“It’s my birthday party and I’ll play what I want to!” proclaimed singer/guitarist Romeo Maxx as he took the stage at Margarita Rocks in Upland, California at 6:00 p.m. last night. The historic Route 66 was soon alive as Maxx and company broke into the blues at a special lives blues jam to celebrate Maxx’s birthday at the club on Foothill Boulevard.
While this reporter rarely covers concerts during the week this was an exception. It was but a few minutes away and Maxx, a regular at the Orange County Blues Society Jams was trying to start something locally and after a long day of trying to dig up workable quotes for American Live Wire articles it was time for an uncharacteristic break from the routine. Thus your rockin’ writer and the sparky Ms. Sparks “being naughty” and venturing out on a “work night”.
The tropical-themed sports bar was surprisingly full for a “Hump Day” with an interesting intersection of imbibers. There was sexy “white trash” and “haberdash”. There were guys with hats and gals with tatts, thinkers and drinkers, folks of all ages and gals with Betty Pages. (Plus, if you think girls with glasses don’t get passes then you’ve not met the serving staff at this place.)
Since your rather reclusive reporter and his femme fatale “photog” were there to experience the event, don’t expect an in-depth analysis or even a perfect playlist. It’s all about the overall experience and not a detailed documentation. Just be happy to hear highlights, mmmkay?
Maxx, who was both host and headliner, was backed by Todd Szabo (drums), John Mila De La Rocha (keys) and John Arnaldo (bass). They played a welcome mix of blues and blues-tinged rock covers. Hit highlights included their adaptations of The Rolling Stones’ “The Last Time”, The Spider And The Fly” and “Satisfaction”. They also covered Van Morrison’s “Have I Told You Lately That I Love You” in between the expected blues bits and brief onstage banter.
This was followed by an impromptu jam led by De La Rocha which included an interesting cover of The Steve Miller Band’s classic The Joker” without a guitar player. Maxx would also step up and join in on the jam at times seeming to enjoy the evening’s event. In fact, he joined in providing backing vocal when newcomer Patti Guerra took the stage to belt out her tuneful takes on tracks made famous by Janis Joplin and Aretha Franklin. Her take on Don Covay’s “Chain of Fools” seemed to go over particularly well in fact.
While some of these musicians may have never played together before in what may also have been a new venue they nevertheless pointedly persevered and entertained the audience. Perhaps what serves as glue for good jam sessions is a true love of music and the ability to play. Overall, the jam, which was booked until midnight could very well have been not only a nice birthday for Maxx but also the start of something that could really catch on in the Inland Empire.
Happy Birthday, Romeo! Hope you enjoyed the party as much as those in attendance.
My name is Phoenix and . . . that’s the bottom line.