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Y Not

On the heels of a successful Y&T reunion, Dave Meniketti returns to Santa Cruz as a solo act

By Greg Cahill

'I love this job," says Dave Meniketti. "The live performance, the interaction with the fans, this feeling that is unexplainable to someone in any other job. When you stand up in front of an audience of a couple of thousand people, or even a couple of hundred, and feel the emotion that they're giving back to you from what they're getting from you--well, there is no other feeling quite like that."

It's been 30 years since Meniketti, bassist Phil Kennemore and drummer Leonard Haze--Oakland residents at the time, one and all--formed the core of a band inspired by the melodic hard rock of Deep Purple and named after the Beatles' Yesterday and Today album (the band shortened its name to Y&T in 1978).

Y&T's first two albums--1976's eponymous debut and 1978's Struck Down, both released on the London label--won kudos for their melodic rock, swaggering confidence and biting guitar riffs. Sales were slow at first, but on nearly a dozen major label albums released throughout the '80s and early '90s, Y&T unapologetically flew in the face of the punk, New Wave and grunge onslaughts to build a rock-solid blue-collar following. Some critics derided Y&T as defiantly unhip--the All Music Guide decried the band as "little more than a blot on the American hard rock canvas."

But after a four-year respite and playing with its original lineup for the first time in 15 years, Y&T regrouped for some dates last year. Now leader Meniketti is on the road solo, playing Friday at Moe's Alley.

He realizes the band he is best known for has often been portrayed as the Bad News Bears of hard rock. The rap on these big-hair, power-ballad-toting rockers was that Y&T had one of the best live performances around but suffered from bad luck, missed opportunities and an inability to convey on record the sheer energy of their concerts.

"I've heard that assessment for most of my career," Meniketti says with a laugh, "so it's not something new to me. And I understand some of that--actually I understand the whole thing, but I don't necessarily agree with it. When you're in the studio, there is a whole different energy than when you're onstage, and it is difficult to capture that on tape. So there is some validity to that criticism."

In an up-and-down career, he's taken the good with the bad.

"There are breaks and there are breaks," he says. "Sometimes there are mistakes made by management or the record label or the band members themselves. And in collaboration with all that happening, you never know how the dice are gonna roll."

Lately, the breaks seem to have been good. A promoter coaxed Y&T back onstage in 2002 to join Joe Satriani, Journey and several other '80s acts at the Chronicle Pavilion. "We were just sort of testing the waters," he says, "and when people found out about it things just sort of went crazy. We started getting offers for festivals in Europe and all sorts of gigs."

In the summer of 2003, Y&T played the huge Monsters of Rock tour in England, along with former Thin Lizzy guitarist Gary Moore and White Snake--suggesting Meniketti's standing in the pantheon of rock is greater than Y&T's detractors want to admit.

"It was great," says Meniketti. "It's always good to play, and it was a real exciting thing for fans to see the band after almost 20 years. And it was equally exciting for us because we knew that fans were anticipating seeing the band again. It made for great performances for us."

The success of the U.K. tour ignited interest in the United States, stoking a renewed interest in Meniketti's music.

"I mean, the whole thing about enjoying music is to get out there and play in front of people and get the reaction of the fans," he says. "That's the most exciting part for me, and I sorely missed doing it in a big way like we did in the '80s."


Dave Meniketti performs Friday, Sept. 3, at 9:30pm at Moe's Alley; tickets are $15; 831.479.1854.

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From the September 1-8, 2004 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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