All posts by Kara Blakemore

Former concert and festival photographer for Music Voice and No Cover Magazines in Phoenix. Contributor to various other magazines, radio shows and websites both locally and nationwide. I am an Arizona native, Cardinals football fan, crafter, and yard-sale addict. Music is what my life is about.

REVIEW: Robert Mason Hits All The Notes at Intimate Cactus Jack’s Show with Drop D (4-15-22)

PHOENIX— Valley local and current lead singer for Warrant, Robert Mason, performed at Cactus Jack’s Bar and Grill Friday night in Ahwatukee. What is special about this show is the intimate setting and interaction with the artist that is so rare and delightful, you never forget it. Mason recruited metal cover band Drop D from Tucson, Arizona to share the stage both April 15th at Cactus Jack’s, and again April 16th at Encore in Tucson for a show benefiting Women Warriors, a non-profit group supporting female veterans. 

Robert Mason singing and playing the keyboard
Robert Mason (Vocalist, Keyboardist)
| Photography:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

Mason on keyboards and lead guitarist for Drop D, Thomas Bach, kicked off a brief set with an incredible duet of Bob Seger’s song “Turn the Page”. Mason proved quickly why he has no problem heading such bands as Warrant, Lynch Mob, Big Cock Band, and even vocal support for Ozzy Osbourne. His incredible vocal range with a touch of grit would be a great fit for any band. Next up was Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Simple Man”. Mason wasn’t shy about using his phone as a teleprompter for the lyrics, saying, “Skynyrd used one at bike week too,” with a grin.

Robert Mason (Vocalist)
| Photography:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

Mason played a solo guitar and vocal version of Ozzy Osbourne’s “Mama I’m Coming Home” after sharing a story about the call from Sharon Osbourne that led to him touring on Ozzy’s 1995-96 Ozmosis Tour. This led into Mötley Crüe’s “Home Sweet Home”, and ended the first set.

Guitarist Thomas Bach of Drop D performing
Thomas Bach (Guitarist), Drop D
| Photography:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

Drop D’s Facebook page cites the band as “Tucson’s hard and heavy cover band”. There is not much information online about the band, but they are a fun foursome with lots of energy and a nice variety of songs in their set. They are definitely worth a watch when they come back to the valley. Members include previously mentioned Thomas Bach on lead guitar, KJ Padilla on vocals and rhythm guitar, and Corey Candray on bass. Drummer Bob Allen could not make it, but in his stead Ando Miller literally “lit up” the stage with his color-change drum kit.

Drummer Ando Miller performing with Drop D
Ando Miller (Drummer – filling in for Bob Allen), Drop D
| Photography:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

An audio clip of “We Are the Champions” by Queen was the intro for the band  whose set began with The Outfield’s “Your Love”. Padilla quipped they would play some more “songs older than I am” before covering Cinderella’s “Somebody Save Me” and Queensryche’s “Empire”. The “sound man Tommy” for Cactus Jack’s was invited up on stage and given a set of drumsticks to help play cymbals on Candlebox’s “You”. Van Halen’s “Unchained”,  Skid Row’s “Youth Gone Wild” and Poison’s “Talk Dirty to Me” set the tone for the next set.

KJ Padilla of Drop D
KJ Padilla (Vocalist, Guitarist), Drop D
| Photography:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

The final ten songs included both Drop D’s full band and Mason himself on vocals. A great set it was, considering the band claims to have had “no practice” prior to the pairing. Bach jokes that Mason was “just tolerating us”, but Mason chose this band to play these two shows with for a reason: talent, and lots of it. From Deep Purple’s “Highway Star” to Mötley Crüe’s “Kickstart My Heart”, Mason impressed again with his incredible talent behind the microphone. He then covered Dokken’s “It’s Not Love”, then stopped the show. His request? That the audience “engage in this moment” and put away cell phones, get out on the floor and dance.

Robert Mason performing with Drop D
Robert Mason (Vocalist) performing with Drop D
| Photography:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

Mason gave a toast to the audience in their honor, and thanked everyone for their support throughout his extensive career, then encouraged the crowd to sing along with Warrant’s beautiful ballad “Heaven”. He said he was grateful to be able to perform such amazing songs written by such amazing writers over the years. Wrapping up the set were the highly anticipated “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” and “Cherry Pie”, both big hits for his current band Warrant. Mason joined the crowd at the end of the show for photos and autographs, which thrilled the fans and Mason alike. 

Robert Mason performing with Drop D
Robert Mason (Vocalist) performing with Drop D
| Photography:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

Robert Mason, 57, has had an extensive career as a vocalist. He joined glam-metal band Warrant in 2008 and remains their lead singer present day. George Lynch’s Lynch Mob Wikipedia page shows his years active as 1991-1994, 2003-2006, and 2018. Robert says he moved to Arizona at the behest of George Lynch back when Chandler and Gilbert were “pig farms” that were turned into housing developments. His local “sleaze” band, Big Cock, wasn’t mentioned out loud by name because the band name “upsets my mom”. He appeared on 3 of their albums as lead vocalist: 2005’s Year of the Cock, 2006’s Big Cock and 2008’s Motherload albums, according to Heavy Metal Wiki’s page on Mason. 

Robert Mason smiling behind a microphone
Robert Mason (Vocalist)
| Photography:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

With endless stories about rock-and-roll life, Mason’s show was full of witticisms and talent, mixing music and tales of the road and his extensive career. He even encouraged a heckler who shouted out “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” after every song, assuring him he would get to that in the last set. We learned about tour life, Budokan, his friends and not-so-friendly acquaintances in the music business. We learned what it was like being a “hired gun” in the industry too. It was like visiting an incredibly talented old friend to share stories and a night of timeless music. 

Photo Gallery

Photographer: Mark Greenawalt

Robert Mason & Drop D – Cactus Jack’s 4-15-22

Photography © Mark Greenawalt.
All Rights Reserved

The Atomic Punks Bring David Lee Roth Era Hits to The Marquee (2-25-22)

Tempe, AZ — The return of The Atomic Punks, a Van Halen endorsed Los Angeles tribute band, was a highly anticipated one. Originally scheduled for February 11 at the Marquee Theatre, the date was pushed back to February 25 due to ongoing COVID-19 issues. Clearly, the delay wasn’t a “setback”, as the band brought an evening of high energy rock. The Atomic Punks had a trio of solid opening acts bringing the 1980’s vibe back to Mill Avenue.

Kill ‘Em All

Kill ‘Em All, led by Kevin Hughes on vocals, opened their set with “Creeping Death”, and the high‐speed riffs continued with “The Four Horsemen” and “Master of Puppets”. The band has been performing since 2014, but Kevin Hughes is the only original member.

Kill 'Em All performing at Marquee Theatre
Bobby Alexander (Guitarist) & Randy Omdahl (Bassist), Kill ‘Em All
Photography:
Kara Blakemore © All Rights Reserved

New lead guitarist Bobby Alexander impressed on his leads from his Dean Dimebag Dean From Hell CFH Electric Guitar and the crowd was fist‐pumping. Randy Omdahl’s solid double bass drums were hard‐hitting and paired with Ted Smith’s bass guitar and energetic hair flips, this solid opener was the perfect pick to open this show.

Guitarist of Kill Em All performing
Bobby Alexander (Guitarist), Kill ‘Em All
| Photography:
Kara Blakemore © All Rights Reserved

Black Mountain Project

Cave Creek’s local band Black Mountain Project showcased a fun, pop‐meets‐ grunge sound. Formed in 2018, their bio page states the name of the band “originates from our childhood hometown near Black Mountain in Cave Creek”.

Tony Chavez (Vocalist) & Trent Joiner (Guitarist),
Black Mountain Project
Photography:
Kara Blakemore

Tony Chavez on vocals was perfectly described by someone in the venue as “Layne Staley sings Steve Perry”. They performed their single “On My Mind” and dedicated it to drummer Billy Joe Thomas’s wife, who was celebrating her birthday that evening. The band includes lead guitarist Trent Joiner and Devin McMillion on bass guitar. Based on their unique sound and strong presence on streaming platforms like Spotify and iTunes, we’ll be looking forward to hearing more from them.

Tony Chavez (vocalist), Black Mountain Project
Photography:
Kara Blakemore © All Rights Reserved

Generation HEX

Starting their set with “Perfect Strangers” by Deep Purple was Generation HEX, a group of local musicians from various bands who combined to form a local powerhouse cover band. Vocalist Paige Mills covered songs, like Dio’s “Rainbow in the Dark” and Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain”, with the vocal range and skill these classic songs warrant.

Paige Mills (Vocalist) & J Mark Perales (Guitarist),
Generation HEX
Photography:
Kara Blakemore © All Rights Reserved

Norm House on keyboards is a familiar face in the local music scene, as are Eric Parker on drums, and back-up vocalist Michael Morris on bass guitar. Lead guitarist J Mark Perales never disappoints. He may be familiar as the former guitarist of the now‐defunct Desert Plains (Judas Priest tribute) but now shares his energy and talent with Generation HEX.

J Mark Perales (Guitarist), Generation HEX
| Photography:
Kara Blakemore

The Atomic Punks

Formed in 1994, The Atomic Punks’ bio boasts that the band was “Voted ‘Best Tribute Band’ by LA’s ‘Rock City News’ three years in a row”, and after a couple hours of David Lee Roth era Van Halen songs one can easily agree. Opening with their namesake jam “Atomic Punk”, the high‐kicking, blonde coiffed lead vocalist Brian Gellar personified the first Van Halen lead singer both visually and with the familiar rasp of his voice. His microphone stand spinning and laced leather pants rounded out the look we remember from the earlier Van Halen videos.

The Atomic Punks
Brian Gellar (Vocalist), The Atomic Punks
| Photography:
Kara Blakemore © All Rights Reserved

Current lead guitarist Lance Turner has big shoes to fill as Eddie Van Halen and didn’t hesitate to blow us all away with his Eddie‐esque leads. Dressed in the familiar patchwork leather pants and red kerchief around his neck, he handily dealt us strong covers of Van Halen classics from his EVH signature guitar. Joe Lester, on bass guitar as Michael Anthony, grabbed attention particularly on “Mean Streets” while drummer Scott Patterson handed us double‐bass power on “Hot for Teacher”.

Lance Turner (Guitarist), The Atomic Punks
| Photography:
Kara Blakemore © All Rights Reserved

The Atomic Punks have been around for 28 years for a reason: They’re damn good. According to The Atomic Punks’ website, Michael Anthony was quoted as saying, “I feel like I am back in 1982 performing with the old band!”, and has even joined The Atomic Punks on stage at the House of Blues in Hollywood – playing 9 Van Halen Classics for fans. David Lee Roth mentioned them in his 1997 autobiography “Crazy from the Heat”, boasting that the band is “The best tribute to Van Halen ever!

Eddie Van Halen may no longer be with us, but his footprint in the music industry is eternal in the hearts of his fans, and we thank The Atomic Punks for taking us back in time to our memories of Van Halen we hold so dear.

Photo Gallery

Photography: Kara Blakemore

View Separately:

Kill Em All
 | Black Mountain Project
 | Generation HEX | The Atomic Punks

The Atomic Punks, Generation Hex, Black Mountain Project, & Kill ‘Em All – Marquee Theatre 2-25-22

Photography © Electric Eye Photo AZ
All Rights Reserved

The Atomic Punks online: