[Once again, Andrei Chlytchkov was on assignment in the photo pit for another gig, this time for Bumblefoot at The Rockpile in Toronto on November 1. Text by L. Benny Sanders. – AC]
Etobicoke’s Rockpile, one of my favourite venues in the city, played host to a diverse and eclectic party the night after Halloween. A tasty trio of treats opened the show, and led up to a “treat that could not be beat”. The sweet selection began with an amazing tribute to Canadian rockers RUSH from the Juggernaut/Permanent Waves Band while the evening’s extravagance continued with Second Pass and was followed by a killer collective in form of Russ Dwarf and company. The string which tied the knot on the bag of goodies was a long-time Toronto favourite in the person of Bumblefoot, but I’m well aHead of myself now.
When Suji and I arrived moments late for the first note and had our hands stamped with the obligatory red maple leaf, Andy Narsingh and band was on stage. I thought it was a live concert recording of RUSH. Nope. It was the Juggernaut/Permanent Waves Band.
Lead singer/bassist Andy Narsingh absolutely channels Geddy in both voice and musicianship. Guitarist Russell Grey is hammer on as the band’s Alex and rounding out the trio (in the back, but not the background) Dave Langguth (of Kim Mitchell’s Band) pounds the percussion ala Peart.
The set included beloved tunes such as “Closer to the Heart,” “Spirit of Radio” (which featured Bumblefoot on a flanged double-neck guitar and was pure precision from the first note) and “Freewill.” But, it definitely centred around the most acclaimed album (almost every fan’s numero uno) Moving Pictures. “Limelight,” “Tom Sawyer” and “Red Barchetta,” finally landing with “YYZ.” When I asked Andy which came first, bass or vocals he clearly stated that Mr. Lee is the reason that he started playing the instrument. He also pointed out that RUSH is Russell’s as well as Bumblefoot’s favourite band. I wouldn’t doubt it if I was told that Andy Narsingh and his band is Geddy’s choice as #1 RUSH tribute.
Appropriately, the following band was Second Pass. Band members are: Veronica McNamee (vocals), Steve Pass (guitar), Andrew Buntain (bass) and Kevin Costa (drums). Much of their 6 song set was made up of originals, with a certainly heavy metal edge, the second to final one being “Smiling Deadly” from their 2018 release of the same name. Bumblefoot appropriately sat in on the fourth tune, “You Could Be Mine” (as McNamee told us she had never sung a GnR tune before) to the delight of all. They ran out of time and were unable to include “My Life” but we’ll have to wait ‘til their next show for that one.
The stage was then was subject to attack by a group of Killer Dwarfs. Well, some of them were at least. Russ Dwarf led his army–officially called The Russ Dwarf Band–which included which included Pat Carrano (drums), Gerry Finn (acoustic and electric) and Rob Zakojc (bass). I chatted with Gerry and asked him what drew him to performing stage. He said “Every time I walk on stage it’s a privilege, and I keep getting the feeling I’m going to be ‘found out’” and after which he laughed.
The enthusiastic audience was able to sing along with most everything the Dwarves (who are Canadian icons, twice nominated for Juno Awards) played. Their offering opened with “Come On” (in E) followed by “Everything” (in Am) and “Miles” (D of course). Russ asked “How are you guys?” and the band’s version of Rod Stewart and The Faces “Stay With Me” was instantly recognizable with most everyone in the place joining in.
Bumblefoot alighted on the stage as someone quipped “It’s becoming crowded up here” (and it was with so much talent under those bright lights). This wonderfully acoustic mini-set included a beloved Russ Dwarf number “Keep That Spirit Alive”. Talk about talent and versatility; it was the island in the middle of a glorious ocean of musical magic. Afterwards followed a couple more tunes and then they completed their battle with “Rock and Roll”. Who could ask for more?
I spoke to Bumblefoot before his set. I was fully aware that he was under the weather, but that did not stop him. I mentioned that a number of times I recall going on-stage to sing when I was unable to talk. We agreed that the show must go on, but he certainly was a trooper. Keep in mind, before he even began his suite of stories and songs he’d already been on-stage with three other bands. He has been touring almost endlessly, for years (well. since the 90’s). He spoke of South Africa where he played a few days ago, and proceeding that it was Dubai, Michigan, Indiana, Pittsburgh PA, L.A., Detroit … in the past month (Ireland in September). In my conversation with him, I found him to be a most gracious person. When I asked him about why he likes Toronto, he told me of “wonderful friends” he has here, of “friendly faces” that welcome him and that it is “always good “ to be here. People draw to them what they radiate, and even though he was not up-to-par, he treated me as a welcome guest during his all too short time to rest before he had to entertain his fans.
Bumblefoot began by telling us (as he noodled “Won’t Get Fooled Again”) that he had “The Penguin Flu”, and that he was “Patient Zero” as he laughed at his own malady. He began with “The Pink Panther Theme” and proceeded to rock it out as only he could have. I mean ‘seriously’. He played songs and told stories for OVER TWO HOURS. He included originals “Abnormal” and after explaining that he doesn’t drink, had a shot of something for his cold at which time he broke into “Guitars Suck” (a tune that sounded like a flock of guitars playing simultaneously) followed by a detail explanation of the mathematics of the string, and ‘thimble technique’. This was classic. He mapped out the steps it took to get to the sound he wanted. Arpeggio, staccato, attacking the string from the opposite side, working his way to the top of the fret board, passing it to “the bumpy things” there and somewhere in there including the fact that he took a thimble from his mom’s sewing kit to use in the never ending process of attaining the sound. He then broke into “Guitars Still Suck” *Taking the BumbleF**KED hot sauce challenge and played “Signs Of The Time” (from his band Sons Of Apollo). He talked about his smelly tour jacket, turning 50, played “Spaghetti”, “Don’t Know Who To Pray To Anymore”, and “Little Brother Is Watching” (all Bumblefoot originals).
He went into human jukebox mode, asking people to call out any song so he could play it.
Highlights included “Scenes From An Italian Restaurant” (Billy Joel), “I Wish” (Stevie Wonder), “Mr. Sandman” (Pat Ballard) and treated us to another original “Hangup” (Bumblefoot). He played Van Halen, Genesis and Chopin. “Apache”, “Purple Rain” and “Waltz Op. 64 No. 2”. Oh, did I mention a couple by Yngwie Malmsteen? A few more originals and closed with “Canon In D Major” (Pachelbel). Whoa.
Bumblefoot is returning to play here with Sons of Apollo on February 2nd, 2020 (take my advice, be there).
PS: Jake! You did a great job of sound and staging as always… and a very special thanks to Andre for getting me there to Alan for letting me grace his site, and especially to Mr. Bumblefoot for his kindness and assistance in re-assembling his set for me to write this article.