Thursday, May 8, 2014

Winery Dogs @ The Birchmere 5/7/2014

I went to see the Winery Dogs ($58.50 after ridiculous fees ugh)- (Mike Portnoy (ex-Dream Theater,ex-Adrenaline Mob, ex-Avenged Sevenfold, Transatlantic, etc. etc.) Billy Sheehan (ex- Mr. Big, ex-Talas, ex-David Lee Roth band), Ritchie Kotzen (ex- Mr. Big, ex-Poison)) at the Birchmere with Ariel.  We got there around 7, and I was curious as to how it would be, as I've never been to this venue before.

There was a pretty healthy crowd there, several hundred people (capacity of 500) and we had to take seats (yes, SEATS) on the side. There were def some more spaces, but it looked pretty close to selling out.

Outside, parking was ample, and I had no issues, and the lot was way bigger than I had thought as well.  The area around it seemed a little... sketchy... so that made me a bit nervous. There were several local food places around in walking distance, so that is a nice option if you don't want to eat at the venue.  However, based on how many people there were there, getting there early may be a better plan. So the venue looked pretty nice and was pretty spacious (it seemed to keep on getting bigger as we found more and more rooms!), as well as pretty clean. They had a pretty decent selection on the menu (food and beer, draft beer).  Their full kitchen provided Ariel with a decent chicken sandwich, from the speed of its eating.  The sound system was pretty clear and great as well, this is a very good place to hear a show!  Where I was sitting, I did not need earplugs- it was comfortably loud enough.  There were series of tables set up, and the waiters and waitresses would come to your table to take orders (even during the performance), similar to the State Theater in VA.  There was enough space between people for the most part, apart from the one wasted guy who we always seem to find and have them in close proximity. The entire crowd was seated until like the last song, where Mike Portnoy demanded people stand.

Kind of Lame merch

As we walked into the venue, there was a ticket booth, a bar, a secondary stage (flex stage), and a gift shop. The gift shop had Winery Dog merchandise displayed on a couple folding tables - shirts ($30), signed Billy Sheehan CDs ($10), Ritchie CDs ($10), baseball cap, DVD, etc. (see photos).

After those, there was entry to yes ANOTHER room, which was a  hallway which lead to the main ballroom, which we found was full of seats and seated people!  We looked at each other, were there seats left??  We made our way to the left side facing the stage, emphasis on the side. It was so odd, having to sit at a hard rockin' show. It was an interesting change, because most people were pretty well behaved and we didn't really have to stress about tall people or whatever.  There was one older gentleman who was shouting along to songs at some point, and almost overpowering Ritchie during his song. He was chastised by a friend of his constantly.

I saw the sound guy (skinny kind of like Geddy Lee, glasses, long hair) who used to be at Jaxx/Empire here, I think he was working here now. The lighting seemed professional as well.  Also of note, apparently Mark Schenker from Kix was there too. I saw him in the crowd and didn't recognize him. INTERESTING.

Pretty good crowd~

Slightly later than 7:30, some MC came on and demanded to know if we were ready for THE WINERY DOGS YUSSS.   The seemingly docile seated crowd came alive and cheered  loudly as the trio took the stage.  Immediately I was impressed with how great they sounded- the performers themselves as well as the pretty damn great sound system that the Birchmere has.  They sounded even better than their self titled album, and about 2 songs in I decided that the pricey ticket (and those damn fees!) was worth it.  They got a pretty great crowd reaction in between songs from the (mostly) subdued crowd. It was pretty amazing having a good number of people into this hard rock and slightly bluesy and progressive (and a lot like Mr. Big sounding) music.

They played mostly originals, with the Kotzen ("...Angel") break, Hendrix interlude ("Hey Joe"), and a blistering version of "Shy Boy" (David Lee Roth/Talas)!  There were some folks singing along with every song, but I was mostly just sitting back and enjoying the basically perfect live versions of this band.  

Behind Mike Portnoy, there was a stage hand/roadie who was crouching down and operating the microphone swivel, swinging it around at certain times. He didn't look too pleased and I think his job absolutely sucked.  There was a piano set up on the side of the stage that was used for only one song.

 All three members did background vocals, and even shared lead (all three on "Shy Boy"). Ritchie and Billy both had solo spots ("...Angel" and the bass solo), but oddly Mike Portnoy didn't have a drum solo.  They all sounded amazing- singing, bass, guitar, drums, they were very tight. My favourite of the night had to be Billy Sheehan, tearing it up on bass- a real treat! That guy is a legend, and it was magic watching him work! Ritchie Kotzen totally blew my mind as well with his soulful singing and pretty killer guitar playing. I was expecting a skillful performance from Zakk Wylde, and apparently in recent years Zakk has really been dropping the ball!

There was no opening band, and they played a solid hour and a half set- I was in my car by 9:15! I'm not sure if they came out to the crowd or whatever, but it seems less likely due to the rabid prog rock fans who would talk their ears off and have them sign millions of vinyl (not that other super fans aren't a different type of annoying). They played almost all of their debug album (12/13 - did not play "The Dying"), and a song from the Japanese release ("Criminal") and I'm not sure what song "Oblivion" was from, in addition to the solo spots listed above. Not a bad setlist at all!

Overall, it was an amazing performance from three hugely talented and passionate guys.  I didn't like the high ticket price and the seated part, but I needed to see these guys, and in a couple weeks, Ritchie Blackmore's Night is coming... and scouting the place def was good.  The oddity of the venue did add a little discomfort, but I quickly got over it.  We almost hit up Adrenaline Mob at Empire (with Kyng), but by the time this show was over, Adrenaline Mob was set to hit the stage. Getting to Empire would take about 20 minutes, and by then half their set would be over.  Later, we heard that Mike Portnoy actually went to Empire to check out his pals from the Mob (which he only recently departed from)!

Next Show: VNV Nation at Empire!



Winery Dogs (7:37- 9:09)

  • Elevate 
  • Criminal 
  • We Are One 
  • One More Time 
  • Time Machine 
  • Damaged 
  • Six Feet Deeper  ("Hey Joe" (Hendrix) Interlude)
  • The Other Side 
  • Bass Solo 
  • You Saved Me 
  • Not Hopeless 
  • Doin' What the Devil Says to Do (Richie Kotzen song)
  • I'm No Angel 
  • Oblivion 
  • Desire 

  • Regret 
  • Shy Boy (Talas cover)