Monday, July 30, 2018

Summer Time Rocking with COUNT'S 77 - Gig Review from Snoqualmie, WA on 7/27/18

Count's 77

Snoqualmie Casino
Snoqualmie, WA

(all photos by Mark Sugiyama - Eclectic Arts)


I was born in 1970. I saw my first concert in 1979. I saw my second concert in 1982. So, while I consider myself more of an 80's rock and metal guy, I can also appreciate the rock bands of the 70's without question.

The rock bands of the 70's plugged in, turned it up, and put the pedal to the musical metal. This was an era where there were no backing tracks (at least not compared to what many artists use today), no Pro Tools, no MTV, "no social media" (inside joke - watch my interview with the band), etc. Many bands jammed - guitarists went nuts - and the vibe was down and dirty rock and roll at it's finest.

This brings me to Count's 77. They are a six-piece band out of Sin City (Las Vegas, NV) that gained national and international notoriety due to their lead singer - Mr. Danny Koker aka The Count. For those not in the know, Danny is the star of the hit television program, "Counting Cars" on History. The show is in its 8th season (Tuesday's) and going strong.

I know what some of you are thinking. This must be a vanity project of Danny's. He put together a band so he can go on stage, sing some tunes, and feel like a rock star. As if owning his own car shop (Count's Kustoms), tattoo shop (Count's Tattoo Company), rock bar (Count's Vamp'd), production facility (The Count's - Desert Moon Productions), and being on TV wasn't enough, he must be center stage in a rock band to get even more attention for himself and his brand - the ultimate narcissist.

And you'd be dead wrong.

Count's 77 is a band. Once you see them play live, they will leave no doubt in your mind that they are a rock and roll band, pure and simple. No pretense, no bullshit, not a vanity project - just a honest group of musicians that love 70's era rock and have a great time playing it.

Stoney Curtis and John Zito on guitars, Barry Barnes on bass, Paul Disibio on drums, and Tommy Paris on keyboards complete the lineup.

Stoney and John have to be two of the most underrated guitar players out there. Blues based rock licks for days my friends. You know the formula - Gibsons/Fenders, Marshalls, and a whole lot of guitar-slinging attitude were the order of the day. I was beyond impressed with both guitarists. Stoney was digging in deep with his lead work all the while throwing shapes on stage. John had his Les Paul slung low so his right arm was hanging straight while he had his way with one song after the next.

And if you like extended guitar solos - you were in heaven Friday night. Stoney and John just went for it. I have to add I appreciated John's slide work as well. Man oh man - when you have guitarists like Stoney and John in your band, you can't go wrong. You just can't!

Not to be out done, Barry and Paul were rocking the rhythm section. Also seasoned professional musicians, it was a pleasure, a pleasure man, watching these two get down each and every song. I really liked how Barry played for the song - sometimes keeping it simple and grooving, while other times showing his chops with the occasional right handed tap high up on the neck inbetween a barrage of notes on his Fender. Paul, as all drummers are, was the engine in the band. Pounding the crap out of his kit with watch-like precision but loose enough to make sure the groove wasn't lost, Paul kept the train rolling all night long.

Tommy played keys and sang to add that crucial musical layer to the songs. All of the guys did backup vocals but Tommy's were key (pun intended) to creating that 70's vibe of a live band playing without a net. From organ to piano and everything inbetween, Tommy brought everything together.

With five stellar musicians in Count's 77 - this made quite honestly for a tall order for the lead vocalist. If Danny couldn't sing or even couldn't sing very well, man, the audience would know (musicians or not). So how did The Count fare?

Like a rock star!

You could tell this was Danny's way of rejuvenating his soul. Many don't know but music was Danny's first passion - passed on from his father. He's been singing forever. So, those that wondered how this "car guy from TV" would fare on stage - he showed just how much he can sing but more importantly - how much he absolutely loves music and Count's 77.

You can't fake your personal energy when you perform in front of an audience. If you're dialing it in on stage, if you're a hack of a musician, if you're a conceited jerk, the fans will pick up on it. Danny's energy emanating from the stage was nothing but pure joy. We all witnessed a man, a vocalist that loved every minute of playing music. Did I mention the show was two hours?! If there wasn't a curfew (due to this being an outdoor concert), they easily could of played three hours. Count's 77 is the real deal, folks.

Spend five minutes talking with Danny and you'll find a guy that feels blessed to be doing what he's doing. He's not acting per se on "Counting Cars", he is being himself. It really is a case of what you see is what you get. A humble, hard working guy, that loves what he loves, made businesses out of those interests, and wants to have a good time enjoying life and the people he encounters along the way. You couldn't meet a nicer guy or the guys in the band!

The band played songs from their two albums - their 2014 self-titled debut and 2017's "Soul Transfusion". Mixed in were some of their favorite covers from classic bands from the 70's - think Golden Earring, Foghat, The Doors, Bob Seger, you get the idea.

The Count's 77 concert at Snoqualmie Casino on Friday was a testament to the power of music, musician-friendship, and, really, the American way. The guys in the band clearly love playing together and it showed in spades. If you ever get the chance to check out Count's 77 - either in Vegas or in your town, do so. You'll leave with a smile on your face, your soul fulfilled, and your head full of 70's rock and roll memories.

Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

EA on YouTube

P.S. I have to add this - I gambled a bit on the slots that night. When I cashed out my tickets, the amount I was given was: $70.70. I kid you not! The Count works in mysterious ways.

Thanks to Kevin for the credentials to interview the band as well as shoot/review the show. Also thanks for offering to be the videographer so my mom could relax and just listen in to the interview. That was much appreciated. Thanks for everything!

Thanks to Jennifer from Snoqualmie Casino for the day of event assistance - everything went smoothly and professionally. I hope to see you at more shows at Snoqualmie.

And of course huge thanks to all of the guys in Count's 77 - you guys are the best and I wish you every success! Any time you're in the greater Seattle area, with any of your bands, let's get together and talk shop over some brews and tunes. Safe travels!


Wednesday, July 25, 2018

DISENCHANTED! In Seattle! Event Review - 7/20/18



12th Ave Arts Mainstage
Seattle, WA

(All Photos: Fiely Matias)


"Disenchanted!" had its opening night on Friday at the 12th Ave Arts Mainstage. The Disney princesses were in abundance and the audience was ready for the Seattle debut of this new musical comedy.

With the book, music, and lyrics by Dennis T. Giacino, "Disenchanted!" puts a new spin on the typical princess concept. The able cast:

Caitlin Frances, Jessie Selleck, Ann Cornelius, Camilla Smith, Gloria Alcala, and Aimee Karlin portrayed ten different princesses with story and song.

Caitlin as Snow White, Jessie as Cinderella, and Ann as Sleeping Beauty started Act 1 with a humorous bang. Throughout the show, historical reality, sexual innuendo, and female empowerment ran amuck as the cast sang their way through several numbers. Mulan (Aimee Karlin), Belle, Pocahontas, The Little Mermaid, and The Princess Who Kissed The Frog (Camilla Smith) all made their presences known before the end of the first act.

Act 2 started with arguably the funniest number, "Not V'One Red Cent featuring a uni-browed Rapunzel (Gloria Alcala) barking the song out which eventually led to an uneven crowd participation battle. Major kudos to the two gals that were the other team VS the rest of the audience. Their good-natured fun to sing as loud as possible made the contest work extremely well.

"Once Upon A Time" and the reprise of show opener, "One More Happ'ly Ever After" ended the show on a high note!

The cast was wonderful - voices, acting, and timing. I would say (as did others around me) that Cinderella, played by Jessie Selleck, really stood out whenever she was on stage. Perfectly capturing a ditzy Cinderella with spot on comedic timing, Jessie was a delight to behold.

Caitlin Frances as Snow White kept the show going as a MC for the evening. Her theatre experience came through any time she was on the stage.

Ann Cornelius as Sleeping Beauty got many a laugh during the performance. Her animated performance (when she wasn't catching z's) brought a high dose of energy to the show.

Adding color to the show so to speak, Camilla Smith belted out her number with soul and attitude.

While all the cast had strong voices, I particularly enjoyed Aimee Karlin's voice during her numbers. I would love to hear her sing in a dramatic performance and/or concert setting.

The theme of female empowerment was threaded throughout "Disenchanted!" but it never felt like man bashing or a feminist rally. It drove home the point of how ridiculous it is that over the years the princess image has been portrayed as anything but realistic for young girls. On a wider scale, the show pushed for everyone, young and old, to be themselves, regardless of what media or society has told us is "normal".

"Disenchanted!" was a show that was highly entertaining and worth the price of admission. The cast and crew clearly put in massive amounts of time and energy to make this show what it is.

Summers in Seattle are always full of things to do. Make sure seeing "Disenchanted!" is high on your list!

See you at the theatre!

Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

EA on FB
EA on Instagram

Special Thanks: Brad for the credentials - thank you so much for the opportunity!

"Disenchanted!" runs through August 18th! Performances are on Th (evening), Fri (evening), Sat (matinee and evening) and Sun (evening).

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

STAR WARS - A New Hope IN CONCERT Event Review - 7/15/18

Star Wars - A New Hope
In Concert

Benaroya Hall
Seattle, WA


I saw the original Star Wars in the theater in 1977. I was either 7 or 8 years old at the time. Like millions around the world, the original trilogy holds a special place in my heart as, at the time, I had seen nothing like it.

Enter the Seattle Symphony's event! The original 1977 film shown (actually the special edition) with the score by John Williams performed live. There were four performances scheduled over the very warm summer weekend in Seattle at Benaroya Hall.

As soon as the house lights dimmed, after conductor Lawrence Loh made his entrance, the symphony started playing the 20th Century Fox fanfare. My goodness - I was sold! Hearing that fanfare was both amusing and awesome at the same time. The opening credits blend so the fanfare really has to be played to make any sort of sense with the timing of the film as it's shown.

Of course everyone knows the main Star Wars theme. The opening note of the theme garnered cheers from the audience and we were off!

The Seattle Symphony sounded wonderful! They are currently in the running for the prestigious Gramophone international award. You can go to to cast your vote for them - they are the only US symphony nominated so let's get them the win!

The movie played, certain characters and lines received applause from the audience, and as I said in my Jaws review, this is the way to see a movie. I wish every film could be shown with a live symphony the caliber of the Seattle Symphony. The crowd stood on their feet as the credits finished.

I can't recommend enough seeing one of these film events when the Seattle Symphony puts them on. I know they have two scheduled for next year (E.T. and Amadeus) but hopefully they schedule a few more before then. Suggestions would be something from Tim Burton/Danny Elfman in October or Raiders of The Lost Ark would also work well.

If you've never been to the symphony or feel its something you wouldn't like, these events are the perfect "starter" for the novice to get your feet wet. A popular culture film with a live performance of the soundtrack by the Seattle Symphony - do yourself a favor and go see what the fuss is all about - Seattle has one of the best symphonies in the world right here!

Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

SWEET LAND, the Musical Opening Night Review - 7/13/18

Sweet Land, the Musical

Taproot Theatre
Seattle, WA

Hugh Hastings, Michael Winters, Pam Nolte, Molli Corcoran, Tyler Todd Kimmel, Daniel Stoltenberg, April Poland and Chris Shea in Sweet Land, the Musical at Taproot Theatre. Photo by Erik Stuhaug.


Opening night and the house was full for the debut of this musical. "Sweet Land, the Musical" takes place in Minnesota in both 1920 (primary) and 1975 (secondary).

Olaf Torvik, a Norwegian American farmer, is to meet his bride to be for the first time, Inge Altenberg, a German woman who had worked for Olaf's family in Norway before departing for America.

Inge, played by Molli Corcoran, is both excited and cautious about meeting her new husband in a foreign country. Molli Corcoran portrays Inge as a woman of inner strength who does not bow down to the societal norms of the times. She is met with resistance by some of the town's folks due to her German background.

This point becomes an interesting aspect of the musical. Inge's background is treated much in the same way Japanese Americans were treated during and after WWII, the Muslim community after 911, etc.

Olaf, played by Tyler Todd Kimmel, doesn't want to create any problems. He only wants to marry his wife so they can live their life on his farm. Olaf's farming neighbors, Alvin and Brownie Frandsen (played with scene stealing worthiness by Chris Shea and April Poland) take in Inge until the couple can be properly married. The story continues to evolve from there with a satisfying ending.

"Sweet Land, the Musical" is based on the 2005 movie by Ali Selim and the short story "A Gravestone Made Of Wheat" by Will Weaver.  Perrin Post and Laurie Flanigan Hegge wrote the book for the musical.

The musical has several numbers in it, played with a group of high caliber musicians. I found "Sweet Land, the Musical" entertaining, humorous, and thought provoking at times. The performances were strong and chances were taken by some of the actors (many with long resumes in the theatre world). The use of screens to portray locations, time of day, etc. worked very well, too.

I wish there were showcase numbers for Inge and Olaf to sing individually. Molli and Tyler have beautiful voices but I kept yearning to hear the showstopper song from each of them that never came. Granted, the setting of the musical is small town USA but, still, I would of loved to have heard solo numbers from each actor that showcased their talents.

Overall, "Sweet Land, the Musical" was a joy to take in at the Taproot Theatre.

Until next time - see you at the theatre!

Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

EA on FB
EA on Instagram

Special Thanks: Isaiah for the credentials - thank you so much for the opportunity!

"Sweet Land, the Musical" runs through August 18th!

April Poland, Michael Winters, Molli Corcoran, Tyler Todd Kimmel and Chris Shea in Sweet Land, the Musical at Taproot Theatre. Photo by Erik Stuhaug.

Molli Corcoran and Tyler Todd Kimmel in Sweet Land, the Musical at Taproot Theatre. Photo by Erik Stuhaug.

Molli Corcoran and April Poland in Sweet Land, the Musical at Taproot Theatre. Photo by Erik Stuhaug.

NEXT UP: Baskerville - A Sherlock Holmes Mystery - 9/12-10/20

Monday, July 9, 2018

THE DAMNED Bring Evil Spirits To Seattle! Gig Review 7/7/18

The Damned


The Showbox At The Market
Seattle, WA


The Damned returned to Seattle on Saturday night, a little over a year since their last show at the Showbox at the Market. Promoting their newest studio album, "Evil Spirits", The Damned were on a short west coast tour before heading back to Europe (with a return to the U.S. later this year).

Opening the night was Guida, from Rome, Italy. Music certainly is the universal language because I had no clue this band was not American. Their brand of 70's rock mixed with the energy of early punk caught me off guard. I figured they were a band from LA or NY. Nope. Their 40-minute set was rip roaring with vocalist Tenda keeping the energy up the whole set (other than when he left as the band did an Elton John cover). Guida was a great choice of band to get the blood pumping for The Damned.

Around 10:15pm, the intro music started and the members of The Damned walked on stage. Captain Sensible, as always, grabbed the microphone and said a few things to the audience before the band launched into, "Wait For The Blackout". Dave Vanian then walked on stage to join the band - looking the part of dapper English gentleman. Clean-shaven and impeccably dressed, Vanian sounded as good as ever.

The set-list was somewhat familiar territory - with a few new songs of course. The first single, "Standing On The Edge Of Tomorrow" sounded even better live. Different periods of the band were showcased with everything from the obligatory, "New Rose" to the gothic pop of "Eloise". "Ignite" with its audience participation portion as well as main set ender, "Neat Neat Neat".

The Damned came back on stage for not one, but two sets of encores. Ending the show with, "Smash It Up", the band waved goodbye as Captain Sensible said as much on the microphone. No "mooning" this year from the Captain as he walked off stage.

The 90-minute set was well rounded and, again, there was something for every fan of The Damned. The new album is really worth a purchase. It's great to see a band not go the nostalgia route and instead put out a new album that can stand up against the back catalog.

We've been very fortunate to have The Damned play Seattle two straight years. If we are fortunate enough to have them play here a third year - I highly suggest you not miss it!

Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

EA on FB

EA on Instagram

Special Thanks: Jo for the credentials - thank you for the opportunity!

(click on any photo for a larger image)