Since this site is fan driven and based, how many would like a chance to see their Guitar Hero play in a tiny intimate place with just a few lucky fans in attendance? How many would like to see Joe laying music for fun with some musical buddies and no pressure to perform to sold out venues such as the Royal Albert Hall? Here's the story of just such an event. Joe Bonamassa having fun with his friends and playing music you never would hear on tour, just for fun and the chance to play some amps and guitars from his extensive collection of rarities.
The Baked Potato, is a tiny dive bar named for its menu of a dozen or so kinds of stuffed baked potatoes. It's called "The Spud" by those in the know, and has been the venue of choice in the Los Angeles area for famous musicians to jam and relive the early days when they played to small audiences in tiny clubs. Jazz, funk, fusion, even sometimes rock and big band jazz sounds can be heard there on any given night. Mondays are open jam nights for any musician to come and sit in with the house band. It is common for big stars to show up and jam as well. The club is really small, seating maybe 40 or so with standing room for another half dozen. You are seated at tiny tables on tiny chairs squeezed in like sardines around a tiny area that makes up the stage. Intimate, loud, and very, very cool. Think of a place the size of a large garage but the garage band is made up of some of the best musicians in the world. It happens!
For those Joe Bonamassa fans in Southern California, this singular event last year has become a semi-regular cult following whenever he is home between tours. Joe's friends and fellow musicians at home in LA, one of them, his new drummer Tal Bergman, have a band and like to play Funk and Jazz. Last April, following a tweet by Tal, the word was out that Joe was going to sit in and jam with his buddies at a legendary jazz club in Studio City near Hollywood.
For the last year, whenever Joe and Tal are on break from his relentless touring schedule and at home in Hollywood, they have been jamming at the Spud with Rock Candy Funk Party. The regular members are keyboard wizard Arlan Schierbaum on Moog and B3 (with dual Leslies!), Ron DeJesus on guitar, Tal Bergman on drums, and Mike Merritt on bass. Now Joe Bonamassa is a regular member when he is in town. Guest artists usually sit in on vocals. This month the word was out that the band was going to jam once more for the third time, and was passed to the fanbase in Southern California and friends of the band via fanchat and heads-up emails. It was to happen concurrent with the NAMM convention which brought musicians from all over the world to LA and several were in the audience as well. Tuesday January 17th was the day. As soon as the website put the tickets up it sold out in no time at all. The performances the first two times were legendary and no one who could make it would miss this chance to see the band play again. The day before the gig, Joe Bonamassa tweeted that rehearsals were done and that singer Beth Hart would be sitting in. WOW! Joe and Beth had recently recorded a cd that has been nominated for top awards in Blues music featuring covers of legendary artists like Etta James and more. The buzz was really on now!
Seating is first come first seated and there are only two unobstructed tables in the stagefront area so those of us who are videographers and wanted to record the event again for the global fanbase headed for the venue very early to line up by the door. The club opens about 8, the first set started at 10:30. I was in line at 3:30 and wasn't first. Three other fans who live in LA beat me and my pals who car pooled 2 1/2 hours up from San Diego. They had been there for an hour and a half already! Other fans began arriving over the next few hours and a party was on in front of the bar on the sidewalk. A small Mexican cafe was next door and a liquor store next to it so we were well provided for. Here's a shot taken two hours before the doors opened. Click here for photo. We watched as the band arrived and took the gear in for sound check, greeting each performer as they drove up. Soon the walls were vibrating with music we soon would be hearing and the excitement level jumped several notches as we began to move outside to the funky groove emanating from the club.
Shortly after the sound check was done, the door opened and we were let in one at a time with our names checked off the presale list and took our seats. No printed tickets exist for these shows. By agreement, those who had video gear and arrived earliest were taking the best 4 seats right in front of the stage, the rest sat in the next best as the place filled up. Most are off to the side or back by the bar with limited or obstructed viewing. No matter where you sit, the listening is just fine. As the place filled up the buzz started when folks recognized some of the people in the crowd and began whispering and pointing. Steve Perry- Journey, Adrian Smith- Iron Maiden and Dave Amato- REO Speedwagon were there in the crowd. They were left undisturbed because we were all there for one thing. Music by Rock Candy Funk Party!
Soon after all had food and drink, the band members took the stage, picked up their instruments and the first set was on. Here's the set list, more or less adhered to as the band changed their minds several times as the mood struck. The encore list will give you an example. None on the list were played as they decided to play I'm A Man (Winwood) from the first set again so 'whatever' won out.
Each song was only a framework for wide ranging jams that ebbed and flowed as each musician took off with his own interpretation for extended solos. They'd joke and chat with the crowd between many songs.
First up, Root Down, a classic by Jimmy Smith which set the funky tone for the evenings fare. A great jam featuring B3 work by Arlan and rotating solos by the rest. Next, Jean Pierre (Miles Davis). More Jazz than Funk with blistering solos by Ron and Joe. Now it was time for the fabulous Beth Hart to take the mic and they played the eponymous track from the cd, For My Friend (Bill Withers), with a fine solo break by Ron while Joe played fills. She was superb.
The setlist had Well Well from the cd next, but crowd pleas changed it to the stunning Etta James song I'd Rather Go Blind from the same cd. Beth's singing and Joe's tender, heartfelt and virtuosic solo break with the band backing produced a soul searing version that left some in tears and the rest stunned by the incredible performance. Here is my video.
The band now finished up the first set with a free form instrumental version of Respect (Redding) straight into I'm A Man (Winwood) which brought the house down. After a break, when many mingled with the band members and stretched their legs, we were off to the second set. They opened with the classic jazz standard Mr. Clean, a favorite of the band with free running solos by all. Pusherman was next (Mayfield), with vocals by Arlan featuring his smoking B3 and Moog work. Now a treat. An original composition by Ron and Tal called The Hint. An extended jam with all taking solos. Joe stepped up next for some Blues with a slowed down version of Memphis Jimmy's (James Clark) Look Over Yonders Wall which he performed on his Black Rock cd. Just superb! They finished up the set with Led Boots, a stomping version of the classic by Jeff Beck. For the encore they decided to do another extended version of I'm A Man which left the audience screaming for more but that was to be it. Not a dud all night long and we cruised back down the freeway in the wee hours a bunch of very happy fans, looking forward to the next chance to hav e a run up the road to the Baked Potato jams with JoeB and Rock Candy Funk Party.
Check out My Youtube Channel for over 9 hours of videos from the three shows so far if you care to watch more of these rare and superb jams by Joe and his friends.
For the gearheads reading, here is the list of what Joe played that night and his post on his forum.
The Baked Potato rig was ....
Dumble Overdrive special 1981 #0104
Jim Kelley single channel amp restored by Jim in 2010 #013
1953 Fender Telecaster #5088
1963 Fender Stratocaster #L01310
1959 Les Paul standard #9-1951
LOL that should take care of the insurance form...
~ It was a blast literally.... Beth Hart was the highlight for me.
For more information about Joe Bonamassa check out his website, click here.