The kids of Guitarmy are all right.
By Garrett Wheeler
Underage and Shredding
Led Zeppelin: eternally cool, eternally covered. It's no secret that every rock band worth its bar tab has at least a couple Zeppelin tunes up its sleeve, ready to deploy during those midgig lulls that leave booking coordinators wondering whether they would have done better just letting the jukebox handle the night's entertainment. And the need for Zep is justified: no other band (no, not even the Stones) amassed such a potent repertoire of go-for-broke, blues-based rock than the mighty Led Zeppelin. Love 'em or hate 'em, there's no denying their place atop the list of rock & roll's greatest ambassadors. The sheer magnitude of Zeppelin's supremacy in the classic rock scheme of things was probably what led Santa Cruz Musicscool director Dale Ockerman to choose the British foursome as a focal point for the student-led Guitarmy benefit concert at the Vets Hall on May 4. And trust me, you haven't heard a Zeppelin tribute till you've seen a Jimmy Page-style solo played by a kid who couldn't be more than three inches taller than his guitar.
Ockerman, who is himself something of a local rock legend, having played with the likes of the Doobie Brothers and Quicksilver Messenger Service, organized the show in order to raise funds for those students unable to afford private lessons. The Guitarmy's lineup of Musicscool rockers consisted of Cam Racca, Jesse Holsapple, Nick Wallace, Tyee Wallace, Drew Grasso, Hunter Braymer, Will McDougall, James Durbin and Jimi Jacobs alongside rock veterans Tiran Porter (Doobie Brothers) on bass and David Tucker (Mighty Mike Shermer, Sista Monica).
The band opened the set with the theme song to School of Rock, blasting through the number with five(!) electric guitarists, a bassist, a keyboardist and two vocalists. Guitarmy, indeed. The first half of the show consisted mostly of classic rock standards, including the timeless Pink Floyd track "Another Brick in the Wall, Part II." Whether or not the "we don't need no education" line rang true, it sure seemed like Ockerman's lessons had paid off, as one student's immaculate re-creation of the song's lofty guitar solo proved. Other songs featured in the first set were Cream's "White Room," Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Sweet Home Alabama" and Hendrix's version of Dylan's "All Along the Watchtower."
After a brief intermission, the Guitarmy reassembled ranks. The moment the parents and I had been waiting for had finally arrived: it was time to get the Led out. After a short intro featuring the beginning chords of "The Song Remains the Same," the group dove straight into a thundering rendition of "Heartbreaker," playing the iconic riff with the endearing intensity essential to any worthy Zeppelin tribute. Next came "Black Dog," with its equally renowned guitar part, solo and all (which, by the way, absolutely rocked). The Guitarmy continued its assault with the Houses of the Holy rock-anthem "Over the Hills and Far Away" before moving into "Immigrant Song." Not surprisingly, the show's climactic moment came during "Stairway to Heaven," with singer James Durbin pouring his heart, soul and vocal cords into the song's larger-than-life behemoth of a melody.
In case you were wondering, the spirit of rock & roll is alive and well--and if anyone should attempt to threaten it, simply ask: you and what Guitarmy?
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