Thursday, October 16, 2014

Revin' It Up in Toronto!

In continuing a what has become a well-established tradition, Toronto’s Rockpile Clubs have
succeeded in outdoing themselves once again.  I've had comments from the US and around the world saying how much they wish they had a Rockpile in their own town because of all the great shows they present.  Joining the long listed ranks of incredible rock acts such as UFO, Stryper, Tom Keifer and more that have graced the stages at one or both of Toronto’s two Rockpile locations is now the all female membership of Vixen.  Thanksgiving weekend here in the Great White North, Vixen appeared on back to back nights (Friday and Saturday) once at each Rockpile location (West & East).  Vixen’s shows had been originally scheduled for May but suffering the effects of a severe allergic reaction to a medication mimicking that of food allergy, vocalist Janet Gardner was unable to perform and they were forced to postpone the trip up here.

Vixen were sensations in the late 80’s, the only all female hard rock band of the era to produce six #1 MTV videos, have four songs in "Billboard's Top 100" and sell more than a million albums.  In many circles the ladies, bassist Share Pedersen (now Ross), drummer Roxy Petrucci, vocalist Janet Gardner and guitarist Jan Kuehnemund were dubbed the "female Bon Jovi" and issuing two albums, Vixen 1988 and Rev It Up 1990 before disbanding.  In 2012 a reunion of the classic line-up was decided and planned but before the announcement Jan was stricken with cancer.  Following a nine month battle she succumbed to the illness and we lost her on October 10, 2013.  The surviving members, along with guitarist Gina Stile, are now continuing under the Vixen moniker in honor of their founding member and friend Jan Kuehnemund.

The Friday October 10, 2014 show at Rockpile West was nothing short of pure magic.  That's the only way to describe it!  My Facebook status after the show read: "I have seen many bands so far this year from all over the world. I've traveled to Sweden Rock Festival, Monsters of Rock Cruise and M3 Festival. There have been many contenders for concert of the year, but I have to say that Vixen tonight at Rockpile West is definitely in the top 5, and the top half of that even! Roxy Petrucci, Share Ross, Gina Stile and Janet Gardner are incredible together on stage........if you can make sure you catch their second Toronto show Saturday at Rockpile East!".  I had seen these ladies previously as they were performing at the pre-party for 2013’s Monsters of Rock Cruise under the moniker JSRG (Janet/Share/Roxy/Gina) at the time.  I had the CD’s, I knew the songs, but I must admit that I was by no means a rabid fan, probably only catching their show as I attended the party mainly to mingle with friends, fellow cruisers and artists the night prior to sailing.  It was that very performance that made me a fan!  I had obviously done these four ladies an injustice with my pre-disposed notion of what they were like.  They absolutely blew me away and thoroughly rocked the whole place.  Their show aboard the ship was exactly the same as were their performances during 2014’s excursion.  There was no way I would be missing either Toronto experience! 

Gina Stile at Rockpile West, October 2014-by Brian Ronald
With my position secured at stage front on Gina Stile’s side and Jimi Hendrix’s “Foxy Lady” on the P.A. (co-incidence?) the ladies charged into “Rev It Up!”, my fist in the air and singing in all my totally tone deaf glory!  Always one of my favorite songs, “Rev It Up!” was a perfect opener and the whole band sounded so tight and near flawless, see below for a video of “Rev It Up!” that I took during the following night’s event.  Next on the roster was “How Much Love”, another video hit for which Janet Gardner continued submitting the rhythm guitar as she had for the opener.  Janet regaled us with a comedic little story about driving up last night and crossing the border into Canada before the girls served up "Cruisin'".  During “Bad Reputation” Roxy stood from behind the kit, pointed at me with both barrels/sticks, perhaps recognizing me from my Facebook profile pic taken 
Roxy Petrucci at Rockpile West, Oct 2014-by Brian Ronald
on the 2014 Cruise by Decibel Geek photographer Brian Ronald of her and I.  Or perhaps simply acknowledging me for rockin’ out and singing to every song, but I like to think the former.  I pointed back at her with both arms fully outstretched and she easily tossed/floated me one of her drumsticks, what an absolute thrill for a fan, something I never get tired of!  I’m sure even a toddler could have caught the stick, but unfortunately not dumbass ole me!  It bounced off my hand, off Brian Ronald, off another friend and to her friend standing behind her, idiot I am!  Every once in awhile between songs we were treated to some of the Share Ross comedy routine as she told some jokes.  This was a new segment than I’d not seen previously and although I did laugh along with the extremely corny punchlines I shan’t be purchasing tickets if she goes out on a standup tour,
Janet Gardner @ Rockpile West Oct 2014
sorry Share!  What did also make me smile and chuckle with laughter was the gentleman on the other side of the stage and the large bouquet of flowers that he wanted to present to the band, a grand gesture indeed.  ”I Want You to Rock Me” contained a little crowd participation in the middle as Janet would sing a line from some big 80’s songs and we were to follow up with the next line.  Def Leppard’s “Pour Some Sugar on Me”, Slaughter’s “Up All Night”, Joan Jett’s “I Love Rock n Roll” and Poison’s “Every Rose Has It’s Thorn” were all included as we enthusiastically responded.  "Not a Minute Too Soon" and "Streets in Paradise" kept the momentum rolling and the fists high in the air.  We got some more Share bad but good comedy before Janet handed over the mike to her and her vocal stylings for a cover of Neil Young’s “Keep On Rockin’ In The Free World” at which she did an excellent job.  An emotional Janet then introduced “Love Is A Killer” with a few words for founding guitarist Jan Kuehnemund, saying thanks to her for giving them Vixen.  Tonight was the very one year anniversary of Kuehnemund’s passing and Janet visibly struggled to get through the song, choking up myself and several in the crowd as well.  Admitting afterwards how difficult that had been for her they barged right through into “Hell Raisers”.  Throughout the show I couldn’t help but marvel at the guitar prowess of Gina Stile, thinking that she has to be one of the
Share Ross @ Rockpile West Oct 2014
most underrated guitarists.  Stile simply, absolutely wails and the rest of the band is not short on talent either!  Roxy Petrucci’s thunderous drums resonated around the club as she hit hard with every note.  Share Ross’ thumping bass lines and Janet Gardner’s amazingly strong voice all meshed together in a perfect sound mix, something that The Rockpile West is also known for thanks to resident soundman Jake Disman.  Janet attempted to cut Share off as punchlines for more jokes were poised for delivery, but there was no stopping her.  "Love Made Me" followed before “Wrecking Ball” began with a short pounding solo from Roxy and closed down the regular set.  Considering that the crowd was not super full, given that this is our thanksgiving weekend, we sure were a loud bunch and Vixen was soon back on stage to serve us the Richard Marx penned “Edge of A Broken Heart” to wrap up the evening.  The ladies quickly went back stage to freshen up before coming out to their merchandise table to meet fans, sign autographs and take photos. Even though I had to run quickly to catch my bus home (or force being stranded sleeping at the airport) and couldn’t chat with them I’ve met these ladies before (on the cruise) and I can say they are very down to earth, friendly, humble, open and generally some of the nicest rockstars I’ve ever met!

Saturday’s show was held at The Rockpile East and went much as the Friday version, but I was again front row singing in all my tone deaf glory, fist high in the air.  I could see a Vixen show every day and it would never get old!  I was able to quickly join the line of fans waiting to meet the ladies, getting my Friday night edition setlist autographed and some album covers signed including Contraband on which Share Ross appeared.  I was so tired from working Friday, rocking Friday night sleeping for just two hours, working Saturday and then rocking Saturday night that I was only able to mumble some quick short incoherency at them!  I wish I’d had the foresight to print the pics below and bring them for autographs.  Thank-you so very much for coming to Toronto ladies, I can’t wait to see you again whenever or wherever that may be, but speaking on behalf of Toronto, please come back asap!
The Meister & Roxy-MORC 2014-by Brian Ronald
Share Ross-MORC 2013-by The Meister
Vixen & Meister-MORC 2014

The Meister

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