Live Photos and Gig Review Credit: Chris Martin (Senior Staff Writer/Live Gig reporter
Firehouse/Departure/Sunset Strip: Great Music Never Grows Old
Firehouse had a homecoming the other night. I have seen them many times over the years and have been a fan since the late 80’s when they were a local band called White Heat. I’ve stated all of this before in other show write up’s so I won’t bore y’all with that same stuff. It’s been a couple years since seeing them, plus AJ is a huge fan and we hadn’t been together to see them yet, so it was inevitable we’d be there. I also thought Roger was going to make it with us, as well as Marc from Paragon (a band who was doing the circuit with Firehouse back in those days and were friends,) but both had to bail at the last minute. Marc told me that Shawn was going to be there so that was going to be cool to hang with one of the guys from Paragon away from a Paragon function.
AJ and I decided that we would just save money and eat at home, so we left with enough time to make the show, keeping our plans loose. Traffic wasn’t too bad so we made great time. Tonight was at Amos’ Southend, a place I have been too many times over the years, but it has been a while. Shot the breeze with the staff we know there then went in and wandered around. There weren’t many people there yet, but I figured it would fill up eventually. We looked at the merchandise and then decided to get drinks and find our spot. Until the first band started we just hung out talking to each other. This is good quality time for AJ and I and I like getting it from time to time.
The first band up was called Sunset Strip and they were an 80’s cover band from Charlotte. They did a great job. They did a fantastic cover of Foreigner’s “Feels Like the First Time.” They weren’t necessarily the very best cover band I have ever seen, but they were pretty damn good. I think the thing that detracted from them was the singer seemed very uncomfortable at times. Perhaps more was going on than we realized. His voice was great, had a gospel quality which is why the Foreigner song really connected with me (plus I love Foreigner a lot.) The musicians were damn good, but the set list could’ve been better for me. Good songs, but not the ones I would’ve clamored for. Good band though and a nice warm up for the evening.
Next up was the opener I was most interested in seeing. They’re called Departure and they’re a Journey tribute band. I love Journey. Have for a very long time now. Never saw them with Steve Perry, but have seen them at least once (in some cases more) with each different singer and managed to see one other Journey tribute called Frontiers. I have loved every chance I have seen the band and the times I saw Frontiers. I had been hearing that Departure were the best tribute out there so my curiosity was piqued. Unlike Frontiers they try to emulate the image as well, wearing similar outfits to the classic line up, though they don’t go to extremes like other tribute bands do wearing wigs and stuff. Mostly it’s just shirts and the singer wears a jacket not unlike one Perry wore before. I have to say they were quite incredible. Musically, you can’t get much more spot-on than these guys, even comparing to the actual band. Though the singer isn’t a complete vocal clone of Perry, he really nails the songs and does them more justice than most anyone else can. I was so impressed with this band. This was their first time playing at Amos’ but hopefully not their last. One of the things I loved the most about their show was the fact that they were obviously having a good time. There were many times through the night the singer was blown away that the crowd was singing along so loudly and with such passion. The bassist was an absolute nut. He would gyrate along with the songs, kick his leg up in the air, and just was a total goofball, which added to the fun of the show. Had they been the headliner I would’ve been just as satisfied as I was after Firehouse. They were that much fun. And the perfect band sandwiched between Sunset Strip and Firehouse.
Speaking of Firehouse, as I have mentioned this was probably my 7-8 time seeing them live. Clearly I’m not only a fan, but a committed fan. I keep seeing them live because they never fail to put on an awesome show. Allen, Bill, CJ, and Michael are all four exceptional musicians and give 100% to their fans no matter what is going on in their personal lives. That is one of the things that I respect the most from them. They truly are a band doing it for the fans. I’ve caught some flak over the years loving this band because people think they’re cheesy, but I don’t care. They write great songs, put on awesome shows, and are super nice guys. Besides, I love me some cheese! The only complaint I had was, again, the two songs I have wanted to hear them play every single time didn’t get played. Maybe someday I’ll be at a show that they perform “Home Is Where the Heart Is” and “You Are My Religion.” Guess this means I’ll have to see them again, which is just fine with me. It was also just Michael’s Birthday, CJ’s was the next day, and it was some guy named Josh’s Birthday that night so we sang “Happy Birthday” to all three which was pretty cool. Yet despite the fact that the show went well, there were a couple things that happened in the audience that detracted from our enjoyment somewhat. For starters, as soon as Firehouse took the stage, this very tall and very big and very drunk guy shoved his way up front not caring at all about the shorter people behind him. He was also trying to persuade his friends to join him, but clearly they had more sense about them. So this guy kept lurching himself towards the stage as if he wanted to fly gently into CJ’s arms. During this though he kept knocking into people (namely me) and then he started making fun of this very short guy in front of him. I don’t know if the guy knew what this jackass was doing, but I suspect he did because it wasn’t long before he left the area. Not that everyone in the crowd was an obnoxious jerk. There were a few very nice people around us. They realized that they might obstruct people’s view of the stage so they moved further back. I would never demand anyone to leave from upfront (unless you’re being an asshole,) but a crowd should be able to work together to accommodate everyone there wanting to have a good time. Sadly, there were at least two more jerks out there. One stomped on AJ’s foot, which we initially thought had broken her toe and another dumped their beer on my arm. I turned around and the guy just shrugged. At this point we decided to step outside, and almost went ahead and left, but we went back in and stood over at the bar after I settled my tab.
Good thing we did just that because this was when we ran into Shawn. He was having such a good time and his vibe brought back our good mood. He’s such a great guy and I’m proud to call him my friend. Also during this time the singer for Departure was hanging out right around where we were standing. I forgot to mention, but during their performance the singer acknowledged me from the stage by pointing at his chin indicating my beard. Fast forward back to where we just were and he saw us standing there and walked over and we told him we thoroughly enjoyed the show and that I would see them any time they came around. He was very appreciative and super gracious to us. He then said, “I have got to do this,” and reached up and stroked my beard. As odd as that sounds it seemed appropriate somehow. He explained that he had just had a very long beard himself and had to shave it off. We took pictures with him, the keyboard player, and the guitarist. Finally their bassist showed up and we got pictures with him and the singer, just cutting up and having a good time. AJ, Shawn, and I along with these two crazy guys from Departure were just having such a good time. After all that the Departure singer and bassist jumped into a compromising position and I managed to snap off a great picture of it. I told them it would show up on Facebook soon enough. Most of this occurred while we waited for the guys in Firehouse to come out and do their usual meet and greet. We managed to be first in line, which was great since AJ’s foot was killing her. I really wanted to talk to them because like I said Marc and the Paragon guys were friends with Firehouse back in the day, so Marc asked me to tell them all hello. Plus I wanted to add in that Paragon were back in action. Bill was the first one at the table and he actually remembered me from the other times I have met him and asked how I had been. I have to admit that was pretty cool. I got a picture signed plus pictures with each guy taken. I would’ve loved to have had more time to talk with them, but there were others waiting and we were being shuffled along. We hung out with Shawn a little longer, plus met Kevin who ran the lights for Paragon at the first show I saw them. Another member of the Paragon family that was super nice.
We bid farewell to our friends and headed back home. Despite the couple of problems, we still had an absolute blast and will definitely see all three bands again at some point or another. We heard that Departure was already booking a return show as the headliner at Amos’ in February as we were leaving so we hope to be there for that one for sure. I suppose that takes care of this write up. Until next time always remember my peep’s: I’m an outlaw, I make my living on the run. My life is lonely, but I was born to need no one.