By Chris Del Grande
On November 16 and 17, in what has become an annual rock & roll pilgrimage, fans from near and far descended upon the historic Mystic Theatre in downtown Petaluma for a two-night stand featuring the Bay Area's own hard rock legends, Y&T. Tirelessly led by Dave Meniketti, a master on guitar and vocals, Y&T has been a landmark in our musical landscape since 1974. Nearly four decades later, this band continues to amaze every audience it encounters.
Among the opening numbers, the exceptional lineup of Meniketti, John Nymann (guitar), Mike Vanderhule (drums), and Brad Lang (bass) ripped through many of their essential fist-pumping tracks, including “Black Tiger,” “Dirty Girl,” “Mean Streak,” as well as the compelling new songs “I’m Coming Home,” “Blind Patriot,” and “Shine On.” But it’s when Vanderhule dials down the tempo a bit that the magic is unleashed. The passion, soul, and fire in Meniketti’s voice and his unbelievable fret work (a rarely equaled lethal combination) are never more evident than during the expressive tracks “Winds of Change,” “Midnight in Tokyo,” and the moving instrumental “I’ll Cry For You.” Meniketti dedicated the latter song to the late Phil Kennemore–Y&T’s original bassist and co-founder of the band, and Meniketti’s long-time friend.
In the end, though, very few songs get a rock & roll crowd more fired up than the one-two punch of the classic closing numbers, “Forever” and “Rescue Me.” Both are melodic, hard rock juggernauts that are as gripping today as when they were written over 30 years ago. With all of the entertainment options competing for your attention, let it be known that Y&T is a guaranteed good time.
For nearly a decade, the Mystic Theatre weekend has been a homecoming celebration for Y&T and their fans, following the band’s annual fall run across Europe. In 2011, the band decided to capture the experience. They recorded and have since released the 22-song, two-disc collection, Live at The Mystic. With an impressive sonic quality and a great track list, it does a remarkable job of capturing the intensity of a live Y&T performance.
Setting the stage perfectly for Y&T this weekend was the scorching triple-axe attack of the Frank Hannon Band, featuring the guitar wizardry of Frank Hannon (Tesla), Mike Araiza, and Billy Raney; a soulful and authentic Jeffery Sandoval on vocals; and Cortney DeAugustine and Aaron Leigh laying down a tight rhythm section on drums and bass, respectively. The band showcased exceptionally strong material from their new album, Six String Soldiers. This album, an homage to the heyday of guitar rock, features guest spots by a few of the originators themselves: Pat Travers, Dickey Betts, Rick Derringer, and Dave Meniketti himself. Six String Soldiers is an old-school, riff-heavy disc that literally demands your attention. Seek it out.
Following the weekend at The Mystic, Dave Meniketti sat down to answer a few questions…
BAM: Coming off a successful run of 62 dates across North America and Europe in 2012, are there any moments that were particularly memorable this time around?
Meniketti: The band has been proud to have such consistent crowds and positive responses that we have, year after year, in the UK and Europe. But in particular, whenever we play a new region, it’s always a great experience to come in to this unknown market and have an amazing response. That’s what happened on this latest fall tour with Athens, Greece. Even though the country is going through severe monetary problems, the fans came out and packed the venue we played. Their enthusiasm and passionate response was nothing short of amazing. They not only sounded louder than the size of the crowd would have normally sounded, but they also sang all the melodies of the choruses, and the guitar licks as well. I think we all had goose bumps from their reaction. This part of the world will surely become a staple for our touring schedule every year from here on.
BAM: On a recent nationally broadcast radio show, the late, great Ronnie James Dio cited you as one the most underrated guitarists and vocalists in the business – and he would certainly know. Many would include your songwriting prowess into that mix, as well. Can you share which aspects of your musical capabilities bring you the most personal satisfaction, and, perhaps, the most frustration?
Meniketti: My biggest satisfaction comes from playing live shows. This shared experience you have with the fans is the stuff that makes being an entertainer such an addicting job. Of course, it’s always inspirational to hear comments about songs meaning something special to fans around the world, as well as getting recognition from our peers. But the actual moment you feel the intensity of the crowd while playing will always be my favorite moment of satisfaction.
As far as any frustrations, I only have one with respect to being a singer. The human voice is a much different thing to control and respect, as opposed to any other instrument. Because I sing for more than two hours a night on the road, it’s always a dance to be certain I get enough sleep, while trying to do my best not to strain my voice from too much loud talking, or getting ill from the many colds and flus going around. I have adjusted to these requirements I put on myself, but they can still be a source of frustration, trying to balance it all when you are playing 30+ shows in two months. Overall, I have been very happy with how my voice handles adverse situations, so I strive to be certain it stays in top shape for my career, going forward.
BAM: Y&T continues to draw significant numbers at Bay Area venues and beyond, multiple times per year, which is a testament to both your live show and the dedication among your fans. The new double-live CD, Live at The Mystic, documents that experience incredibly well. Has response to this album met your expectations?
Meniketti: Yes, so far we have received a positive response to the live CD from fans and press.
We are very fortunate to have such dedicated fans over the life of our career who continue to support the band 39 years into our existence. It serves as an inspiration to us and a motivator to be certain we always give the best performances.
I think this new live CD is the perfect CD for anyone familiar with the band–or not–to give an accurate representation of what the band sounds like right now.
BAM: After 40 years on the scene, what keeps you capable of delivering with such intensity and passion during every two-hour performance? Are there moments out on the road where you wake up wondering how you will possibly ever deliver again?
Meniketti: I don’t really think about it in that way. I just know that I’ve always been the kind of musician who gets turned on by hitting the stage. The passion I feel for the music and my performances are written in my DNA, I suppose. It just happens every night without forcing it, so I must just be blessed to have this inner love and respect for what I do. It has never diminished, no matter how many years I’ve been doing this.
I suppose you either have this in you, or you don’t. But I’ve also noticed that no matter who is playing in the band, this feeling of energy and passion in our playing invades every musician in Y&T since our beginnings. It’s not something I can quantify or explain, but Y&T just has this thing about it. When you play in this band, the feeling takes you over.
BAM: Y&T’s most recent studio release, Facemelter , has been met with great praise from fans and press alike. Were these songs that were methodically developed over the past decade, or did you undertake a concentrated writing effort when the decision was made to finally record another album?
Meniketti: The songwriting for Facemelter was done as a completely new effort for us. Once we made the decision to write for a new record, we knew the best way for us was to take five months off, and just concentrate our efforts into jamming, writing, and recording. That is usually what worked best for Phil and myself over our career. Once we get into a groove, after a few days or weeks, the songs just start to flow.
Most of these tunes were penned over the time period of December 2009 through to March 2010. A few others were half-written over the months before that, while jamming out ideas in our rehearsal studio.
BAM: Music fans should not overlook Y&T simply as a nostalgia act, which is made evident by the crowd reaction when great new songs such as “I’m Coming Home,” “Shine On,” “Blind Patriot,” and “On With the Show” appear in the live set. How important is it for you guys to incorporate the new material into a set list that often features hit songs going back several decades?
Meniketti: It’s become very important for us to introduce new songs to the set list. A lot of fun comes from playing something fresh for an audience that has never heard you play that song live before. And of course, it really makes us feel great when we see a positive reaction over a new tune or an underplayed song. I believe that not only does it keep it fresh for us and the fans, but it helps to breathe new life into the classic tunes from our past being woven in between new material. Whenever we introduce either new songs or deep tracks from our past that have not been played much live, it becomes a special part of the set that we really look forward to each night. Luckily, because we play over two hours a night, it gives us the ability to throw different songs in the mix nightly, while still having more than enough time to include the classics.
BAM: Radio-play and charts aside, your favorite song/riff you’ve ever written?
Meniketti: Actually, if I were to pick one song that I think sums up the band, I would choose “Forever.” It has a perfect mix of melody, attitude, musicianship, and passion that is easy to grab onto right away, and it has the beat that makes you want to bang your head or move your body. It’s a highlight of every set list.
BAM: Given Y&T’s busy tour schedule over the past couple of years in support of Facemelter and now Live at The Mystic, have you and the guys had much opportunity to write new material? If so, can we look forward to another studio release in the future?
Meniketti: Like I mentioned previously, we usually do best when we take some time off to concentrate on writing. With that in mind, I would suspect we will all be writing during any bits of time off we have in the upcoming year, including right now. When we have enough material to know we’re close, then we’ll sort it all out–but for now, I have no idea when the next CD will be done. I’m hopeful that it will be by early 2014, which will be the band’s 40th year anniversary. Time will tell.
I’m Coming Home from the 2010 release Facemelter.
Mean Streak - Video by Karen Alvarez
The Y&T website for tour dates, fan forums, merchandise, and more. meniketti.com
The Frank Hannon website for tour dates, media, merchandise, and more. frankhannon.com
Last Updated (Friday, 21 December 2012 14:58)