The Rides came out to rock our ass off! They are legends for a reason and prove they 'stills' got it. They’re super distinct super rockers. I’ve become obsessed with The Rides; ever since their show I’ve been listening to them non-stop. From curiosity of what brings a band like this together, to trying to understand what makes a musician legendary, and how the hell Kenny Wayne Shepherd feels about playing with greats like 2-time Rock & Roll Hall of Famers Stephen Stills & Chris Layton, keyboardist and songwriter extraordinaire ‘outta be’ in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame from Chicago, Barry Goldberg, and bass-player Kevin McCormick. Mesmerized. It didn’t take me long to figure out what makes a legend, and I have yet to ask Kenny how he feels...
I was transported to Stephen Stills heyday in The Rides rendition of “Roadhouse". The chords?! He’s 'Stills' got 'em, guitar and vocal. Sometimes short of breath, Stills sounds so good when he hits that sweet spot; preserved after all these years. They play an Elmore James cover, another Chicago great where Kenny rips a guitar and Barry pounds the keys - so amazing. No one could wipe the smile from my face. There is a sign in the crowd saying “Stephen Stills will you marry my sister”, in between sets he points to his ring and says ‘I already got a wife!’
Life lessons were for the taking on that stage. Kenny and Stephen proved dynamic, as Stills played by Shepherd’s side, providing palpable support, encouraging Kenny to take the wheel during “By My Side”. Kenny, take the wheel! Stephen speaks fondly of Kenny calling him ‘confidante, best bro, and other scorpion that came along and played guitar with me.’ Kenny calls Stephen one of the greatest musicians and song writers of all times, the one and only. They both play a mean guitar. It is one of the most amazing feelings EVER in live music, being with the greats, listening and watching them shred metal, with Goldberg tearing up the keys.
These guys are 100% authentic on stage. Creating unmistakable music from their vintage amps. Stephen keeps it real by having a solution to the rude dude at the table who gets lost in a phone during dinner: order an extra Guinness. He encourages us to ‘BE HERE! All of you!’ And with that I dropped my phone & note-taking. “Virtual World” is a necessary hit.
The Rides hit their projected goal and then some. They rocked our ass off.
Kenny provides credit to Barry Goldberg’s writing “I’ve Got to Use My Imagination” with Gladys Knight and The Pips, before they execute their version. Kenny proceeds to slash the guitar in a solo reminiscent of Marty McFly’s (Michael J Fox) “Johnny B Goode” guitar tangent in Back to the Future (1985).
Queue quote "I guess you guys aren't ready for that yet... But your kids are gonna love it."
— After Marty finishes his wild guitar performance, he notices everyone staring blankly at him.
Kenny is light-years ahead of his own generation.
Segue to “Game On”….Stills precedes the song by dedicating the song to ‘the gift that keeps on giving, even when he’s out of the country.’
Well I know I’m down with whatever it takes
Make peace and raise my hands
I don’t know what you call all of this
It seems like a worldwide trend
But I know it isn’t about religion
It ain’t nothing but you can keep position
The people just want to be left alone
Don’t ever gonna understand
Get you game on
- It’s as political as the weekend got. Nuff said.
Kenny channels the greats and busts out his cover from older catalogs, “Blue on Black”.
They call an audible on the set. Kenny raises his shoulders and says “You never know what’s going to happen”. Stills on the mic explains: ‘Well this is one my little sister surely would have requested and y’all are keeping her spirit very well for it. She lived and died here (Santa Cruz). Thank you very much”.
Stills sings a heavy song,
Lord she’s gone she flies away
With an even heavier guitar solo.
We all feel the heaviness.
A friend of Stills in the crowd took it upon himself to show me Talitha Stills’ California Driver's License, address Santa Cruz. He told me she passed away less than 2 years ago on her Birthday. She no doubt was a beloved in this community and holds a super special place in Stephen’s heart.
The amazing guitar solo is seemingly never ending, freeing the sadness in his heart to the openness Aptos Village provides.
I shed a tear for the first and only time this festival.
Before playing the last song, Stephen exclaimed “I wish we didn’t have to play this song anymore.” And with that we tune in, wishing the set would never end.
Not so sure it was intentional, but following The Rides performance, a pilot in the sky put on a not-so-amateur acrobatic air show maneuvering a couple upside-down loop-de-loops just above the open space for all to see. One crazy ride.
The Rides Setlist:
“Kick Out of It”
“Talk To Me Baby” (Elmore James cover)
“By My Side”
“I’ve Got to Use My imagination”
“Blue On Black”
-song for Stephen Stills sister Talitha Stills-
“Love the One You’re With”
“For What It’s Worth” (Buffalo Springfield cover)
The Rides Concert Review by Elizabeth Lauer – Santa Cruz American Music Festival 2017 at Aptos Village Park in Aptos, California
The Rides photo credit Elizabeth Lauer