The Bonzo Bash
Keeps the Beat Alive
with An All-Star Tribute To John Bonham
A SoundPress.net Feature Article by Rich and Laura Lynch

The Bonzo Bash returned to the bergenPAC on May 31, 2014. This All-Star show was a tribute to John Bonham of Led Zeppelin. Countless drummers have been influenced by Bonham's bold approach to the instrument. He was the hammer of the gods pounding the skins with speed and strength yet his softer moments could be just as potent. Bonham's legend lives on through the music of Led Zeppelin, his son Jason and the Bonzo Bash.

The Bonzo Bash Keeps the Beat Alive with An All-Star Tribute To John Bonham
Corky Laing receives the Bonzo Bash Legend Award 2014 from event co-founder Joe Sutton.

The Bonzo Bash has had multiple incarnations. It is the brainchild of Brian Thomas Tichy and Joe Sutton. The concept revolves around a replica of John's kit with invites to different drummers to perform favorite Led Zeppelin songs with the aptly named house band The Moby Dicks. Players from hard rock to pop have participated in this special show.

The stage set-up was straight forward with a dark curtain and a banner heralding the Bonzo Bash. The replica kit was dead center and well lit so that it was the focal point. The other members of the band for much of the event stayed to the side of the riser insuring that the drummers were prominent. It was dim as a light shined down on a tower where a bearded man was holding a lantern similar to the inside of the Led Zeppelin IV album cover. It was Tichy in disguise. He wandered around the stage making his way to the kit. The Moby Dicks joined him to present a standout version of "Achilles Last Stand" enhanced with the effect of swirling lights, which was the main prop of the evening. Surprisingly, Brian played much of the song in the old man costume which was a feat in itself. He concluded the battle with multiple hits to the gong and a shout out to John Henry Bonham.

Next, Bob Pantella presented a riveting "The Rover". Bob just like Bonzo was thunderous using pairs of sticks to give "Four Sticks" its punch. Karl Wilcox of Diamond Head with The Moby Dicks were intense on the "Immigrant Song" and more melodic for "All of My Love" with keys swirling into the tale. Joe Franco took us on a magical journey through "Misty Mountain Hop" and moved at a breakneck speed for "Communication Breakdown".

The Bonzo Bash Keeps the Beat Alive with An All-Star Tribute To John Bonham
Brian Tichy and Eddie Trunk, Peter Criss, the hermit from ZOSO, Corky Laing and John Hummel at the Bonzo Bash 2014.

During Jerry Gaskill's pair of songs which included a lively "Living Loving Maid", Brian added a second guitar into the mix, something he did on a number of tunes throughout the night. John Hummel known for his work with pop artist Lady Gaga was the potent force for "In The Light". Speaking of potent The Moby Dicks held their own capturing the energy and essence of Led Zeppelin. Lead singer Chad West with his shoulder length blond hair has a Robert Plant look about him but more importantly he had the lungs. There were many moments where West hit and held high long notes during this concert that ran over four hours. Bandmates Brent Woods (lead guitar), Michael Devin (bass) and Stephen LeBlanc (keys) aptly handled their important musical roles also.

Danny Schuler with The Moby Dicks nailed the dynamic "In My Time Of Dying". The celebrated Corky Laing took the show in a different direction with a drum solo that featured him rapping a Bob Dylan song that flowed into "D'yer Mak'er " that had a bit of a reggae vibe. Laing took the most liberty with the Led Zeppelin catalog but it was a good diversion from all the hard hitting Zeppelin tunes already played.

"My first drum idol," was some of the words that Brian chose to describe the legendary Peter Criss. "I wanted to be him when I grew up, still do," declared Tichy as he added some comments about Peter's approach to the instrument. Brian's speech was a warm welcome for Criss who came onstage to a standing ovation. Peter made a point of thanking everyone for the "Bonzo Bash Founder's Legend Award" which he was given last year. On this occasion he was here to present the award to the event's next recipient. Peter talked about some of his early influences and in particular one who made the cowbell a part out of a standout drum kit. The award was presented to Corky Laing who appeared pleasantly surprised. In honor of Corky, The Moby Dicks with Laing performed the classic "Mississippi Queen" by Mountain complete with Corky's signature cowbell. Bassist Michael Devin handled the deeper lead vocals on this track.

The Bonzo Bash Keeps the Beat Alive with An All-Star Tribute To John Bonham
Chas West and Zach Alford conjure up some Zep magic in honor of Bonzo.

The next pair of special guests were Russell Allen (vocals) and Mike Orlando (guitar) of Adrenaline Mob who joined their drummer AJ Perro. They gave a heavy metal edge to "What Is and What Should Never Be" along with a hard rock treatment of Howlin Wolf's "Killing Floor" a bold blues tune that Led Zeppelin had covered.

Zack Alford kept the Bash in overdrive with a kick ass version of "Nobody's Fault But Mine" and "When The Levee Breaks". In a testimony to the importance of John Bonham and this celebration of his life, Johnny Kelly from Type O Negative literally came from the airport to the venue. He pulsated on "Since I've Been Loving You" and a tasteful "Thank You" where Chas added hand gestures to punctuate the lyrics that were also presented as a thank you to the audience.

Bobby Rondelli throbbed in "Heartbreaker" and conjured up the mystical in "Kashmir". Will Calhoun of Living Colour juxtaposed the melodic "All The Love That I've Found" with a dark daunting "Dazed and Confused" that traversed through a series of creative changes back to the traditional build ups of the song.

The Bonzo Bash Keeps the Beat Alive with An All-Star Tribute To John Bonham
Event co-founder Brian Tichy, Ron Lipnicki and Joe Franco banging away at the Bonzo Bash.

With a shout out to his parents Brian pounded the drums with his bare hands just as hard as if he had sticks. His solo was wild and left us thinking - wow! The last song of the night was a loose version of "Moby Dick". Most of the musicians were on stage with some kids from the audience. Many were armed with percussion pieces. Some of the drummers took a short stint at the kit with Brian finalizing the jam with a distinctive Moby Dick fill to conclude the drumfest.

The Bonzo Bash kept the beat of John Bonham very much alive in a four plus hour concert that showcased some of today's best drummers while remembering one of the greatest from the past. This was SoundPress.net's second Bonzo Bash and both 2013 and 2014 were a blast.

The bergenPAC continues to host a diverse range of shows such as the Bonzo Bash. Upcoming events at the centrally located bergenPAC in Englewood, New Jersey includes Randy Rhoads Remembered also organized by Brian Tichy, Jonny Lang, Everlasting Love, Fifth Harmony, 1964 The Tribute, Molly Hatchet, JOBA Takes The World, Guitar Gods 2014, REO Speedwagon, Live and Hot Tuna.

The Bonzo Bash Keeps the Beat Alive with An All-Star Tribute To John Bonham
Will Calhoun of Living Color announced that his band's new album will be released in September.

Related Links: For more information on the BONZO BASH and the other organizations mentioned please visit the following links - Brian Tichy - Bonzo Bash | Bonzo Bash 2013 Review | bergenPAC.org

(Originally Published on June 02, 2014)

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