95X and Scott Dixon presented the 2nd annual “Locals Only Fest” on August 8 at Kegs Canal Side in Jordan. Paying tribute to the talent that comes out of the 315 area code, 95X showcased thirteen of the top rock bands to come out of Central New York. This is the annual by-product of Dixon’s “Locals Only” radio show, which airs on 95X every Thursday night at 11pm and features music from around the area. It was an all-day event that featured the long awaited reunion of the legendary Dracula Jones who were THE rock band in Syracuse back in the 90’s.
An observation before I begin. I think every single band on the bill that day (except for Dracula Jones, sadly) played a song from their “forthcoming album.” I just want to point out how far we have come in this digital age that any band can easily produce and release music without getting the backing of some huge money machine. We are spoiled as music listeners these days. Twenty years ago it was incredibly expensive to produce even a simple 4 song demo cassette tape! Rant over.
The day’s festivities began with a set from Mountains and Valleys. This band is a collective of musicians who explore the endless possibilities of collaboration. These guys could easily cross promote into the hippie scene. Next up was a rockin’ set from Shawn Fleming that began with “Skyscrapers,” as heard on “Locals Only” radio. Then came a pleasant surprise when I heard Damon Larus. They are a power trio from Syracuse that belt out some fun rock that reminds me of the same vibe you get from live Jackyl. You may recognize them as those guys you saw rolling around on the floor of the Lost Horizon, acting like brothers do when they drink a couple few. Their set included “Overdose” and “7 Foot Creature.” Amerikan Primitive played their radio hit “Next Summer” as well as “Hang Around,” the new single from their forthcoming CD. Amerikan Primitive rock hard and feature a female lead guitarist who shreds a Les Paul and possesses a killer Zak Wylde stance!
And that brings us to the Afro Nips. Supporting their latest release on Aux records, entitled Get High, this was my “Holy f***ing shit Batman!” moment of the day. Not only do the guys get my vote for coolest band name of the day, but they get my vote for most unexpected great impression of the day. After being impressed by the power trio earlier in the day, I was blown to smithereens by this power duo, yep I said duo. Why don’t we call them a Superpower Duo, maybe even the Wonder Twins? Definitely something of superhero caliber with the amount of sound that only a bass player and drummer can put out. You get FULL band sound out of 2 guys. They should be on everyone’s “Must See” list.
Only the Chosen was next. Their single “Asylum” has been featured on “Locals Only” radio. Member Mike Curtis helped Dixon with a clothing drive that collected over 500 coats for the needy this year. If you like System of a Down, you’d like this group! They get into their show and really enjoy performing. Murder In Rue Morgue were at the half-way point of the show. Dixon proclaimed them one of the hardest working bands in music as of late. Recently opening for bands like Mushroomhead and Flotsam and Jetsam, these guys brought the speed and the thrash. Spire also brings the speed and heaviness, but they are multifaceted and bring more to the table than just that. They have this heavy edge. They can be fast and then break things down to a slow and heavy groove that allows for proper headbanging. I was impressed with these guys. Singer growls and screams true metal from behind a keyboard, which you don’t often see in a metal band. Real good guitar work. Shredding guitar. I would call these guys a sophisticated metal band.
Phantom Chemistry was the second metal band to bring a keyboard. They played “Wreck” off of their album, Whiskey Slur. Toward the end of their set, the guitarist and keyboardist switched spots and busted out some quality funk rock from that point forward. They even threw in a killer cover of Nirvana’s “Territorial Pissings” to close their set.
Jeremiah’s Razor is a good solid rock band whose set included “Remember Me” and “The Perfect Storm.” Feeding Affliction put on a great performance. It is great to see their singer perform metal music holding an old classic microphone like the type Elvis used to use.
Crow’s Cage was the final act before the headliner. These guys have been relentlessly working hard at building a following and playing as much as possible. I hear these guys being talked about often. What more can be said? They have the look. Their sound is as professional as any huge metal band of today. Why Turning Stone Casino would book Under the Gun and not these guys is beyond me! They played their single, “Chemicals” off of their new album that is being released October 3.
Then, finally the reunion everyone was waiting for. Dracula Jones had the time machine perfectly calibrated for this rare occasion. It was a perfect scene. Everyone drew in tighter to a stage that was thick with smoke and blue light. The band opened with “Crucified” just like they did back in the day. A classic Dracula Jones show starter, the music slowly builds to a peak and then barrels over into a rock and roll steamroller. Immediately, we were all catapulted decades back into an open air Lost Horizon. My nostalgia meter was beyond pegged. It melted! I was a Drac Jones kid back in their heyday and this reunion show had all of the key elements of classic Dracula Jones at their peak, 20 years ago, all the way down to Scott Sterling running the soundboard! The only reminder of what year it is was the current hair fashions of both Dez and Jeff, which differ greatly from their hairstyles of two decades ago. After the steamroller start, they went into the classic, “Girl.” Ah hell, each Dracula Jones tune is a classic. I will stop using that word. They touched upon most of their library, including “Falling,” “Rainmaker,” “Real World,” “Oblivion.” They kicked the time machine up a notch and went all the way back to “Wildflower Sea.” This is the last song off of Heavy Pop, their very first release from 1991. They closed their performance with “Speak.”
It was incredibly heartwarming to see some of the same old faces in the crowd, still donning the Doc Martens, remembering every word to every song, rocking hard with old friends, and having one crazy good time doing it! I even saw a few people let their nostalgia cup spill over when I saw a mini, pseudo mosh pit break out in tribute to the moment. Looking around the crowd, it is clear to me that Dracula Jones was such a powerful band of the time that they were an integral piece of our childhood and became a woven part of every Lost Horizon kids’ being (myself included!) Those who were there twenty years ago can identify with this statement. If you were there, you know what I mean. We will always remember what it was like to be a Drac Jones fan at their peak!
No part of this day would have been possible without Scott Dixon’s hard work and passion for the local music scene. That being said, I believe it is suitable to say both thank you congratulations to Scott! Everything was always better “back then.” No matter when that was, it is always better than “right now.” Scott allowed a group of old school Central New York rock fans to check out for a couples hours, forget about all the bullshit of everyday life, and get back to a more perfect time. You Sir, provided for us the “Great Escape.” I think it was all that we were hoping for and then some. However Mr. Dixon, our hope has shifted. The running joke for the night was singer Jeff Jones’ notion that we should do this every year and call it Jones Fest! While brought to the table as a funny, some things just shouldn’t be joked about. Soooooo, I’ll see you next year at Jones Fest 2016?!?!?
Until then, be sure to tune into 95X every Thursday night at 11 pm for Locals Only radio show, hosted by Dixon.
Written by George DiFabio
Photos by Jerrie DiFabio
Fan Cam: Matt DiFabio