Echoes of Zappa and Vai
Mike Keneally and Bryan Beller
Review by Ross Anthony

anniston Just recently I caught wind (which is much better than breaking wind) of a jazz-rock fusion concert headed by Mike Keneally (the late great Frank Zappa's right hand guitar man). As a fan of Frank and his music, I youtube'd Mike Keneally. This guy smokes. Not the archetype long-haired rocker of yesteryear, more the happy guy that sells hot dogs at the park. But, one hell of a guitar player! Intricate, fast, interesting, tasteful, and happy as a hot dog the whole time. Speaking of hot dogs, word on the wind brought me a delightful private venue called the Lark Barn in the Los Angeles area. That's all I'm allowed to tell you - mysterious, huh? Better, the music-loving owner of the barn was the happy guy grilling hotdogs, and ribs. Nice family.

Anyway, I loved the informality of all, but that encouraged a laid back schedule, so, very sadly, I had another not-so-bendable commitment which sent me on my way just as the Mike Keneally band was about to play. So how to write the review? Yeah, that's a great question. But I've got just the quirky answer that fits this serendipitous day. I'm going to review Mike's sound check. I heard it in its entirety. Heck, I was sitting nearly arm's length from the soundboard. Plus, here's the bonus material, I'll also review the Bryan Beller band who opens for Mike. But, in case that sounds lame, would you feel better about the review if you knew that the Bryan Beller band not only contained Mike himself, but every member of Mike's band, including Bryan Beller. "You no foola me." A little birdy tweeted in my ear. Or was it Chico Marx? In any case, dare I spell it out? No need for a personal change between bands. So…while Mike's songs were undoubtedly different … I think I'm on safe ground speaking to their talent.

The sound check contained the staple of such activity, George Harrison's "Something." Prompted of course by the sound man asking the band to play, er, ah, something. But the beautiful part, was that Art (the sound man) began to sing the lyrics through that little bendy soundboard mic. Fun. Bits and pieces of other favorites made the sound check including such mood swings as Ironman and Last Train to Clarksville. And while the drummer mics were being leveled, Mike took the opportunity to sing "Tonight you're mine …" a cappella and falsetto and rather lovingly horrible. " … Completely, you play your kick drum so sweetly."

While sound checks are, by design, rather tedious … the band did a great job of keeping a great sense of humor and an appreciation for the crowd with little jokes, nods, and a rather nice chunk of Yes's Roundabout. I don't know why it was so important to him, but one musician insisted his guitar not be in anybody's monitor speaker. I respect that. It reminds me of Steve Martin's request to have the letter M stricken from the alphabet. I think it's important for each of us to be adamant about a demand that no else can make sense of, but will nonetheless comply. Hmmm. I'm going to brainstorm on that tonight. Do you have one? Right on. Write in. Btw, that odd-demand guitarist, -- he rocks, too!

As for the Beller Band, I enjoyed 'em (especially Life Story & Special.) The instrumentals were generous in duration so that the audience and musicians could get into the groove. These guys delighted in the zone. Mike rips the guitar to shreds, but also plays some juicy lines on the piano as well. He's a pleasure to watch. Here's a guy who's played huge stadiums, been doing gigs for years and years, and still delivering his best lead for us while smiling as if this is his Zen. I really appreciated how he "happily experienced" the other guys' leads while on musical "rest." So, it's not just about the excellent music, it's about being in the moment, about riding that wave of sound. Who would like these guys? Fans of Stevie Vai and Frank Zappa, for sure. Also, rockers who are curious to expand beyond the three-chord standard and experiment with jazz, but still on rock terms. And, of course, jazz cats, who want to hear some of what their used to on amplifiers set to eleven.

-- Books by Author/Illustrator Ross Anthony --

  • Based on the Oct 23rd, 2011 performance at Lark's Barn. Copyright © 2011.
  • The Band: Mike Keneally, Bryan Beller, Griff Peters, Rick Musallam, and drummer Joe Travers.

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Copyright © 1998-2022 Ross Anthony, Author - Speaker - Solo World Circumnavigator In addition to reviewing films and interviewing celebs at, traveling the world, composing great music, motivational speaking, Mr. Anthony also runs his own publishing company in the Los Angeles area. While traversing the circumference of the planet writing books and shooting documentaries, Mr. Anthony has taught, presented for, worked &/or played with locals in over 30 countries & 100 cities (Nairobi to Nagasaki). He's bungee-jumped from a bridge near Victoria Falls, wrestled with lions in Zimbabwe, crashed a Vespa off a high mountain road in Taiwan, and ridden a dirt bike across the States (Washington State to Washington DC). To get signed books ("Rodney Appleseed" to "Jinshirou") or schedule Ross to speak check out: or call 1-800-767-7186. Go into the world and inspire the people you meet with your love, kindness, and whatever it is you're really good at. Check out books by Ross Anthony. Rand() functions, Pho chicken soup, rollerblading, and frozen yogurt (w/ blueberries) also rock! (Btw, rand is short for random. It can also stand for "Really Awkward Nutty Dinosaurs" -- which is quite rand, isn't it?) Being alive is the miracle. Special thanks to Ken Kocanda, HAL, Jodie Keszek, Don Haderlein, Mom and Pops, my family, R. Foss, and many others by Ross Anthony. Galati-FE also deserves a shout out. And thanks to all of you for your interest and optimism. Enjoy great films, read stirring novels, grow.

Last Modified: Tuesday, 25-Oct-2011 09:43:31 PDT