Dude, I’m tellin’ ya………….
After everyone had such a great time seeing the Dick Ourada band last month, I wanted to turn you on to another extremely talented group of musicians I know.
Whereas the Dick Ourada band is a versatile group of guys that have been playing together since the early ’90s and have a song catalog of over 200 songs, this other band is a lot more “in your face” rock-and-roll. These guys tear the house down with a wall of sound. Dick O. and his merry men write a lot of originals recalling high school principles and crazy keg party memories. While they take their music quite seriously and have a lot of pride in their shows, the chief thing is to laugh, join in, and have fun. Dick dons various costumes throughout his shows and once they even did a medley of popular beer commercial ditties.
“Come to think of it……..I’ll have…….a Heineken”
On the flip side, you have West 34. Like Dick O, the leader of the band is a good friend of mine going back over twenty years to high school. Since the day I met him, “Diamond” Dave Johnson has been the best musician that I personally know and hang out with. And I’m here to tell you, it’s like hanging out with Joe Satriani or Joe Perry or somebody like that. In his band, they’ve assigned Dave the moniker “Big Wave” Dave Johnson. And it is appropriate because like I said……this band blows you away with a wave of “in-your face” music jams.
Dave is classically trained on trumpet and piano and used to play in weddings when he was just a kid. Both elements (actually trumpet, piano & keyboards) have been incorporated into the band. He wears many hats. But his main role is as the ass-kicking lead guitar player. This guy can friggin’ crank it out.
Back in high school when there’d be 30 or 40 of us hanging out at the forest preserve drinking beer and playing softball, Dave would entertain the crowd with his playing. Other guys would have their acoustics out and try to impress the girls as well. But Dave was the king. He’d take requests and play sixty or ninety seconds of whatever tune you threw out there. Then to play as many suggestions as he could, he’d stop the melody, kind of smirk as if no one could stump him, and say, “Ok…….what else? ”
He had a swagger and a cockiness about him which he definately earned. Used to crack me up.
The cockiness is gone—–he’s a family man now and pretty humble—-but the swagger on-stage is still there. He’s a true showman.
So the band is called West 34. It’s one of those bands where every guy is a master at his instrument. And every guy is allowed to show off his talent each show they do. Like the drummer does an awesome version of the Led Zeppelin composition “Moby Dick”. He thumps that shit out. They cover the heavier, more jammin’ rock tunes. They also have a strong dedication to the blues roots of rock music. Dave has played with many collaborators including Chicago bluesman Melvin Taylor and his band.
I’ve seen West 34 play many times; a good six or seven in 2009 alone. The last time I saw them was on Halloween night after I left a house party. I was just in time to catch their third and final set of the evening, which was basically what they tongue-in-cheek called their “instrumental” set. A couple of the tunes they selected had vocals, but otherwise they just rocked out.
Dave Johnson led the way on a sweet version of Eric Johnson’s “Cliffs of Dover“. Then they went right into the Rush anthemn “YYZ“. The set included the drummer’s showcase of “Moby Dick” and they did a couple of extended bluesy jams. Dave likes to play with the cordless amp pack strapped on and was out in front of the bar on the sidewalk playing to surprised people on the street. A little schtick that I’ve seen Buddy Guy do at his Legends club a number of times.
There’s another guy in the band who impresses the hell out of me every time I go to see these dudes play. He’s the youngest member at about 24, and he does most of the lead vocals and plays rhythmn guitar. That’s not exactly being fair to him though, as he often steps up and does a searing lead guitar as well. His name is Tim Majewski and he and Dave combine to make a talented duo up there. He too has been playing guitar since he was about 8, and played with the Southsiders blues band all around Chicago before hooking up with West 34.
I can’t tell you enough to come out and see this band play. Whereas Dick Ourada and his crew try to thrill their loyal Dickheads and provide a lighthearted night of solid entertainment, West 34 tries to blow the roof off whatever venue they’re playing. They actually just landed a spot as the regular Thursday night house band at Walter Payton’s Roundhouse in Aurora starting in January.
But you can see them at the exact same venue as the Dick Ourada Band just played. If you came out for that show, don’t miss West 34. They are playing at:
Rolling Lanes (bowling alley bar)
Friday night January 15, 2010 at 9:30pm
Joliet Road Countryside, Illinois
They play some sweet Allman Brothers tunes, The Who, Led Zeppelin, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Ted Nugent, Clapton, Albert King, and so much more. Typically they play the tunes that are too intimidating and technically challenging for most bands to try.
So check out their website and listen to a demo or two. These guys freakin’ rock !! I will definately be at the January 15 show and I’m going to try and get as many people up there as I can. West 34 is the best band I know of on the local scene.