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Positive Feedback ISSUE 53
Fozzy, The VIP
I remember the day in January 2000 well. As is typical for Southern California, it was warm and I was cranky. The heat stirred up the smells behind the cafeteria where I was walking with my class. I said, "What's that smell? Do you smell that?" and one of my boys dropped into a perfect imitation of The Rock, "If you smel-l-l-l what The Rock, is cookin'!" I was so flabbergasted I looked at him and said, "What was that? Do that again!" You see, I had never watched WWE before. I knew who The Rock was because the kids talked about him all the time, but having never watched the program I had no idea he spoke that way! Needless to say, the boy was too embarrassed to repeat his impromptu promo, so I decided I had to tune in to watch it myself.
Funny thing was, when I tuned in it wasn't The Rock that caught my attention, it was Chris Jericho. In my opinion, he was funnier, and far more entertaining to watch. Within six months I was hooked on WWE, but more importantly, Chris Jericho, and I followed everything he did from wrestling, to music, to books, to comedy.
Flash forward eleven years. These days WWE has lost its luster in my eyes, but Chris Jericho certainly has not. Jericho is taking a WWE break as he pushes his new book, Undisputed, and tours with his band, Fozzy. Recently I was fortunate enough to be a part of the Fozzy VIP experience.
As you may recall, I reviewed the latest Fozzy release, Chasing the Grail, last year for Positive Feedback (http://www.positive-feedback.com/Issue47/fozzy.htm). I've been a Fozzy fan since the release of their first CD in 2000. I drove "all the way across town" to Tower records to buy it on the day of release. Since then, I've bought all of their CDs on the day of release. Prior to this I had only had the opportunity to see them live once in 2004. That was an awesome experience, but ever since then I have wanted to see them again.
One more piece of background information before I jump into the review. In around November of 2009 Fozzy released a special "Survival Pack." Being the dyed-in-the-wool fan that I am I jumped at the chance to shell out $150 for this messenger bag of goodies! There were actually only three things inside the pack I wanted, the illusive "golden ticket" that would guarantee you a phone call from Chris Jericho (which sadly I did not win), a special live CD, and a lanyard with VIP laminate that would allow you to meet the band at any show. I was hopeful they would play here again someday, and with this laminate I figured I was guaranteed to meet them.
Well, as it turns out I got more than I bargained for! Fozzy announced a concert, January 13, 2011, at the legendary Whisky-A-Go-Go! I was thrilled! The Whisky is one of my favorite places, and as a matter of fact it's where Dave and I went on our first date in 1980 (Selecter!). I was so excited that at first I missed the fine print. For the not-so-small price of $150 you could have a Fozzy VIP experience! I was in! But then it turned out there was even more fine print, anyone who had purchased the Survival Pack, and had the VIP laminate, had the price chopped in half. That meant, for a mere $75 I could rub elbows with the members of Fozzy, watch them sound-check, have dinner at the Rainbow with them, and then see the concert. Wow, I was WAY in!
As always, with any Chris Jericho adventure, I roped my friend Danyel into going along with me. We arrived at the Whisky well before the 3pm start time, and I found that the Whisky has not changed that much. We were supposed to meet our contact in front of the club, and had little trouble tracking him down. All told there were about fourteen VIPs.
The Whisky-A-Go-Go, fittingly enough on the corner of Clark
Fozzy, minus Chris Jericho, is based out of Atlanta, Georgia. As you may recall, there were terrible snowstorms in Atlanta right around that time frame. Also, it wouldn't make sense for the band to ship all their gear to Los Angeles for one show, and because the show was planned to coincide with NAMM, gear was brought over from Anaheim. This caused a snafu because most of it came late; leaving the VIPs to stand out on Sunset Blvd, in unseasonably warm weather, for two hours. In other words, we didn't get to watch the sound-check. On the plus side, we ended up in dozens of photos as tour buses pulled up beside the Whisky. After a while we started posing for the pictures.
It was also during this rather long holding pattern that I was given a sneak peek at just how special this event was going to be. At one point Fozzy's guitarist Rich Ward got locked out of the club. Screwing up my usually non-existent courage I struck up a conversation with him. He was very obliging, and I realized that this day was going to be all about the fans. Soon after he was let back in the club Jericho himself walked past us. After making eye-contact he said, "Hey you guys," and I had to struggle not to pass out right there on the spot! That is the greeting he always used to give Danyel and I when we hung around after his Groundlings' shows, and I was convinced he remembered us!
At long last, 5pm rolled around, and the doors to the club swung open. Our VIP experience was about to begin in earnest! The first order of business was the distributing of the swag. Each of us received an autographed promo picture, an autographed VIP t-shirt, and a laminate that would allow us in-and-out privileges. Next up, pictures with the band. For some reason I was first up. Unfortunately I did not have the camera's flash switched on, so my picture came out blurry, but heck it was the experience that mattered, not the picture! At least, that's what I told myself to assuage the pique.
Blurry picture of me with the band
After the pictures we were instructed to get out "whatever you brought for the band to sign," and I noticed most people made a beeline right for Jericho. That was all good with me because I had Rich Ward's solo CD, and I was first in line. (I have mentioned this CD before as well, http://www.positive-feedback.com/Issue23/clock_nespa.htm). As I approached him and handed him the CD, I'd have to say his reaction was that he was touched. By this time one of the opening acts was playing, so I didn't really get to tell him how much I enjoy the CD, but his smile warmed my heart. After that I noticed the rest of the band standing around, so I whipped out that live CD that came in the Survival Pack, and had all of them sign it. Then, I dug out my Stuck Mojo CD (three of the members of Fozzy are also in Stuck Mojo). They obliged by signing that too.
Finally it was time to approach Chris Jericho. He smiled, we took a picture, and then he said to me, "Don't I know you from somewhere?" Earth to Carol, don't pass out please! I said "Groundlings," and he said, "Oh that's right!" After that he signed my live CD, and that was seemingly that. Or was it?
Chris Jericho and me
My friend Danyel has a lot more moxie than I do. We had spent a bit of time "rehearsing" before we arrived about different things we could engage Jericho in conversation about. While the group was in limbo, she towed me over to where he was and opened a conversation with him about how I was feeling "sad" about my second book. When he turned to me and asked me what kind of a book it was I cast her a helpless look as if to say "I don't remember what I am supposed to tell him at this juncture of the conversation!" Somehow we glossed over that part and got straight to the meat of the conversation, wherein he gave me advice that I already knew, which was to keep doing what I love, and not take what other people say to heart. Hearing it from him went a long way in setting my mind at rest about negative criticism.
At this point it was time to move the party from the Whisky down to the Rainbow Bar and Grill. There were a series of tables reserved for us, and a dinner of pizza was offered. Danyel and I ended up sharing our table with Fozzy drummer Frank Frontsere. We had a rousing conversation about the Cure, Killing Joke, Las Vegas, Fozzy, food, conventions, and his phone. A great time was had by all.
The Rainbow Bar and Grill
When the meal ended, it was time to head back down to the Whisky for the concert. There were six bands playing, and I think by that point we missed the very first one. It was LOUD inside, so Danyel and I opted to walk down the street for a coffee instead of punish our eardrums for an extended period of time. We returned in time for the final three bands.
The first of these three was ZO2, made up of brothers Paulie and David Z along with drummer Joey Cassata. Their set was very good. Because I am not familiar with them beyond the fact that they played a Rush cover, I really can't tell you much about them. Sandwiched between ZO2 and Fozzy was Jeff Scott Soto. He filled in on vocals during a Journey tour once. This performance was also really great. Both bands had tons of energy.
Paulie Z of ZO2
Jeff Scott Soto
By now I realized a few things. This concert wasn't going to be over until well after midnight, and my 52 year old ears were giving out fast. But you know I'm not too old to rock-n-roll so I sucked it up and told myself I could sleep on Saturday.
Finally, shortly after 11:30pm, Fozzy hit the stage, and it was certainly worth the wait. Opening with "Under Blackened Skies" from Chasing the Grail, this was high energy taken up a few notches. From that point on they played a selection of songs from all four releases, with a few covers thrown in. They were joined for one song by Phil Campbell of Motorhead, but I'm not able to tell you which song because by that point I was going with the flow, living in the moment, not taking notes because reviewing the concert was the furthest thing from my mind.
Rich Ward and Chris Jericho
I can tell you the songs I liked the best, because those stuck in my head. Many of Fozzy's songs have Christian messages, and one of my favorites is "Grail," and they did not disappoint live. Most of the crowd wailed along with this one. They also played one of my favorites from their first release, "Feel the Burn." Chris Jericho taught the whole crowd how to say "Paraskavedekatriaphobia" which is the name for the fear of Friday the 13th (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paraskavedekatriaphobia). When they started into their anthem "God Pounds His Nails" needless to say the whole crowd sang along with them. This song led right into "Let the Madness Begin," another of my favorites from Chasing the Grail.
Finally the night began to wind down, and Fozzy did not insult our intelligence by making us scream for encores, they knew we wanted them so they provided them without ever leaving the stage. The final song was "Enemy," a stand out from All That Remains.
When the show was over we bid good-bye to the other VIPs, but we both acknowledged to each other that we were indeed done. I managed to remember my manners (yet another tip-off, I'm sure, that I am indeed "too old for this") and thank the band's manager Mark Willis for the incredible VIP experience. We drove home with our noise-hangovers ringing in our ears, and relived all the many facets that made this a night to remember.
There is a chance that Fozzy will be returning to Los Angeles in April, at least that's what I was told via Twitter. If so, I plan to be there again, only hopefully this time with better ear protection. If you have any inclination to see a band that is exceptionally passionate about their music, I highly recommend you check them out.