have the ability to play all the different instruments in a live setting (there are ways around that, but you get my point), or have the same number of hours in a day to practice/play and get better on my craft. It takes me longer to mix (or write for) a record since I’m only able to fully immerse during my days off work, and rate of my releasing records and incoming generated from those don’t really justify the recording gear that I get and session players that I hire. It’s almost impossible to come up with something that’s truthfully 100% unique and sounding musical at the same time. As I remember my favorite bassist Bryan Beller has said many times that we’re all sums of what we listen to – and I fully agree. But coming out with something that’s truthful to yourself isn’t exactly easy and does take a bit of effort, but the results are so, so, *SO* worth it when everything just clicks and the ideas that you have built on sound the most exiting and genuine at the same time. It’s like having coming up with the coolest cross-over move in basketball or craziest thread-the-needle-unexpected-assist. I get asked all the time by doubters why I even bother making records. I think I have my answer right there.

[/Rant Alert]

Ranting aside, if you’re still reading… do check out’s interview with Steve Vai.

In case you have missed the one with Mike Keneally, which I think was the best interview with any I have watched ever (and I watch TONS of interviews of my favorite artists.. total fanboy/junkie) – you can check it out here. The site has video/audio/stream/download options available.

Offtopic: I also found this video of Mr. Keneally on youtube playing a number of Zappa songs. You can generally find many of the youtube videos of him, but many are rough bootleg quality and don’t always exactly sound or show the real genius in that man. I feel this one here really shows a cool glimpse of that. That’s just on the guitar, and he’s equally outrageous on the piano too.


The Aristocrats Live in San Diego, Tres Caballeros Tour (August 28, 2015)

Please scroll down for pictures…

I don’t remember the exact set list, but these are the songs that were played as far as I could remember (in no specific order, other than the first 3 songs):

  • Stupid 7
  • Jack’s Back
  • Texas Crazypants
  • Pig’s Day Off
  • Smuggler s Corridor
  • Pressure Relief
  • The Kentucky Meat Shower
  • Louisville Stomp
  • Desert Tornado (with Marco Minnemann Drum Solo)
  • Blues Fuckers

As you can see, most of the songs were from the latest record, and the only songs that they didn’t play that night from the record were “ZZ Top” and “Through the Flower”. ZZ Top did get played played live from previous shows on this tour from what I have seen on Youtube. I was actually hoping to hear what Marco Minnemann explain the counting intro at the beginning of the song before the intro… (though I think I have an idea…), but I guess I’ll just have to wait for another day.

(Or maybe those were played! I’ve been losing my memory as of late…)

The band was tight as always and watching/listening up close to how Bryan Beller harmonizes things was incredible. The songs have indeed evolved a bit from the record, which made it really fun to watch. Marco Minnemann’s drum extended solo towards the end of Desert Tornado was such a treat to watch. Of course, Guthrie Govan was in God-Mode the entire show – well the entire band was. It is almost a given whenever these three special entities are up on stage together.

Security guys at UCSD asked everyone to leave soon after the show (around 11:15), which meant we couldn’t wait to meet the band members. That was a first because we were always able to thank them at the Brick by Brick venue, at all the Keneally shows in UCSD, as well as the Calprog show (double bill with Stick Men) last year up in Whittier, CA. The security guys were quite keen to wrap things up so they could go home probably. One thing that I don’t see everyday was that when security asked everyone to leave, one fan pleaded if he could talk to Marco Minnemann, seeing him leaving through the other door. The fan was denied, then cursed at security and tried to force his way through and around the guy anyway. Security got really upset, yelled at the guy and kicked him out….


Man, and I thought I was a crazy passionate fan myself… I’d probably not do that… But given that these guys are the best in the world at what they do, it’s good to see my heroes getting this type of attention….! (I guess)