The Winery Dogs

Ah! The power of the Groupon. It just seems that everything is a good deal if it’s is attached to a Groupon. There is a place near my house where you can go climb trees, swing from trees, even tightrope walk between trees. This is a park I would not even give a second glance to. I have no desire to jump from branch to branch. When it was presented in the form of a Groupon, I almost found myself on a zip line amongst the tall timbers. It was such a good deal. How could I pass on it?

I now limit myself to a certain amount of times a month, where I actually open the Groupon email. My cousin on the other hand, has no will power issues like I do. So, I get a text from him, “Got a Groupon to see The Winery Dogs at the State Theater tomorrow night. Wanna go?”

I reply, “Is it a good deal?”

He says, “It’s a Goupon!” Point taken.

So, we’re off to see The Winery Dogs. They have just released their second record called Hot Streak. I haven’t heard a single note from it, and I admit I didn’t spend a lot of time with their first album. This I find odd because, I’m a fan of all three members of the band. Billy Sheehan from Mr. Big is on bass. The man plays the bass like no one else in the world. Richie Kotzen on guitar and vocals. He was in Poison until he ran off with Rikki Rockett’s girlfriend, and he spent some time with Sheehan in Mr. Big. On the drums is Mike Portnoy from Dream Theater – a band I don’t love but totally respect the musicianship.

Having seen a few Mr. Big shows in the past, I know that Billy Sheehan can be mesmerizing to watch because he can make his instrument sound so many different ways and still keep the rhythm of the song. I was, however, worried that the band would go off on some really long musical jams. This I don’t mind, as long as it’s once or maybe twice in a set. A Dave Matthews Band/Grateful Dead foray into the unknown though, puts me right to sleep.

The Winery Dogs take the stage, and in the first minute, I’ve already renamed their tour. The no picks tour. Neither Billy nor Richie plays with a pick. This is quite normal for bass players. It is much rarer for guitar players. Especially guitar players who play as fast and loud as Richie Kotzen.

The amount of talent on the stage was insane. There was no way for there to be a fourth Dog. There wasn’t not enough air in the building put one more note. They were like the bastard lovechild of Rush and Steely Dan. All of this music, to their credit, stayed within the confines of the songs. These guys didin’t have to have extended solos and jams to feed their egos. Just playing their song correctly was challenge enough and all three looked very comfortable in their own skin.

Billy Sheehan was his amazing self. Taking the bass to and beyond the limit of what you would think could be possible. Yet, I was probably watching him the least. This is quite the testament to how good the other two are.

Mike Portnoy seems like a great guy to hang out with. He constantly makes eye contact with the fans in the front row and bounces sticks their way. His playing is Peartish. Yes, I think I just made up a new word. He’s not nearly as serious or grim looking as Neil Peart from Rush, but he is on that playing level.

Vocalist and guitarist Richie Kotzen is not from this planet. I’m convinced. His voice is so soulful and his guitar playing matches it, if not surpasses, the words he is singing. The music looks like it just flows through him. Most of the time, he looks like he’s on a different plane than the rest of us.

Together the three of them just fly. If you’re in the venue with them, you get to go for a ride. They are rock’s equivalent to when Magic, Kareem, and Worthy at their best on the basketball court. You can’t stop them, you can only admire players playing at the top of their game.