The 9th annual Detroit Dio Tribute at the Loving Touch showcased some of the area’s finest musicians paying homage to the magic of Dio while benefiting a cancer survivor.
Detroit Dio Tribute
I had the honor of being asked to be this year’s photographer for the Detroit Dio Tribute at the Loving Touch in Ferndale. Detroit Dio Tribute started as a way for local musicians to honor the musical memory of Ronnie James Dio who was taken from us by cancer in 2010. Each year since, stellar musicians and overall awesome people, Rachel May (Broadzilla, Maxine Petrucci, Hard Edge Radio) and Jason Quayle (Banned From Earth, Banned From Hell) have pulled together musicians to jam at the tribute. All proceeds raised at the Detroit Dio Tribute are donated to a local cancer patient. This year’s fund recipient is Lenny Earls who has been battling throat cancer.
This year’s Detroit Dio Tribute included some amazing raffle prizes. There was a Fender Squire guitar and framed poster signed by former Dio guitarist Vivian Campbell. The guitar was donated by Rock City Music and the great folks at the Token Lounge helped get these items signed when Vivian was in Detroit. There were also some incredible framed photos of Ronnie James Dio taken by Kevin Baldes of the band Lit. Finally, there were giant tribute posters donated by Rocket Printing.
Our host for the evening was Tom McCarthy. Tom had everyone laughing and shared some seriously funny stories. The one about his first concert seeing Dio at Pine Knob was hilarious. The funny thing is I think I was at that show. However, I’m pretty sure I wasn’t the guy getting special treatment from his lady friend in front of Tom.
The Detroit Dio Tribute show started out with an astounding performance of the Dio song “Don’t Talk To Strangers” by Bella Mormando. Bella’s rendition was stark and captivating. Her vibrant and compelling vocals drew your attention to the rich melodic quality of Dio’s music. By adding her own unique interpretation of the music, she gave it new meaning and life.
Cranking up the volume and the intensity was Alienstorm (Ryan Goldsworthy-vocals/guitar, Josh Wizinsky-vocals/bass, Brett Hodorek-drums). They tore out of the gate with a damn fine version of “Neon Knights” by Dio-era Black Sabbath. These young musicians did a great job of capturing the intensity of the music. The sweet ripping guitar solo in Dio’s “Caught in the Middle” was an unexpected treat. It was great to see a new generation of musicians completely embracing the magic of Ronnie James Dio.
The Whiskey Charmers
You may know the Whiskey Charmers (Carrie Shepard-vocals/acoustic guitar, Lawrence Daversa-guitar, Ozzie Andrews-upright bass) for their hauntingly beautiful acoustic music. It turns out they harbor a deep love for the music of Ronnie James Dio. I was blown away by their interpretation of the music. They infused the melodic structures of songs such as “Children of the Sea” by Black Sabbath and “Holy Diver” by Dio with Carrie’s wistful vocals and Lawrence’s spacious guitar to make them Whiskey Charmer songs. The bonus was the marvelous upright bass playing Ozzie added to each song. Geezer and Rudy would be proud.
The Black Drops
The Black Drops (Chris Degnore-guitars/vocals, Joe Bagozzi-bass, John Porter-drums ) have been on my radar, I just haven’t had a chance to catch them live. Hearing them play Rainbow’s “Self Portrait” and “Country Girl” by Black Sabbath was stunning and made me an instant fan. From Chris’s voice and stellar guitar work, to Joe’s popping bass, to the charging drums of John Porter, the Black Drops did Ronnie James Dio proud with a mesmerizing performance. Like the Whiskey Charmers, the Black Drops put their own unique spin on the music which made it more than a cover song and a true artistic expression.
Rock ‘N’ Roll Children
Ryan Goldsworthy (guitar) was pulling double duty this evening with Rock ‘N’ Roll Children. This band flat out jammed. Joining Ryan was Dennis Schwan (vocals), Matty Rea (guitar), Pistol Pete Midtgard (bass), and Nick Marocco (drums). You would swear to all that is holy that these guys have been jamming together for the past 30 years. They were tight and intense. Their selection of tunes was righteous as they came out swinging with “Kill The King”. That tune is one of my all-time favorite Dio tunes. I love Ronnie’s soaring vocals and Blackmore’s amazing guitar work. Dennis nailed this song with Ryan providing a dazzling solo.
Another barn-burner was the classic “Stand Up and Shout” by Dio. This one had everyone headbanging and throwing the horns high. No evil eye could withstand the power of a full house rocking out to Dio. Matty Rea had his lime green ESP singing sweetly and conjuring the essence of Vivian Campbell.
When I thought the show couldn’t get better, Rainbow Rising cranked the Marshall’s to 11 and stole the show. The band included Imminent Sonic Destruction super metal maniacs, Bryan Paxton (bass), Pete Hopersberger (keys), and Pat DeLeon (drums). Add in Rachel May on vocals and Richie Blackmore on guitar (oh wait, that is really John Piasentin), and you have a band that effortlessly brings the music of Rainbow roaring back to life.
As Rachel May mentioned at some point in their set, the Rainbow era with Dio marks some of the most melodic vocals that Ronnie James Dio has ever sung. Rachel transcended reality and became Dio. She channeled all the passion and power of Dio and used it to set the house on fire. Bryan, Pete, and Pat used their abundance of talent to drive the music home. Amongst all the fireworks, John Piasentin’s guitar performance was simply jaw-dropping. I am still in awe of this man’s playing. Given the rabid reception from the crowd, I think everyone thoroughly enjoyed the show by Rainbow Rising.
It can be tough to follow-up a stellar performance, yet the guys in Evil Play (Eric Johnson- vocals, Mark Jones-guitar, Danny Grimm-bass, Steve Lukasik-drums) were more than up for the challenge. They ripped up killer covers of Dio’s “Evil Eyes” and Sabbath’s “Lady Evil”. Where they shined was the cover of “Mob Rules”. My lord what a song and Evil Played kicked ass.
Banned From Hell
Is there such a thing as too much Dio? Join me now in a rousing ‘Fuck No!’ To put the feather in the cap of an outstanding night of Dio music, was Banned From Hell. Rachel May (vocals), Jason Quayle (guitar), Dennis Smith (bass), and Evan Hakim (drums) became Dio-era Black Sabbath in all its menacing riff-tastic and devilishly melodic glory. Closing your eyes, you can feel the heart smashing rhythms breaking like waves against you as Ronnie’s vocals cast spells and Tony’s guitar shatters stone. I felt goosebumps rise as I watched Banned From Hell become possessed with the spirit of Black Sabbath. Their performance was nothing short of mind altering. I love all phases of Black Sabbath, but I keep a special place in my heart for the albums ‘Mob Rules’ and ‘Heaven and Hell’. I think Ronnie’s collaboration with Tony, Geezer, and Bill made an indelible mark on the world of music.
Banned From Hell had me falling in love all over again with Black Sabbath. The playing of Dennis, Jason, and Evan was magnificent as they captured all the tiny nuances within songs such as “I”, “Heaven and Hell”, and “Voodoo”. The standout was the vocal performance of Rachel May. As with Rainbow Rising, she was once again the spirit of Dio. The fierce power of Ronnie’s voice was there inside the Loving Touch and we all could relive the sensation of his gift through the marvelous performance of Rachel May.
The evening wrapped up with raffle draws where happy fans walked away with priceless treasures. In addition to enjoying an amazing night of music, everyone that attended can feel good about helping Lenny Earl as he engages in a fight for his life. The Detroit Dio Tribute celebrates the masterful works of Ronnie James Dio and supports his legacy by giving back to those in need. Many thanks to all the great musicians, to the Loving Touch for continuing to support great music, and most importantly the Detroit music fans who keep the local music scene thriving.
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Stop by the gallery for more photos from the show!