She's back! Karen recently got her motor running and headed on down the highway with BOCFanBob again to see some of BOC's West Coast run in March 2007...

The last time she saw some west coast gigs, she was a visitor. Now she was seeing them for the first time as a local...

Here's her account of those four days in March...

OK, so a relatively short drive by our standards to San Francisco last Thursday, only 40 or so miles, but the roadtrip adrenaline was flowing and the anticipation starting to build. Slim's is a dump but in the last 2 years there I'd witnessed 2 of the best shows out of the many great shows I've been lucky enough to see. Could they make it 3 out of 3 for this venue for me? Would Eric crack and play White Flags? Well, ok, back on Planet Earth, I'd settle for Foot!! And there seemed to be strong likelihood of that since the Slim's crowd is pretty much as 'hardcore' as it gets.

All the usual suspects were there Melne, Che, Miller, Big Bear and Debbie (thanks again for the BOC rock you two), James, I spotted Rocking Reaper Sean sneaking in too but he disappeared before I could catch a word, Wally J Corpse, James, Larry...

Only one shadow on the horizon, we'd heard from 'Che that Allen is still ill and that he wouldn't be making this tour which pretty much sucked. Nice though it would be to see Danny again and get a chance to see Richie showcasing a few more of his seemingly bottomless box of tricks, I was still going to miss Allen. Hoping he gets well soon and the cards Che and Miller were tireless in getting the fans at every venue to sign show him how much he is missed.

Yeah so Slim's is an overcrowded dump but we've found in previous years the sound there is great - almost cd quality up on the balcony - the staff is usually friendly and welcoming and the crowds are fantastic. Well let me say first off the crowd was as fantastic as ever but I don't know if there's been a change of management or something but something was clearly not right from when we arrived.

There was no parking for the band and security were being first class *$$holes, cooperation and compromise were clearly not on the menu. It took till 3/4 of the way through the opening band's set - not bad btw - to finish frisking all those who had been waiting since before the doors opened and get them inside and we were given hassle when we tried to take up our usual spot on the balcony, ah well, we got there in the end.

Did I say the sound was always great at Slims? Hmm, well this time it had much less than the clarity we've come to expect there. It sounded almost muddy on occasion and at some points Buck's guitar, which I think you'll all agree is sort of an essential ingredient in the mix, was almost inaudible and Richie's keys were very much muffled too which was disappointing since I wanted to HEAR how he was doing, confident and easy though he looked. Of course it wasn't bad enough to spoil the show just a bit of a let down for a venue which usually has such exceptional sound quality.

The set. I've always liked Stairway to the Stars as an opener, gets the crowd rocking from the off and following it up with OD'd is a masterstroke, keeping the up vibe and getting everybody ready for the Burnin' singalong. Don't know if it was only me and Bob but we noticed with Richie doing rhythm guitar and 4 vocal mikes the band has developed a much 'heavier' feel which adds a whole new groovy and funky dimension to a lot of the songs and definite changes in both the opening songs from versions I remember.

Eric was in exceptional vocal form and showing off some impressive guitar licks of his own alongside the Dharma pyrotechnics. And we got a tantalizing glimpse of some wonders to come from Richie on rhythm guitar who didn't solo on Shark or LDOM (which were both beautiful beautiful beautiful) but it was only a matter of time...

It was a with a touch of deja vu I refamiliarised myself with Danny's heav-eeeey basslines and enjoyed watching him prowling the stage jamming with Richie and Jules and looking to be having a thoroughly good time. We got a guest bass spot from Vixen's bassist and for a couple of songs Melne's beautiful guitar made a guest appearance in Buck's hands. Jules, kicked some drum-ass, he gets better and heavier and harder every time I see him and those tortured facial grimaces more and more ...well... tortured!!

Of course it became loweringly clear by the time we reached the encores we wouldn't be getting Foot, though I cheer-led as hard as I could from the balcony for it and for Slim's it was a relatively short set. Still, quality not quantity right? And since I got storming versions of Summer of Love, Career of Evil and Golden Age as well as Black Blade (when Eric howls 'HOWLS' it send shivers down my spine) I'm not complaining too much and afterwards Jules, who was also disappointed not to play Foot, did promise he'd campaign for it at some point during this tour, so home to bed to be up bright and early ready for the drive to Agoura Hills.

An oh-so-easy, traffic free and scenic run in glorious sunshine down 101, we left at 8.30am and were at our hotel just after 2pm ready to PARTY. Key BOC party ingredients Jack and Alma weren't far behind us, admittedly a bit hungover from partying with friends in Bakersfield the previous night but more than ready to soldier on when we all met up for pre-dinner drinks in the bar . There were several other fans hanging out there, including a couple who, picking up on the tour shirts, decided on the spot to go to the show too after a dip in the spa. Here's our first meeting with Ron and Roseanne who were already both well into party mood (not to say alcohol) even at that early stage of the evening. I went out to the spa before we left to alert them to the fact the band would be on at 9pm and there'll be more on them later.

Mr Bloom passed through with a local television crew while we were there and manfully accepted the 'blame' for the BOCFANBob/Karen saga. Well, despite the fact he tried to talk Bob out of coming to the UK back in 2003 "it's the same set, save your money", Bob contends it WAS his (and the rest of BOC's) 'fault', we'd never have met without them and Bob could still be living a life of blissful bachelordom free from a 'nagging wife'. Fortunately for Eric, Bob doesn't hold any grudges since he found out I can cook almost as well as I can shop for shoes.

First pleasant surprise at the Canyon Club - after, of course, meeting up with Harley, Bolle (with whom, incidentally, I had an interesting interchange about White Flags, it seems Bolle agrees with me that has to be one of THE greatest Bloom vocals EVER), Sexy Sadie and her friend Denise, LewBOC et al - was that they had removed the dreaded sofas and armchairs from the area near the bar leaving a much more accessible standing/dancing area.

AND there was no sign of my old CC nemesis, Bitchzilla (probably heard the armchairs had been removed) so it looked like we were in for a show free of her whining, 'Sit down I can't see!!'. Of course Alma and I were in the 'passing lane' for anyone who wanted to get past to the bar, no matter how many times we moved or how big a space there was for them to pass elsewhere the 'passing lane' moved right with us. But that's the way it goes at these rock n roll shows so no real matter.

Opening band were Bluebeard, not much to say about them other than LOUDNESS and (over) enthusiasm aren't always satisfactory substitutes for talent and skill, guys. There were no major changes to the previous night's set apart from the substitution of an atmospheric version of Harvest Moon for Shooting Shark. The sound was ass-kicking as were the performance levels, damn, they don't believe in holding back any.

Richie's not inconsiderable keyboard skills (despite what he told me about only ever having played keys to compose) were high in the mix as was Eric's guitar for a pleasant change. My suspicion that they had a heavier deeper 'feel' at Slim's with Danny's bass and Richie's rhythm playing was confirmed in spades at the CC. Amazingly full-sounding harmonies and plays on the backing vocals too which only enhanced the fact that Eric and Buck are BOTH in excellent voice these days.

Richie did a mini-solo break on LDOM and that really woke us up to the fact this boy is only in his mid-20s and he's got chops like this? Watch out music world we're witnessing something BIG coming this way in the future and I ain't talking about Godzilla. Once again a relatively short set for the Canyon Club where usually they play longer/more songs and once again no Foot much to mine and Alma's disappointment not to mention that of Larry hvy2nz who was very vociferous about it post-show when we hung out outside for a while. And Larry, I'm sorry they didn't play it for you too and I hope you didn't take it bad when we asked if your were going to Anaheim and you said you'd had enough trouble from the wife getting to the CC show, you asked "are any of you guys married?" It struck us as exquisitely funny for the simple reason we know how lucky we are to be married to each other ie partners 'who understand who understand'.

Post show fan parties are to me often as memorable as the shows and this time back at the hotel bar was no exception. First we had the Barmaid from Heaven who made us some really STRONG drinks and kept them flowing, then we had LewBOC who provided pizza to feed everyone and was just generally great, fun company, we were joined by Sadie and Denise and we had Danny, who was with some friends, out in the 'smoking room' by the pool. Richie, Jules and Jack joined us at various points and Woody stopped to say hi too. Mr Bloom passed through to say goodbye to his television crew and sat down with us to chew the fat a while. Now do you guys remember Ron and Roseanne who I mentioned earlier in this saga? Well they'd been to the show and had thoroughly enjoyed it and were back even more funny, fun and 'inebriated' than they'd been earlier.

Ron stopped in his tracks with his jaw dropping and a look of stunned awe at the sight of Eric and was falling over himself to introduce himself and say how much he'd enjoyed the show. Then he introduced his wife who, bless her, was so fuddled and so enjoying herself in her own little world I don't think she was quite aware of who ANYONE was when she blurted out "Oh, wow, aren't you that guy from ZZ Top?" Cue booze spews as we choked with laughter around the table - and Eric laughed as loud as anyone btw!! After Eric had left, the poor girl was thoroughly mortified but took our teasing in good part and she'll be able to dine out on that one forever. I have to say here we meet some wonderful people on our travels and Ron and Roseanne were two of the nicest.

Outside for a smoke I was treated to Danny practicing his 'cockney' accent culled from his time with Queen and was introduced to his party one of whom was a young woman out with her both her 'sweetie' and her psychiatrist (only in Hollywood). She fell for my English accent and my staunch defense of Sharon Osbourne when someone made a disparaging comment about her, and promptly decided to make herself my new Hollywood Best Friend. I don't mean to name drop here, well actually I can't because I have NO clue who she was, but she was clearly some big Hollywood celebrity (at least in her own mind) and she invited me to a Hollywood party so I could meet Sharon and Ozzy both of whom she told me she had interviewed on her show.

Sadly, given my travel commitments the following day, I had to decline the invitation, not that I doubted her word of course, perish the thought... I'm not really up on Hollywood celebrities so for all I know I could be doing my new BF a disservice in suspecting she wasn't being entirely honest with us. I went back inside to find Buck had arrived and joined us. My new BF had decided at this point that her Hollywood party engagement could no longer wait and was making a grand exit with her 'sweetie' and her psychiatrist in tow when she spotted Buck and made a somewhat drunken stagger of a beeline for him.

"Now, are you Robert de Niro or Joe Pesci?" she demanded. Cue general booze spew of the night #2. Oh well, on to Vegas.

After a heavy late night partying we felt remarkably good when we set out at 8.30am for another easy drive up the Pearblossom Highway and out into the desert, no traffic to trouble us and plain sailing (driving) all the way to the State line where road construction slowed us down at little but not enough to make a difference and we STILL reached the Boulder Station before the band and at the same time as Jack and Alma who had all flown from Agoura Hills. There was only one thing bothering me so far, no Foot and it didn't seem likely we'd get it in Vegas at a casino show where they tend to stick to the standards and since Bob was still ADAMANT we weren't going to Anaheim it looked like I'd have to wait until Tacoma or Tahoe for a chance to hear it.

Oh well never mind, I put that out of my mind and concentrated on having a good time with the next wave of fan friends (including Paul and Sue who were there in text spirit at least, sorry we didn't reply guys, Bob says you never get his texts when you're in the States but we were thinking of you and missing you) who were all there in force for the show which was a sellout (good news for Jack and Bob who both had extra tickets to dispose off - which they did - since Jack got comps from the Boulder Station after buying his and ours and Bob bought ours forgetting Jack had already got us some) and the room was buzzing. And this was the best show so far.

No major changes to the setlist apart from a blistering Buck's Boogie to open, hell YES baby!! Richie was fricking amazing on keys and especially in his dueling guitars bit on LDOM which was phenomenal, it was so cool to see him and Danny jamming like they'd been doing it for years and Jules just out of this world hammering, grimacing and sweating as he kept up with ALL of them. Eric and Buck seem to feed off these young uns' energy, there can be no other explanation for how they continue to see them and raise them the way they do with their own performances.

Did I mention anywhere I LOATHE seated venues? Well I'm sure I did but just in case you missed it the first time I LOATHE seated venues. That said we had great seats dead centre a few rows back and fortunately for me the people behind and in front were extremely tolerant when it all got too much for me several times and I leapt to my feet screaming and rocking out. I wasn't the only one, to one side of the room Lew among others also had ants in his pants and was up every time he could and Dr Phil captured the attention of the entire audience when he rose to his 6' 5" height during the encore arms pumping and dancing like a like a wildman.

Afterwards Bob wandered off to look for Jack Secret since he was supposed to be accompanying him home to feed his cat, and Jack and Alma wandered off somewhere else and I wandered about looking for everyone and finally found them in our favourite sports bar at Boulder Station which still boasts a 3 year old Rjay BOC sticker in the pool table. It was so good to see everyone including Harley and his lovely wife, Tammy, Superlurker Rick (aka Dr Phil), Rjay - who had clearly been busy since everywhere I looked I saw people sporting Rjay stickers - LewBOC and his friend Mary, Jim and Sue, Vegas Marc and his lovely gf.

As always it was the best fun to be with you guys and especial thanks to Harley who 'sponsored' Bob's gambling addiction when he finally came back from NOT feeding Jack Secret's cat since they didn't go there in the end. I do hope Jack went later otherwise he was going home to one pissed-off kitty after Anaheim and as all cat owners know, it isn't wise to piss them off.

Oh yes and on the subject of Anaheim where we DEFINITELY weren't going... someone must have twisted Bob's arm really really hard since all of a sudden it transpired we MIGHT be going to Anaheim. He'd see how he felt in the morning. Uh huh. Just as well I always come on these trips prepared for any eventuality because I had thought to bring along extra clothes...just in case, you understand.

The next morning we were sad to say goodbye to Jack and Alma who were flying home for Jack to get back to work, but it'll only be a few weeks until we see them again in Tacoma and I can't wait. Did I mention that my darling husband is as transparent as glass sometimes? Well he is and he also spoils me rotten even though he likes to keep me guessing which he did about Anaheim (not that I was EVER in any doubt) and he waited right until we reached the Bakersfield turnoff before finally admitting we weren't going that way (home). Hmm, surprise surprise. And I do love surprises.

So we were on our way to Anaheim where we were quite confident we'd find a room at the Ramada Inn that is THE fan accommodation of choice for the best post show parties in Anaheim. So we decided to go and catch up with Che and the road crew at the venue during sound check before going there to check in. Serve us right. Don't take anything for granted. Now, how to break this gently to Alma...Alma they pulled the Ram-It-On-In down and the sports bar too!! Gone, gone I tell you. Can you believe that?? No, neither could we and we had to stay at the Super 8 instead. Never mind it wouldn't have been the same without you and Jack and Paul and Sue and Phil and...and...anyhow on with the show.

While we were getting ready we got an urgent call from Che that roadie G-Man Eric was not feeling so good with an acid stomach and was in dire need of some medication, would we be kind enough to get him some and bring it to the show? No problem. We had been going to eat but decided to do our 'drug run' first and then go find food. Have to say Anaheim is notable for its lack of drugstores, supermarkets or anywhere you can buy medication and we drove around the streets fruitlessly for a quite while until finally we spotted a Target and 'scored' some Prilosec.

Intending only to drop the stuff off we ended up staying when we found sometime crew member Aaron (who I'd adopt as a 3rd son if he weren't in his 30s and in no need of adoption) had turned up for the show with his lovely gf Rebecca and found it difficult to drag ourselves away and even more so when Che told us Lynn was there and Jack was talking to Sam (culo) on the phone. But we were starving and show time was fast approaching so we ran away quick to get some food leaving messages for Sam and Lynn.

The show. Well if Vegas had been the best so far it was about to be topped. I mentioned how much I LOATHE seated venues. Well we took our seats in the middle for a few songs but found later the sound at the back - where we could stand and dance too without getting hissed at to 'siddown' - was incredible. Lynn, Leanne and Bryan joined us up there having had their own problems with people who like to sit at rock concerts (it jest ain't natural I tell ya). Oh my, where do I go for superlatives re the performances? I'll just have to make them up.

They came out in asskicking mode from the off and blazed a rock and roll trail right through Stairway and OD'd and Burnin' before giving us probably a definitive Shooting Shark with Richie, who was letting go just a bit more every show coming to the fore, with a solo that brought the crowd to its collective feet followed by another standing ovation for Buck minutes later. Jules looked like a wrung out rag by the end of that keeping up with those two and Danny looked to be in bass heaven.

Eric who had been raising the bar on his own vocals, keys and guitar all tour just ferking NAILED Summer of Love, Black Blade and ME262, I was in a frenzy of head-banging rocking-out (and that's probably why I still have a headache). And then LDOM just brought the house down with Richie growing in shredding confidence before our very eyes to the point that one day, very soon, Buck is going to have to watch out, as it was he had to deliver one of the best LDOM solos ever - and I've seen a good few - to top him. Jules and Danny gave us sensational solos on Godzilla and the outro on Reaper was sublime stuff.

And then the encores. Well they say all things come to those who wait and finally Eric announced that they were going to play something for the fans who'd been to every show on the run. I didn't need for him to finish and whatever he said after that was lost to anyone in my vicinity because I morphed into a screaming banshee crossed with a whirling dervish, (paid for that the following morning because I totally lost my voice and ached from head to foot.)

FOOT!!! FOOT!!! FOOT!!! Oh man, that was good. Seriously considered divorcing my husband and marrying Eric and Buck (if bigamy were legal here) and totally forgot to call Alma as I'd promised I would if they played it but I'm sure she'll forgive me this once. And then they let loose with Cities and The Red & the Black as a double whammy to end the run. What a fricking show!!

We went back afterwards to say goodbye and a million thanks to the band and crew and all the fan friends who were had been there with us. A million thanks to all the other fan friends we met and partied with along the way. BOC rocks and BOCFANS rock too.

Karen Cowley [ March 2007 ]