Postcards from the Pit: TESLA / Built By Stereo, Irving Plaza, 2/17/12

IMG_5237TESLA, on the 25th Anniversary of the Five Man Acoustical Jam.

 I waited 25 years for this show, and it was worth every minute. The experience was all the sweeter because I made new friends in the line, and they saved me a spot on the rail. So not only did I get to see a band I never thought I’d be able to see live, but I got to be up close and personal with them while I was at it. Best Valentine’s Day present I bought for myself ever!

Built By Stereo opened the show. They rocked as hard as they possibly could without falling off their chairs. I was especially impressed with their drummer, who brought some real power and pizzazz to their set. Here are some pictures of them:

IMG_5124The left half of Built by Stereo: Brandon Hood (bass) and Daniel Espinoza (vocals, guitar).


IMG_5121And the right half, with part of the left: Daniel Espinoza again, and also Derek Diesen (drums) and Tony Ricker (guitar).

And then it was time for TESLA. In the early ’90s they got lumped in with other “hair metal” bands largely, I suspect, because they had long hair. (And because early on they toured with Poison, Def Leppard and David Lee Roth.) But they really aren’t hair metal. They sit at the intersection of Led Zeppelin and the Grateful Dead – both of whom they covered at this show – and they have a much bluesier, jammier sound.

I got into them somewhere around the original release of Five Man Acoustical Jam (1990), and, while missed seeing them when they toured on that record, their covers of Lodi (CCR) and Signs (Five Man Electrical Band) were on a whole bunch of my high school mixtapes. They didn’t play Lodi at this show, but they did do a rousing rendition of Signs as the final song of the evening.

Before that they played a mixture of old and new material, including Hang Tough , Heaven’s Trail (No Way Out), 2nd Street, Better Off Without You and, of course, Love Song. The cover songs were Comin’ Atcha Live/Truckin’, which is a combination of TESLA and the Grateful Dead; Thank You by Led Zepplin; and I Love You, by the Climax Blues Band.

IMG_5150Jeff Keith; his trademark rasp is still intact.


IMG_5145Brian Wheat, sitting on his bad-ass acoustic perch.


IMG_5136The bad-ass acoustic perch, sans Brian Wheat. My corner of the rail totally wanted one of those for our offices.


IMG_5159Jeff Keith and Frank Hannon


IMG_5178Dave Rude, who they found on MySpace, after original guitarist Tommy Skeoch left the band. True story!


IMG_5194Frank Hannon wearing an electric guitar while playing an acoustic that was mounted on a stand. He switched off between them during the song.


IMG_5198Troy Luccketta, in one of my all-time favorite drummer pictures.


Brian Wheat and one of the several basses he had with him.


IMG_5213A whole-band shot. Brian Wheat is at the keyboard and hidden behind his Wall of Basses, but he’s in there!


IMG_5248Dave Rude and Brian Wheat

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