Rock Rules – “80s Week” Road Report

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Being a person, who experienced the 80s music scene first hand, it always rubs me the wrong way when I hear that time referred to just because of the hair. There was a big hair style at that time yes, but there was some great bands then making some great music. It was a fun time for rock n roll and I have so many great memories from that time. The years have past, but its great seeing musicians from that time still doing well, still rocking and some being better than ever. On a recent Florida vacation, I had the privilege of revisiting some great bands at a 80s Rock Weekend in Largo, Florida fresh off the Monsters of Rock Cruise. Here is what I was lucky enough to catch.

Night One – 80s Unplugged Night

Frank Hannon (Tesla), Mike Tramp (White Lion) and Ron Keel (Keel)

When I saw Frank Hannon listed to play while were in Florida, I had to go. Being born and raised in Sacramento, Tesla is something special to rock fans there especially for my wife and me. That was our hometown band that did good and made it to the big time. Tesla made great music, put on monster rock shows and just made us all proud to be Tesla fans. The special rock bonus with living in Sacramento was those “other” rock shows. Tesla members would do side projects for fun and we always were there for the Frank shows. He could play solo, Kaleidoscope, Moon Dog Mane, whatever…we were there. To me, this guy is the real deal music wise. He may shine in Tesla, but overall this guy can play anything. I have seen him play rock, blues, funk, you name it. Frank has a great musical feel and sound all his own. He is a great song writer, passionate guitar player and one of my favorite overall musicians. In recent years, Frank has shown he is still a force doing some great work inside and outside of Tesla. I was blown away by his Six String Soldiers cd. If you want a great rock n roll cd….check that one out. He also did a really cool acoustic cd, Gypsy Highway that this showed leaned to. I was stoked to hear these tunes live as I haven’t had a chance yet. He did not disappoint. Frank is always a blast, puts on fun shows, jokes with the crowd and even playing songs by request. In a jam, Ron Keel joined Frank and his bass player buddy, Aaron Leigh onstage to do some songs they did together on Ron’s new cd, Metal Cowboy. Keel is great live. I was impressed with him in the jam and during his solo set. The guys also brought out Mike Tramp from White Lion and did a great jam of Neil Young’s Rocking In The Free World. This show may have been billed as acoustic, but rocked! Thanks to all the guys for hanging out with the fans. We appreciated it.

Night Two = Vixen

When I saw this band listed the night after Frank, I knew it was to be a rock n’ roll weekend. I have been a Vixen fan from their early days. I bought their self titled release when it came out. I always loved that record. The first show I saw of theirs was an acoustic charity show called Rock For Toys put on by local 93 Rock. I loved their songs and it was after meeting the ladies that they really impressed me. They were not ego rockers, but some of the sweetest people I have ever met music wise. I actually got a Christmas card from them put it that way. They put out a couple of cool cds before going different ways. It was years later when VH1 got the band back together for an episode. As a long time fan, I remember watching the show and just being happy to see them all playing together again. There were still some tensions you could see. I can only imagine the life on the road and surviving in the crazy music business. However, they put things aside and made a great reunited episode. I was jealous and wish I could have been there for that reunion show. I hoped a true reunion would happen, but it did not, but almost. It came to light recently that the differences were finally put aside, but sadly just as the reunion was in the works, Jan the lead guitarist from the group passed away from cancer. That was a shock and hit me hard. She was a cool lady and great guitar player. She is truly missed. In her loss, Gina Stiles stepped up to help the band continue once again as Vixen. When all the ladies walked out onstage, I felt a happiness as it had been so long since I had seen them live and didn’t know if I ever would again. The Rev It Up tour was a long time ago put it that way. It was just so great seeing them all again. They still sound great, still look as great as ever and put on a great show. Lead singer Janet Gardner and Gina were a little under the weather. From the sounds of it, it sounds like the MOR Cruise was a crazy party. Even a little under the weather, they all played strong and gave the fans a great show. The band introduced a new song in Jan’s memory. Janet read lyrics off a sheet as it is still very new. You could see the loss still hurts them and made the song hit even harder. It was so great seeing Vixen once again. I look forward to seeing what they do next album wise and really look forward to their next show. Vixen is BACK folks!

Overall, it was a great time for all those who went. The days of the big arena rock shows might be a thing of the past, but these musicians still give the kind of performances they used to. There is still much talent here. Take advantage of the chances we are now given to see these great shows in more intimate venues. These musicians were great then are even better now.

Photos from the shows

Frank Hannon/Mike Tramp/Ron Keel –

Vixen –


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