Interview: Ron ‘Bumblefoot’ Thal (3 Jan 2020)

Earlier this month, I had the great honor of sitting down with Ron ‘Bumblefoot’ Thal (Sons Of Apollo, Asia) prior to his 3 January 2020 Storyteller show at the Milkboy in Philadelphia. He told us about the beginnings of Sons Of Apollo, as well as their upcoming album, MMXX (due out 17 January); about being in the band Asia as part of the Royal Affair tour; his upcoming solo work; and his signature line of hot sauces. Additionally, you’ll get to hear about some great deviled eggs!

Join us for the next half hour as we talk through this and more. And, if you’re interested, you can check out the photos from the Milkboy show.


 

You can pre-order Sons Of Apollo’s new album, MMXX, by clicking here.

For more on Bumblefoot, visit:
Official Website
Facebook
Twitter
Instagram
YouTube
Hot Sauces
Sons Of Apollo
Asia

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Bumblefoot’s Storyteller Concert Series – Milkboy Philly

Just three days into 2020, I had the pleasure to attend my first ever Bumblefoot solo show. And this one truly was solo! Ron ‘Bumblefoot’ Thal [Sons Of Apollo, Asia], guitarist and vocalist extraordinaire, has been doing storyteller-styled concerts; alone except for his guitar, microphone, and some backing tracks. Despite this minimalist setting, Thal has quite a large presence, and all I saw were happy faces in the house at Milkboy Philadelphia as he performed fretboard pyrotechnics on his double-necked Vigier guitar. Voices layered on top of one another from the audience during cover songs like “Somebody to Love” by Queen, just as Thal layered his own guitar parts for his singular arrangement of “Every Little Thing She Does is Magic” by The Police. There was plenty of time for stories as well, and Ron regaled us with how he’d painted himself into a corner with complicated guitar parts for the new Sons Of Apollo album, MMXX (out January 17), giving a sneak peak of some over-the-top riffs, licks, and solos.

Joining Bumblefoot for the evening was the band Mach22, a very capable hard rock band with a great sense of groove. At the end of Thal’s set, he invited the band back onstage to have an impromptu jam on a number of classics, including “Whole Lotta Rosie” by AC/DC, “It’s So Easy” by Guns N’ Roses, and closing things out with a thrilling version of KISS’ “Detroit Rock City.”

While there’s no substitute for the real thing, I captured some stills here and there that I hope will tease your appetite. You might also be interested in checking out our interview with Bumblefoot, conducted just prior to this show!

‘MMXX’ by Sons Of Apollo

Welcome to a new decade!  A mere three years ago, Sons of Apollo, a super group composed of former members of Dream Theater, Guns N’ Roses, Mr. Big, and Journey, burst onto the scene with their debut album, Psychotic Symphony.  They quickly earned praise for that effort and toured the world over, even releasing a live album and concert video last year from their show with the Plovdiv Symphony in Bulgaria.  The onset of 2020 has brought Sons of Apollo’s new album, MMXX, aptly titled for the present day and, whenever you’re reading this, for your ears.

I’ll admit to being a bit apprehensive; would this be as good as the debut?  Could this be as good?  Psychotic Symphony remains one of my favorite albums of 2017, mixing grandiose instrumentation with deep-set earworms.  Well, after spending a good deal of December 2019 listening to MMXX, I can say that this is a worthy successor and sophomore release.  The earworms have all returned to bore new homes, and listeners need look no further than the first single and opening track “Goodbye Divinity,” where I’ve found the keyboard intro and chorus slipping into my otherwise regularly-schedule thoughts.  And, as it’s playing in my ears at the moment, I just cannot get enough of the ascending-descending scale runs that wallpaper the refrain from Resurrection Day.  Addictive, to say the least!

I can’t help but to gush a bit over King of Delusion, which currently stands as my favorite track on this record.  Arising seamlessly out of the death knell which finishes off Desolate July, Derek Sherinian paints a meandering path through his staggering keystrokes, welcoming murmured whispers before an onslaught of chugging guitars, bass, and drums barrel into us.  Soto’s paced verses remind me faintly of Ozzy Osbourne’s ”Perry Mason,” though I’m likely drawing erroneous connections.  Over the course of almost 9 minutes, we’re marched from mildly manic to run-for-the-door soundscapes; beautifully dynamic and diverse.

Returning to the previously mentioned grandiose instrumentation, Sons of Apollo have written their longest song to date with the closing track, New World Today, clocking in at nearly 16 minutes.  After a swelling guitar opening from Ron ‘Bumblefoot’ Thal ushers in visions of an 80s movie sunrise (at least for me), vocalist Jeff Scott Soto regales us with societal commentary that asks us to question our role going into the future.  While the listener ponders that, the music twists from chugging hard rock to speed metal velocity before opening up into more spacious orchestration and allowing each instrument to take control for a time.  With three minutes to spare, it finally returns to the opening melody line, which I think may be one of the greatest points of composition on this album, and causes the record to end with an air of optimism.

MMXX has launched us into a new decade with a bang!  While not a huge departure in sound from the debut, it’s a great collection of songs that take us through a gamut of moods and musical flavors.  As should be expected from these five respected musicians, there’s no shortage of instrumental flair thrown in for good measure, and often I find myself marveling at the synchronicity of their combined efforts.  Needless to say, if you enjoyed the former album, you won’t be disappointed here.  And if you’ve never checked the band out before, there’s no time like the present!

 

You may also be interested in checking out our interview with Bumblefoot.

Pre-order the album, out January 17, right here.

For more on Sons Of Apollo, visit:
Official Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | YouTube

Align with Double Experience

Everyone could use a little experience, but double is even better! That’s what has drawn me time and time again to the Canadian duo who call themselves Double Experience, a band who embraces its nerdy side and has built a following with songs about games and pop culture. And now, after a string of stand-alone singles, they’re back for more with their first concept album, Alignments.

We are so proud to reveal our new album, “Alignments”. As our first concept album, we’ve arranged it into 3 separate parts (Neutral, Good, and Evil) to demonstrate its underlying story. The first EP is available to stream on Nov 15 and includes the debut single, “New Me”.

1. Perish Song
2. New Me
3. Something’s Got to Give
4. Ghost in the Machine
5. My List
6. Your Biggest Fan
7. Born For It
8. So Dumb
9. The Imp
10. Alignments

In the RPG that is your life, who holds the dice? When thoughts and prayers are as disposable as this week’s pop culture, where are the lines between reality and fiction drawn? Is this state of disarray all according to someone’s plan? We can assure you that the soundtrack to these end times is kick-ass, but we’re dying to know…

What’s. Your. Alignment?

Alignments consists of three EPs, released over time. You can start your adventure now by streaming Neutral, and pre-ordering a copy of Alignments right here!


 
For more on Double Experience, visit:
Official Website | Facebook | Twitter | Youtube | Bandcamp | Apple Music | Spotify

A Sound of Thunder celebrates their 10th Anniversary with ‘Parallel Eternity’

2019 marks two important events for the Washington D.C. band, A Sound of Thunder: they celebrate their ten year anniversary as a band, and vocalist Nina Osegueda survived a near-death experience after being hit by a bus! We’re thankful that Nina is doing much better, so now we can celebrate the other, happier aspect this year has brought. In honor of their 10th anniversary, the band has decided to release a very special greatest hits double album, entitled Parallel Eternity, and currently has a Kickstarter to bring it to life.

Parallel Eternity is not your run of the mill greatest hits compilation. Sure, it will feature fan favorites such as “Queen of Hell,” “Udoroth,” and the Catalonia anthem “Els Segadors (The Reapers),” but the band has something unique in store for both the Legion of Thunder and new fans alike. Partnering with composer Brad Charles of Magic Giraffe Soundworks, the foursome will see some of their best known heavy metal works take on an orchestral twist, along with the release of two new songs. One of these two novel tunes is “Explorer,” a 15-minute epic originally conceived in 2008, but not tackled until now, which according to the band takes “you on a journey from desert to ocean, from destruction to creation, and from crushing defeat to total victory!”

Cover by long-time A Sound of Thunder artist, Dusan Markovic.

The other new song which will be included with this release is called “Break Free (Theme From Rai),” inspired by the Valiant Entertainment comic book character and series, Rai, the sword-wielding protector of New Japan from the year 4002 A.D. Joining A Sound of Thunder in this endeavor is Dan Abnett, the writer of Rai and many other comics and novels, who contributed lyrics to the band and Charles’ musical backdrop, helping to really get inside the character and creating something more than just a fan-made tribute. It doesn’t stop there, however, because Valiant and A Sound of Thunder are celebrating the release of the new Rai series with an exclusive Rai #1 Iron Maiden homage comic book, with beautiful cover artwork by Paul Pelletier (Batgirl, Guardians of the Galaxy, etc.)

So, if you love heavy metal, or if you love comic books, A Sound of Thunder’s “Parallel Eternity” is not something you want to miss. And you have an opportunity to ensure all of this hard work comes to fruition. By contributing to the Kickstarter, which is the only place you can get copies of two different versions of the Iron Maiden homage of Rai #1 (the variant and the virgin art) as well as a poster of Pelletier’s gorgeous cover artwork, you’re not only getting some great heavy metal, but you’re helping a group of fine musicians make a second decade of great music.

 
For more on A Sound of Thunder, visit:
Official Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram
Apple Music | Bandcamp | YouTube

Sirbaugh Acres VI: Time Machine

Last year was my first iteration of Sirbaugh Acres, which at that time was marking its fifth year running. It was a splendid affair, with five bands showcasing their musical prowess for a lawnful of onlookers. This year I returned for the sixth installment of the series, with some newcomers and returning musical champions. Unlike the previous outing, this one carried the theme of “Time Machine” and featured each band playing a tune from Ronnie James Dio’s storied career. But they weren’t limited to Dio, and explored a variety of other covers from bands like Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, Queensrÿche, and, of course, gave a healthy dose of their own material for the delighted listeners. The acts included Nero’s Fiddle, Elizabeth’s Furnace (formerly Meridian), Mindmaze, A Sound Of Thunder, and Bleeding Black, who performed their final show that night.

Normally when I do concert reviews, I have difficulty connecting one-on-one with some of my favorite bands. I’ve enjoyed the relaxed setting that Tim Sirbaugh, the namesake of Sirbaugh Acres, has provided, allowing me the opportunity to both immerse myself in great music, as well as get to have real conversations with the people behind it. This is like a vacation for me, so forgive me as I forego a band-by-band review and simply inundate you with photos I captured of each set. But suffice to say, each band put on a hell of a performance and, despite a brief rain shower that took us by surprise, the entire event was a wonderful auditory adventure.

While I don’t have the exact numbers, I feel the event has grown in size since I last attended, and I certainly noted more photographers and videographers this time around. If you’d like to check out some of the footage of the first three bands: Nero’s Fiddle, Elizabeth’s Furnace, and Mindmaze, you can find it here, courtesy of the Mad Shad Channel. You can find our photo gallery for all the bands below, along with links to explore their music further.

Nero’s Fiddle: Facebook


 

Elizabeth’s Furnace: Facebook


 

Mindmaze: Official Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Apple Music | BandsInTown


 

A Sound Of Thunder: Official Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Apple Music | Bandcamp | YouTube


 

Bleeding Black: Facebook | ReverbNation

SHEL at Jammin’ Java

It’s been six years since my wife and I braved a storm to see four sisters from Colorado play inside a D.C. barbeque restaurant and bar, putting on a fantastical show that left the both of us impressed.  And on August 29, we finally got to see them again.  The quaint quartet is called SHEL, and they returned to the area with a trip to Jammin’ Java in Vienna, VA, a cozy little concert hall and restaurant.  Like last time, we made a point of getting a seat up front.

Wild Harbors: Official Website | Facebook | Instagram | YouTube

Warming the stage first was a self-described husband/wife alt-pop duo named Wild Harbors, composed of Chris and Jenna Badeker.  Armed simply with a guitar, two harmonious voices, and the occasional tambourine, they quickly turned heads with their storytelling-style performance.  The audience was moved from laughter, discussing the trials of spousal conflict in “House On Fire,” to tears with “Abigail,” about the girl who almost wasn’t.  Throughout their set, they spoke extensively about the changes that had occurred in their lives, and the importance of erecting monuments at those pivotal moments, whether through pictures, videos, or songs, to remember what led you to the path you’re on now.  Their debut album, Monument, is one of those markers, and it’s littered with pieces of life – as full and deep as could be expected.  If you’re searching for something honest and beautiful, seek them out.

 
SHEL: Official Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | YouTube

When I first saw SHEL live, I had perhaps three songs I was familiar with, and that was all I needed to convince myself they were worth seeing.  Fast forward and the spell of mysticism is still there, this time not due to my ignorance at our initial encounter, but due to the nature of these talented women.  I’m never quite sure what they’ll come up with next, but I can count on it being full of heart.  I think that’s due to their differences, each pouring what they love into the mixture, and out of that synergetic concoction comes creativity and love.  Eva, on vocals, mandolin, and the ‘E’ in SHEL (Sarah – Hannah – Eva – Liza), apologized for the group’s lengthy absence, but said that they needed time to work through personal struggles and to come together as sisters.  I took that comment, and the thrilling performance which followed, as affirmation of my assessment.

We were notified that quite a few things lay on the horizon for SHEL, including a single called “Rainbow” in September, a Christmas EP, another Spring-time EP, and a new full-length album sometime later next year.  What’s more, we were treated to a huge selection of that material, and not a dud in the mix.  Particular standouts for my wife and I included “Monster” and “Ordinary Fairytale Superhero Villain,” metaphoric and whimsical, which thankfully still hold a place on a future release despite naysaying by certain individuals beyond this foursome.  I’m hoping SHEL never let anyone else’s opinions outweigh their own artistic desires, because those songs were fantastic and I can’t wait to hear them again.

As with the last time we saw them, they once again broke out their haunting cover of Led Zeppelin’s “The Battle Of Evermore,” but on this occasion we were regaled with the time three of them had to ditch their sister and keyboard player, Hannah, in an airport to get a photo with Robert Plant.  Accordions and TSA apparently do not mix.  Perhaps more to the band’s surprise was when a woman yelled out a request for “Is The Doctor In Today” off their last full-length, Just Crazy Enough.  “We haven’t played that for at least a year,” Sarah, the violinist, informed her.  After discovering she’d flown in all the way from Colorado and had seen them play at a number of other venues, they acquiesced – “We hope this meets some expectation you have for it.”  To their credit, it sounded great – another satisfied customer!

If I had to pick a favorite part of the evening, I don’t think I could narrow it down to simply this-or-that song.  My favorite thing was how both bands took advantage of this intimate space to tell stories about the songs.  Everyone was so warm and welcoming, and the chemistry made the moments electric.  Of course, if you ask my wife, her favorite part was any moment that Liza was at the front of the stage with her djembe and electric kick drum pedal, not to mention her beat boxing escapades.  A close second, and this would be a personal problem, is that there was a second fellow there named Barry.  Or, perhaps I was the second fellow, for this Barry was quite known by the ladies in the band, and every time they referenced him I thought they were talking to me.  But I doubt you’ll experience that unusual circumstance.  What you should experience is seeing SHEL live.  Their current tour is limited to the Northeast of the United States, so catch them while you can – and stay on the lookout for a “Rainbow.”

‘Live With The Plovdiv Psychotic Symphony’ by Sons Of Apollo

It’s not every day that a rock band plays a concert with a full-blown symphony.  There was Deep Purple, who played with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in 1969; Metallica, who played with the San Francisco Symphony in 1999; and now Sons Of Apollo, who are set to release Live With The Plovdiv Psychotic Symphony at the end of this month, recorded while they were on tour last year in Bulgaria.  While I know there are others I’m missing, I’m here to speak with you about the last of these epic endeavors.

Recorded on a beautiful September evening before a thrilled Bulgarian audience at Plovdiv’s Roman Amphitheatre, Sons Of Apollo pulled together a special set.  The first part largely mirrored the set list they had been performing throughout the tour, based firmly around their debut album, Psychotic Symphony, which I witnessed and spoke about here.  The second part, joined by the Plovdiv Symphony Orchestra and Choir – lovingly nicknamed the Plovdiv Psychotic Symphony for this night – consisted of a set of cover songs tailored by Portnoy to both the band’s musical tastes, as well as to take full advantage of the symphony’s presence.  More than once I had goosebumps along my neck from how everything fell into place just right.  Running the gamut from Queen to Ozzy Osbourne, there’s a great deal at which to marvel.

 

Being able to not only hear what’s going on, but to see the chemistry and synchronized efforts of this band, really convinces me that getting one of the releases which include the blu-ray or DVD are the way to go.  Being able to see how well Sherinian’s keystrokes fall in line with Sheehan’s tremendously heavy bass notes help me understand how the group were able to create some of the remarkable lows on their debut album.  It’s all the little things that really add up here, such as Soto holding Bumblefoot’s guitar while the latter plays it in lap-steel fashion, or Bumblefoot playing Portnoy’s symbols with the headstock of his guitar, or watching Sherinian perform Van Halen’s “Eruption” guitar solo while making his way around the keyboard – all these little touches really add to the experience.  And the mix is beautifully balanced, allowing each instrument to come across clearly and boldly.

Of course, there is a version which contains the 3-CD collection as well, including a few songs – Aerosmith’s “Dream On” and Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb” – that aren’t part of the video releases due to being unable to secure clearance.  While I’ve been typing this, I’ll admit to having gotten lost in their rendition of of the latter.  Portnoy and Soto do a great job alternating vocals duties, Sherinian and Sheehan provide swelling accompaniment alongside the symphony, and Bumblefoot’s guitar solo just goes on and on, building in waves of emotion.  I think this is the seventh time the song has played on repeat.  I would have loved to see their expressions.

Some might find it weird, or even presumptuous, that a band with only one album under its belt would opt for not only a live album as its second release, but one with a symphony orchestra at that.  Perhaps it’s the nature of this band that makes it work so well; five extremely talented individuals, each with a storied history to draw on.  This isn’t their first, or even second, rodeo, and they certainly don’t seem to be slowing down now.  Their original works are inspired and precise, and they have a hell of a lot of fun regardless of the tune they’re playing, to the point that it’s infectious.  I’d highly suggest everyone check this release out; I know I’d already have pre-ordered it if my wife hadn’t wanted gift ideas.

 

To pre-order Live With The Plovdiv Psychotic Symphony in its various formats, click here.

For more on Sons Of Apollo, visit:
Official Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | YouTube

The Royal Affair Tour ft. Yes, Asia, John Lodge, and Carl Palmer’s ELP Legacy – in Baltimore

 

On Saturday, June 22, nearly four thousand excited concert-goers filtered into the seats of Baltimore’s MECU Pavilion.  They were set to embark upon a fresh voyage to the seas of nostalgia, and boy were they excited.  I was excited too, as I hadn’t had the pleasure of witnessing any of these household names in the flesh before that evening.  And it wasn’t too long before the show got underway.

Carl Palmer’s ELP Legacy Band (ft. vocalist Arthur Brown)
Official Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | YouTube

“Are the drums loud enough?” Palmer asked the crowd.  Purely rhetorical.  He knew full well, as did all those in attendance, that he was laying a beating on those drum heads.  And he wasn’t the only one getting into this set, the audience being a given.  The guitarist, Paul Bielatowicz, was bouncing all around, and yet managed to perfectly place each and every note.  Opposite him was David Pastorius on bass guitar, whose thick basslines stitched an aural quilt alongside Palmer’s drumbeats, occasionally jumping to the forefront with slap lines that thrilled the crowd.  And not least of all was Arthur Brown, a living art piece: decked out in a post-apocalyptic costume consisting of a red jacket, black feathered wings, golden pants, cowboy boots, stunning face paint, and a helmet armed with flashlights.  He made me feel as if I was watching musical theater, to the backdrop of hits from Emerson, Lake, and Palmer; Aaron Copland; and The Crazy World of Arthur Brown.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get any photos of this set, but I assure you it was a spectacle and well worth you attending to put your own eyes and ears on it.
 

John Lodge (of The Moody Blues)
Official Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | YouTube

When I heard the words of “Legend Of The Mind” dance across my ears, it was like being transported back to my childhood.  Much of the music of this evening was played to me by my parents growing up, but hearing it live sounded wonderfully vibrant: a credit to the great players on stage.  John Lodge’s voice was full of life and energy, and so was his band.  And it wasn’t just the energy, but also the chemistry between them.  At one point we saw Lodge, guitarist Duffy King, and guitarist / cellist Jason Charboneau set into a synchronized battle stance, headstocks alternating back and forth in an Iron Maiden-fashion.  They were smiling and having fun!  And as an audience member, seeing the band have a good time always puts me in high spirits, so by the time “I’m Just A Singer (in a Rock and Roll Band)” came on, I was cheerfully singing along (though I would have anyway).  To close his set, we had the honor of seeing Yes’ Jon Davison join Lodge for a rendition of “Ride My See-Saw,” much to the pleasure of all in attendance.

 

Asia
Official Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram |

I have to give credit where credit is due: Asia is the reason I was able to provide you with all these photos.  They were kind enough to approve my press credentials, and for that I am grateful.  But please don’t think this affected my review.  I do have great things to say about their set, but it’s based on the merits of the performance, I assure you.

Firstly, this incarnation of Asia is different in that it features the introduction of Ron ‘Bumblefoot’ Thal as lead vocalist and guitar, replacing Sam Coulson on guitar and relieving Billy Sherwood of vocalist duties.  I’ve been a fan of Thal and his expansive career for around fifteen years, first enjoying his solo career, then his lengthy stint with Guns N’ Roses, and recently his endeavors as a member of the prog super group, Sons Of Apollo.  The only thing which surprised me was his role here as vocalist, not due to being ill-equipped for such a job, but rather because it wasn’t his usual role in bands like this.  But within the first few notes of “Go,” I was convinced that he was going to do justice to John Wetton’s version of the songs.  His voice, matched up with the dulcet backup vocals of Sherwood, truly worked well together.

In fact, all of the band members seemed to work well together.  Palmer was solid as ever throughout the night, but the chemistry really shined through with the duet of Geoff Downes and Thal performing “The Smile Has Left Your Eyes” with the keys commanding the atmosphere of the pavilion.  Downes continued to show his prowess during his solo performance, juggling two different melodies on separate keyboards, which still boggles my mind.  During the second half of the set, we were greeted with the arrival of original member and current Yes guitarist, Steve Howe, to huge applause.  The five-some then, with Thal ditching his guitar, finished up the set with a four-song streak from their debut album, and ended with “Heat Of The Moment” to a thrilled, on-its-feet audience.

 

Yes
Official Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | YouTube

At this point in the evening, the lights had gone out in the city and stars filled our eyes.  Not stars from the night’s sky, but ones dancing across the LED backdrop of the stage.  As members arrived on stage, many of which had just been on stage with Asia, they did so to a standing ovation from every member of the audience.  As they launched into the first song, it was clear that they were all excited to be here and were just as in-sync as you’d expect from the legendary Yes, a fact that was evident from the woman to my right exclaiming to her friend, “I can’t believe how good they sound live!”

Unlike Asia, who focused on the first few albums from their storied career, Yes’ setlist covered songs from every one of their 70s albums starting at “The Yes Album” and a few 80s tracks for good measure.  Included in these was the absolutely monumental, 22-minute “The Gates Of Delirium” from the 1974 album Relayer, a tune that hasn’t seen much play since 2001.  What a treat!

The guys closed out the show with a cover of John Lennon’s “Imagine,” featuring drummer Alan White who had originally recorded the song with Lennon, and finally “Roundabout” which converted the seated audience into a migrating dance party.  As the song came to an end and the band took their bow, I had little doubt in my mind that everyone was about to leave satisfied.  In fact, all I heard on my way home were people remarking how great all the bands had been, and one stating it was the best concert they’d ever attended.  Needless to say, you should do yourself a favor and check the show out when it comes your way.  It’s a rare opportunity to see all of these great bands in one place.

MindMaze in Sparta

MindMaze: Official Website | Facebook | TwitterInstagram

MindMaze is one of those bands that I try to make sure I see anytime I can. Their music is my kind of progressive metal, taking cues from legends such as Fates Warning and Queensryche, but producing songs that are entirely their own. There is a level of technicality and precision to their music, too often overlooked by other bands, and yet their stage show is far from admiring statues standing in place. And while my interactions with them are few and far between, they’re always kind and appreciative of those who support them and willing to spend quality time with everyone who seeks it. Their recent concert at Sparta Inn in Sparrows Point, Maryland was no exception, and I ended up talking quite a bit with Sarah and Jeff Teets, the sister-brother duo of vocals and guitars. Before I knew it, we were all doing and impromptu photo shoot outside, first with the whole band, and then just with Sarah as the others went to set up their gear.

Whether it be Jeff jumping off the drum riser, or Sarah and bassist Rich Pasqualone playing a game of “let’s knock each other over,” or drummer Mark Bennett beating the the ever-loving crap out of a $200 house drum kit, the MindMaze crew are full of energy. I had a ton of fun watching this foursome rip into tracks like “This Holy War” and “Slave To The Cycle,” the latter which fans almost didn’t get to witness. Luckily, the band was given extra time on stage, and they made great use of it. And despite Sarah only recently recovering from a lost voice, you wouldn’t have been able to tell if she hadn’t apologized for it. Though she later told me it was uncomfortable to sing, she pushed through it and the crowd was left in awe.

They’re heading to Hollywood’s renowned Whisky a Go Go on August 2nd, so all you West Coast fans should try to make it out. And for those of you on the East Coast, spend that time clearing your schedule so you can ensure you get to their next performance in your area.