Arriving three weeks later than usual, and with a jaunty new concert venue in the form of a Hollywood Golden Age theater, Bass Player LIVE! returned to Los Angeles on November 9–10th in grand style. SoCal sunshine and a sold-out spate of exhibitors greeted attendees on Saturday morning at SIR Studios on Sunset Blvd. This included such first-time participants as bass makers Sadowsky, Marleaux, Brubaker, and Moore, amp manufacturers EBS, Eden, Traynor, Tec Amp, and Yorkville, and accessory specialists Gruv Gear, Zymol, and Ecom Seating—along with returning mainstays like Hartke, Warwick, Ampeg, Aguilar, Ibanez, Dunlop, D’Addario, La Bella, Fodera, MTD, GK, Carvin, Tech 21, and many more. The always-diverse clinic side launched with upright bass-and-effects futurist Miles Mosley opposite a metal bass panel boasting Billy Sheehan, David Ellefson, Frank Bello, and Rex Brown. Other Saturday clinics included Sheehan, Janek Gwizdala, and the debuts of Lee Rocker (with guitarist Buzz Campbell), Michael Manring, and Rhonda Smith. More artist seminars buzzed in the Warwick and Yamaha rooms. In a closing clinic that more than lived up to its name, The Changing Face of L.A. Session Bass indeed changed face when both Sean Hurley and Alex Al got last-minute sessions that prevented them from joining Bob Glaub and Chris Chaney on the panel. Veteran studio ace Neil Stubenhaus was an insightful, on-the-spot replacement.
With 6PM arriving swiftly, attendees had both a new location and a new wrinkle for which to travel a few blocks northeast. The evening’s concert at the Henry Fonda Theater on Hollywood Blvd. began with a Red Carpet. The spacious lobby and bar area also sported poster-size blow-ups of past BP covers featuring artists at this year’s event. At the downbeat of 7:30, with the large audience split between the floor and the balcony, host comedian Jim Norton began the show by introducing Green Day bassist Mike Dirnt and Billy Sheehan to present the evening’s first honor: a Lifetime Achievement Award to rockabilly legend Lee Rocker. The grateful Stray Cat slapper—on lead vocals and bass, and backed by guitarists Buzz Campbell and Brophy Dale, and drummer James Sagebiel—then slid into a slick, six-song set, highlighted by the closing blues tune, “Rockabilly Boogie,” in which he was joined by fellow double bass titans Brian Bromberg, John B. Williams, Carlos Del Puerto, Jr., and Miles Mosley—with each taking a two-chorus solo. Norton reemerged to bring out über-producer/bassist Don Was and bassmaker Roger Sadowsky to present the Young Gun Award to Tal Wilkenfeld. The “Wonder from Down Under” thanked a long list of people who have helped with her remarkable journey, and then she counted off her quintet (Benmont Tench on organ, Steve Ferrone on drums, Paul Stacey on guitar, and Gabe Witcher on violin and vocals) for a rousing five-song set of covers and originals, culminating in a solo vocal and chordal bass version of Leonard Cohen’s “Chelsea Hotel.”
Approaching the evening’s halfway point, Norton summoned Darryl Jones to the mic to present the Legacy Award to the family of the late blues giant, Willie Dixon, accepted graciously by grandson Alex Dixon. Next, Darryl’s killer unit—Bernard Fowler on vocals, Ferrone on drums, Jorge Evans on guitar, Deron Johnson on keyboards, Scott Thurston on harmonica, Darryl, on a 4-string he built himself, and guest bassists Jerry Jemmott and Don Was (on upright)—had their way with three Dixon classics: “I’m Your Hoochie Coochie Man,” “Wang Dang Doodle,” and “The Little Red Rooster.”
The Black Sabbath-themed all-star headline set now remained, commencing with Norton’s introduction of the house band: drummer Charlie Benante, guitarist Chris Broderick, and for the opening song, “Supernaut,” Billy Sheehan on bass and dUg Pinnick on vocals. David Ellefson joined the fray to play “A National Acrobat,” then dUg handed the mic to Slipnot/Stone Sour singer Corey Taylor for “Children of the Grave” and “Hand of Doom,” which featured BLS bass man J.D. DeServio. Pinnick returned to the stage with Rex Brown (above) to rip “Hole in the Sky,” and Dio veteran Rudy Sarzo (right)joined Sebastian Bach to rock “Heaven & Hell.” With Frank Bello on bass and the inimitable Zakk Wylde on harmonica (!), the band conjured dark magic with “The Wizard” before handing bass duties to Jason Newsted (right) for another Sabbath classic, “War Pigs.” With the stinging overtones of “War Pigs” lingering in the air, Frank Bello and Hartke’s Mark Menghi took the side stage to present a Lifetime Achievement Award to the night’s esteemed guest, Black Sabbath rock bass icon Geezer Butler. The soft-spoken Butler thanked all before joining the house band for inspired versions of “Fairies Wear Boots” and “N.I.B.,” which brought the memorable evening to the kind of feel-good conclusion so familiar to BP LIVE! audiences.
Groggy from a great night of music, but eager for the day’s lineup of prime gear and clinic content, attendees returned to fill the first-slot seminars of Nathan East (with sponataneous guest Janek Gwizdala) and Adam Nitti, and ensuing sit-downs with Jerry Jemmott and Evan Brewer. Panel power returned, as Rickey Minor surrounded himself with East and Ready Freddie Washington, opposite Ellefson and Bello’s metallic team-up, and Nate Watts invited guest bassists Sekou Bunch and Brandon Brown to join his hour in the spotlight. Meanwhile, across SIR, smoke and steam seemed to rise from Carlos Del Puerto, Jr.’s upright fingerboard, as he demonstrated his coal-hot, Cuban-infused groove improvisation concepts with guitarist Ramon Stagnaro and drummer Jimmy Branly in a closing clinic that drew a rapt crowd of his peers, including Bromberg, Stubenhaus, Phil Chen, Jimmy Earl, Brandino, Jerry Watts, and Rufus Philpot. From Geezer Butler’s long-awaited lauding at the Fonda to Sunday’s fiery finish by Carlitos, BP Live 2013 was once again rife with Hollywood endings.