By Brandon “B-Mac” McCarthy, Photos by Matt “Rabit” Martinez Red Hare Images
Legendary drum God Mike Portnoy has to be one of the busiest musicians out there today. If anything, I would say that he has more on his plate than Corey Taylor and Myles Kennedy put together. He juggles so many different projects and is always on the verge of creating a new group. From the symphonic/progressive metal group Sons of Apollo to the metal jam band Metal Allegiance and founding the mafia metal outfit Adrenaline Mob, he has been able to tackle all these musical directions with such ease. The one project that he is a part of that I have been following since its formation was the Winery Dogs. This is a supergroup trio that consists of him, Billy Sheehan (Mr. Big, Sons of Apollo) on bass and Richie Kotzen (Poison) on guitar/vocals. They play mainly hard rock with a blues and jazz riff built into their sound. I have been wanting to see them for a while now. After a few years away and countless other projects to get through, the pack has reemerged for a tour with L.A. groove rockers ZFG. The 2nd to last show was at the National Grove of Anaheim, so Rabit and I heading down to let our dogs out and bark.
ZFG has probably one of the most unique and original names for a band. One does not usually encounter a rock band with random letters for a name, but I am sure it means something to the group. Besides a weird name, ZFG has a real infectious, groovy sound that reeks rock ‘n’ roll magnetism. Two of the members are the offspring of members of Toto. Guitarist Trev Lukather (son of Steve Lukather) riddled the set with funky melodies and riffs that sizzled the performance. Frontman Jules Galli has a soulful voice that is filled with joy and excitement. Every time a new lyric comes out of his mouth, his spirit lights up the stage because he is happy to be up there. Bassist Sam Porcaro (son of Steve Porcaro) made playing the bass look easy and relaxing. However, while Trev and Jules are dancing to the melodies, Sam is just standing stiff like a statue. I would like to see him have some personality up there, but I am pretty sure he likes the way he is up there, letting his music be the personality. That style reminds of John Entwistle of The Who, stands like a statue but riffs out thundering bass licks. Along with drummer Josh Devine’s steady and energetic beats, ZFG blew my expectations away. From “Vibes On” to “Can’t Get Over Your Sex,” “Just a Man,” “Special,” “Holehearted,” and “My Everything,” fans enjoyed ZFG with all their rock ‘n’ roll souls.
Full ZFG gallery below:
It has been a while since they been together, but the Winery Dogs were ready to let the dogs out, starting with “Elevate.” That is an appropriate song to open with because they lifted up our spirits. Kotzen was spilling his guts out on the microphone in a rough blues fashion. He has to be one of the most prolific guitar players around because he is throwing white-hot blues riffs out there that are layered with hard rock overtones. They do not mention him enough when it comes to greatest guitar players today, and that is a damn shame. Sheehan was a fucking surgeon on the bass that night. After Winery Dogs ripped it up with “The Other Side,” Kotzan and Portnoy stepped aside to give the bass master his spotlight. From strumming to tapping, slapping, and plucking, Sheehan dazzled the crowd with his intense bass solo that would make Flea a little jealous. Portnoy is still Portnoy, a gifted drummer who can play almost any style of music in his sleep (rock, metal, jazz, blues, etc.). One of my all-time favorite drummers today, he slayed the kit with fastidiousness and grace. The Winery Dogs were howling at the moon all night with their sick set list that included “Captain Love,” “Hot Streak,” “Damaged,” “The Lamb,” “Ghost Town,” “Devil You Know,” “I’m No Angel,” and “Oblivion.” They also performed a Kotzen original, “The Road.” When they were wrapping up their encore with “Desire,” Portnoy grabs one of his cymbals and starts wailing on the other cymbals with it. As Rabit would put it, “sometimes you just have to beat one cymbal with another cymbal.”
Full The Winery Dogs gallery below:
Old-school groove rock overtook the Grove of Anaheim. While it was not a packed house like it was for Nightwish or Sabaton, The Winery Dogs cranked out heavy duty blues rock that sounded better live. ZFG were delightful to see, and I hope they continue to a good presence in rock ‘n’ roll today. Their next touring gig will be opening for Toto in Europe, which is pretty awesome. As for the Winery Dogs, they vowed to return not only to play their classic stuff, but also new music off an upcoming record. They roll the dice, and always stay on a hot streak. To the Winery Dogs and ZFG, I salute you. Horns up!!!