"You might remember this one from MTV's Headbangers Ball" said Tesla's Jeff Keith doing an intro for the song "Modern Day Cowboy" at Austin's La Zona Rosa.
Indeed. The whole night felt like a flashback to the eighties, and at any moment I expected to see Ratt, Whitesnake, or, god forbid, W.A.S.P. suiting up in the back for the next set.
Often mis-categorized as hair metal, Tesla is more of a hard rock band, despite the copious quantities of hair sported by it's band members. Actually at their(our) age either the band members are defying male pattern balding statistics, or getting professional help from the outside. But despite my jealousy of their still having hair, they look and sound almost exactly as they did back in the day. I was always hot and cold on Tesla back then, considering them a bit too top 40 for my tastes, but respecting their musicianship and their ability to play other peoples music without coming off sounding like a Chelsea Street Pub cover band. It takes a lot of guts to be a big name band with a string of hits and play songs made famous by other people. If you don't have the chops to pull it off, you look silly.
Frank Hannon of Tesla - more photos... photo by jeff barringer - staff photographer
Tesla definitely has the chops.
After shooting my three songs from the pit I got to stand off to the side and watch most of of Tesla's set. It seemed to go on forever (in a good way) but in reality it was only 19 songs, including the encores. While they played a lot of their hits, like "Modern Day Cowboy" and "Love Song", their set was heavily peppered with other peoples songs like The Guess Who's "Hand Me Down World" , The James Gang's "Walk Away", and Led Zeppelin's "Thank You", as well as their trademark cover of "Signs" by the Five Man Electrical Band. That's not much of surprise to followers of the Tesla, their latest release, Real to Reel, is a 2 disc set of covers of some of rock's classic tunes. Disc one is available in stores, but disc two is currently only available for free at Tesla's shows, and fans could be seen lining up all night to get their copy.
Heading off to the bar in a quest for refreshments I bumped into Brett McCormick of Broken Teeth and their manager, Paul McGuff. Photographer Jay West spent most of his time talking with Sally Hope of the opening band Poets and Pornstars.
Speaking of Poets and Pornstars, I was quite surprised by their set. Based out of L.A. and fronted by a brit named Hal Ozsan, these guys rocked in a way that made me think of the old AC/DC with Bon Scott, at least in terms of energy. They reached out and grabbed the crowd by the throat and didn't let go. That is until they pulled out a cover of "House of The Rising Sun" by Eric Burden and The Animals. I have to admit that while their cover was good, the rapid change in energy states, from balls out rock and roll to a low and slow power ballad, brought me to a screeching halt, and I felt they lost their energy after that. A good band, I will be watching for them in the future.
Tesla at La Zona Rosa - more photos... photo by jeff barringer - staff photographer