My Evening With Sick Puppies

📷        I initially saw Sick Puppies at the Qwest Center in Omaha when they were one of the opening acts for Nickelback’s Dark Horse tour in May of this year (2010). They were the first band to take the stage that night, and I was completely blown away. Until that night, I had only heard one song titled “Your Going Down” and not much else. “Holy shit” I kept saying over and over, like I had discovered them in an unknown bar instead of an 18,000 seat auditorium. I was awestruck. Although I was truly impressed by all the band members, what stuck in my mind most about that performance was the tiny lady bassist who kept doing a full-on head bang as she hung on tight with a bass guitar that was almost bigger than her. Fast-forward to November, I hear on The River radio station that Sick Puppies is performing in Omaha. A small venue (ok maybe not small but a hell of a lot smaller than the Qwest) and in my mind an approachable venue called the Sokol Auditorium. I email the band manager and explain who I am. He forwards my email on to the Press Agent and I am pretty sure the interview is in the bag. I am here to tell you my friends; nothing is ever in the bag, and sometimes that is a good thing. I may be a rock and roll geek, but I still have a lot to learn. The concert sold out in eight short days and was moved to a bigger venue across the river into the Council Bluffs, Mid America Center. With this, change came about two supporting bands, Emphatic and Shaman’s Harvest. Given a photo pass and permission to do a review, I was a tad disappointed not to get an interview, but I gratefully accepted my opportunity and ran with it.

📷The night of the concert, I am told to stand by a door at promptly 9:30. I arrive 15 minutes early to see two camera men standing with equipment I am sure is well over a few grand if not more. I stand at a distance with my puny Samsung camera that I am leasing from ACE Rent to Own and bow my head in shame. I avoid eye contact and hide my tiny camera in my pocket. When the escort arrives to walk us backstage I lift my head and remember why I am here. This is not about having the best pictures in the world. God knows I am no photographer. This is not even about having the best review in the world, again I am positive there are much better writers out there. This is about me. I and my readers and the best damn reviews I can write. I’m Penny Pepperstein, the girl who writes from her soul about something she loves with her heart. 📷I walk down the long corridor to the legendary backstage and chat briefly with my new photographing companions. A slow smile stretched across my face as I see the closeness of the stage; I listen to the instructions of our escort. “Stay clear of the Mosher’s and be careful of Security trying to pull them over the guard” she told us. “You can take pictures here for the first three songs, then you have to leave the "pit" in front of the stage, but you can continue to take your pictures from another area.” I scan the crowd before the show starts unconsciously looking for a familiar face. Of course, I don't find one and wonder briefly what it must be like for musicians who do this nightly.

I settled into a corner near a huge PA speaker. The Sick Puppies come on stage all of twenty seconds later and immediately take their positions. They walk along the edge of the stage to let the photographers get their fill. I stay in my corner and take a couple of half-decent pictures. The first song they performed I didn't recognize, but this doesn't stop me from trying to hear the lyrics. 📷I looked up at Emma Anzai (the tiny bassist) as I was on the side closest to her. She was dressed in all black with a spaghetti strapped halter top, satin spandex pants with knee-high leather boots. Emma had a feminine look with a rough edge. She flung her windblown hair back and forth and slapped the hell out of a bass guitar that blended in with her attire. Again with her head banging she keeps herself steady on the bass. I am reminded that women can rock with the big boys and perhaps, just maybe a little better.

About the time, I was going to take yet another picture of Emma and stretch my zoom lens to its max for pictures of the other two is when one of the photographers with his camera bigger than me leaned in and said, “What are you doing in the corner, you have the whole stage.” His smile was contagious as I realized he was right. I could walk around and get better angles, see what they are wearing and how they look. And I did exactly that, and it made all the difference in my observation.

Shimon Moore better known as Shim, leads with his thick Aussie accent hardly heard in his singing. A seductive melodic voice in songs like “Odd One” and “Maybe” gave way to a strong angry grind to “Your Going Down” and “Asshole Father.” Dressed in all black as well, but a silver wallet chain and his Epiphone Sheraton-II guitar completed a color contrast to Shimon’s wardrobe. Shim opened his eyes wide when commanding his audience for participation. "I want everyone to lay your hand on the shoulder of the person in front of you and when I count to three, we are all going to bounce." Later, he drove 6000 people to scream the lyrics of "My World" by yelling out "I know you can get louder than that! Come on!"

📷The drummer Mark Goodwin kept a slammin’ beat that kept this triple piece entourage on time and sounding tight. With not a lot of superficial flair to his drumming style he still possessed a significant drive that keeps the audience jumping, bouncing and clapping. Thrusting their hands, head and other limbs into the air to the demand of his performance.

📷After the show, Shimon announced they would be sitting outside the arena to autograph memorabilia and take pictures. I thought of my interview and wondered how difficult it might be to ask my signature question. That is when I saw a line, I am sure stretched across the great state of Iowa with people waiting for their chance to meet the trio. Asking them anything could take days. I walk passed the line to the table where they are seated to get another picture of the Sick Puppies as they interact with their fans. I look through the lens on my camera and feel a pang of pity for them. I see sleepy eyes and sighs of exhaustion blend with smiles of gratitude for those who gathered. I decide to take what pictures I captured during the performance along with my observation and leave them in peace. I had gotten what I went for that night and then some. The Sick Puppies delivered one hell of a performance. I was given a wonderful opportunity to see it up close and tell my readers about it.   All in all it was a great night of Rock and Roll!!

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