16 December 2013

Useless Rhetoric Plays The Jingle Bell Run/Walk

A bass guitar strung with neon green strings.  If you were at the Jingle Bell Run/Walk for Arthritis last Saturday you couldn't have missed it.  

The event, which was sponsored by the Arthritis Foundation, took place at 6th Avenue and Quince Street in Balboa Park.  That's where the neon strings and the four piece Chula Vista band Useless Rhetoric captured the audience’s attention.
L-R:  Lynda West, Scott Young, Scott Michael West
and Dennis Dobler.
According to their website homepage, they mostly play original music, but throw in cover songs so the audience will like them. That’s a great reason to add a song like “I Shot The Sheriff” to their set.  

Written by Bob Marley and famously covered by Eric Clapton in the mid-1970s, Rhetoric’s version missed the pulsating, upbeat accented reggae bump, but was fruitful enough to be considered a likable and respectable cover.            

Husband and wife team Scott Michael West and Lynda West alternated lead vocal duties.  The bass playing Mrs. West dished out capable strokes on those bright green strings, but delivered a slightly pitchy vocal on Heart’s “Magic Man”.  

It could have been due to rhythm guitar player Dennis Dobler’s absence (he stepped off stage for a bathroom break), or because it was so early in the set her voice wasn’t warmed up yet.

Pitch consistency may not have been her forte in that song, but she definitely found her comfort zone and created some very special moments during “Only The Lonely”, a tune originally recorded by The Motels.  When West hit that famed yodeling high note, the one that leads us to the outro of the song, she held it for more than sixteen counts.  Yeah, sixteen counts. 

That’s a difficult thing to pull off and Mrs. West did it with ease.  She did an amazing job of lofting that note through the crowd and up into the tree tops.  “Lonely” was the perfect showcase for the best parts of her vocal ability. 

“I’d Like To Make You Mine”, an original written and sung by Mr. West, whose heavy, syncopated singing reminds you of Lou Reed and Fred Schneider of the B-52s, firmly held down his lead guitar parts and may have missed his calling as lead axe man for a Rolling Stones cover band. 

In fact, the song felt a lot like a Stones thin and gritty guitar riffed, blues rock thing.  Dobler’s playing was steady in the same way Bill Wyman plays bass and drummer Scott Young’s loosie-goosie snare slaps were as reliable as Charlie Watts’ jazz inspired slams. 

Even though I was only able to catch the first part of their set, I liked what I heard.  As for “Stop Dragging My Heart Around” and “Hello, I Love You” well, I liked those covers too. 

I also like the fact that this band is “dedicated to playing for charity”.  As band manager Mrs. West noted in a recent Facebook post, they love to play music as a means of giving to those in need.  During the past three years they’ve raised more than $100,000 for various San Diego charities. 

That’s a commendable and like-worthy effort.  

Photo:   Renée Westbrook

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