The Winery Dogs excites Jacksonville’s Freebird Cafe

Winery Dogs Play Jacksonville’s Freebird Live

Hello fans – HappyJack is back with yet another Concert Review – The Winery Dogs.

I’m a rock music writer, but I am also a huge rock music fan. I am always excited about my next gig, but this one was special – this renowned band on the stage, and my birthday was the same day!

I knew this night was going to be memorable.  The night I turn 49 and as a nice gift, I get to see up close and in person The Winery Dogs, without a doubt the most talked about band touring this summer.

Why all the buzz? Because this line up consists of some great talent – pure rock ‘n roll pedigree:

  • Billy Sheehan – Bass Guitarist – Ranked in the top ten of all time. Played with David Lee Roth , Stevie Vai , Mr. Big and many others.
  • Mike Portnoy – Powerhouse Drummer – Very tight – All Pro who played with Dream Theater, Neal Morse’s post-Spock’s Beard.
  • Richie Kotzen – Lead Guitarist , Rhythm Guitarist, Singer. Played with Mr. Big, and many other projects.

The venue was the World Famous Lynyrd Skynyrd Bar – known as “Freebird Cafe” at Jacksonville Beach. Thousands of big time artists come to play this famous club.

I walked to the ticket window and immediately noticed an envelope with my real name on it  in front of the ticket taker. After flashing my ID, I headed in for the festivities. Camera in tow, I was ready to rock. This night was gonna be fun, I could just tell the moment I parked my car.  The lots were packed and the Jacksonville Beach nightlife was happening. Thousands of revelers packed in a 3 mile stretch. With bars on both sides of the streets, music filled the air; all kinds of genres from Reggae to Rock. From Live bands to Uptown D.J.’s – It was happening in North Florida.

The cool breeze from the ocean was going to be perfect on the second deck at Freebird Cafe. As I entered, I was greeted by lots of fans already upstairs in attendance enjoying refreshments. Once inside, I whisked myself away upstairs like a pro – checking my camera kit – and then I had to stop and look at all the Gold & Platinum Albums from Skynyrd covering every square foot of the back wall – Wow! These guys are our hometown Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame Heroes, and all of the albums on the wall.  I love this place, the best bands, location, atmosphere; and on this night music.

The place was packed with fans, and I think the door had to turn away money. It was more Rock ‘n Roll history being made. Everybody I talked to at the bar, was talking about their favorite moments with the Winery Dogs history and their own personal thoughts. Each band member had their own set of fans; now mesh them all together and this was destined to be a special event.

BAM! The lights go out throughout the club, and in a flash, the fog machine belched out a layer of stage cover for a split second, ultimately revealing the powerhouse band from California playing their first note to the high energy crowd.  Right off the bat, the band kicked off with a uptempo song, making every hand raise in the air.  Three guys on stage, each one with a history of being ranked in the top of their profession, creating and playing with such excitement that you can’t deny this band. It all just snowballed after their debut album was released earlier this year.  Critics and fans alike have showed major interest in this line up of talent. They know that each one of these members puts 110% into their work ethic.

Richie Kotzen was in top form doing triple duties: singing, lead and rhythm guitars.  He made everybody do a double take – because he sometimes sounded like Chris Cornell of Soundgarden (Compliment). The songs he sang were so much fun to see him perform on stage, and his guitar playing had the room jamming. He spoke highly of Jacksonville Beach and the wonderful fans and rocked the guitar. His timing was studio perfect with the intensity filled bottom from Billy and Mike. I was really happy to be seeing this caliber of musicians together in my hometown.

Billy Sheehan was a pro, from the first hit on his thick strings to the last goodbye.  He played with such ferocity that I knew that there were many smiles from other fellow bassists in the crowd.  Have you seen this guy? Blonde hair, tall, and plays the bass with hands on the top , bottom and sideways. He made that bass guitar split some heavy notes; plucking, picking, strumming, pulling the strings and bending the neck till it sounded the way he wanted it to.

I know that playing bass sounds easy, four strings, right? Well Billy makes his bass sound like 2 guitars with more structure. How in the world does he play like that?  What a showman! Thank you sir for a great experience!  He was all smiles to the crowd and moved around like a fevered cat, stalking the stage; and he seemed very happy with the show.

Portnoy was  as much of a showman as the other two.  Playing drums with such precision that it sounded like a giant clock, with everyone jumping to his beats. His footwork was in top form on those bass drums, double tapping while rim hitting, too. And, have you ever seen these guys who play and throw their sticks and catch them in time for the next strike on the snare drum? He has a mesmerizing way of making you watch him, and had a blast with each song. Sweat was flying from the long hair that the headband was trying in vain to keep out of his face. He was someone you want to see and hear again – perfect in every way.

The band played for over an hour and a half to the happy crowd and never stopped the flow one minute. Everyone in attendance, from 18 to 80, all enjoyed the set.

I had a great time afterward, seeing the band members take the time to sign autographs and take pictures. I am sure they enjoyed the fans and the famous beach atmosphere. I know that this band can make some national noise, they already have, as the critics in the tough rock industry have all given this band the thumbs up. You can add me to that list!

If you want a winner, and fresh rock n roll with guts, grab this one and crank it up. The CD will be on my playlist for a while; it’s got some teeth and plenty of hooks.

Please come see the band when they come to your town. This one is A MUST SEE – and grab the CD.

Thanks as always to Freebird Live Cafe in Jacksonville Beach for the access to the world’s favorite bands, and especially to the Management Team of The Winery Dogs for the best Summer show we’ve seen in a while.  And thanks for the best Rock ‘n Roll Magazine on the web; you guys always rock the fans.

I’ll be back soon with another Concert Review of our Favorite Bands. Follow Us on Twitter and Like our Facebook to stay informed,


Share your thoughts, we'd love to hear...