Black Star Riders rock Buffalo on nationwide tour

By Sydney Bucholtz

Features Editor

Black Star Riders, an iconic hard rock group comprised of founding Thin Lizzy members, toured to Buffalo Iron Works this Wednesday, showcasing their original sound on their first “proper tour” of the United States. After having toured Europe, the United Kingdom, Japan, and South America since 2014, the group is en route more locally, accompanied by Judas Priest for their first US tour.

The band was founded in 2012 by five experienced rock musicians: Thin Lizzy members Ricky Warwick (vocalist), Scott Gorham (guitarist), Damon Johnson (guitarist), and Marco Mendoza (bassist), as well as Alice Cooper and Megadeth’s Jimmy DeGrasso (drummer). While the members stay true to the Thin Lizzy Legacy, they beat to their own drum regardless, putting out variety, and music that “feels great.”

In 2013, Black Star Riders released their first album All Hell Breaks Loose, and a year later, the band took on a new bassist, Robbie Crane, a friend of DeGrasso. As Marco Mendoza geared up to leave the band, DeGrasso encouraged Crane to audition and by May 2014, he was a part of Black Star Riders.

“I was pretty surprised, to be honest with you, and very elated,” said Crane.

Born in West Hollywood, the young people in Crane’s neighborhood were later to be the band members of the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Guns and Roses, according to Crane. “Everyone” played guitar, starting classically. It was a coincidence that Crane’s father played bass and had a bass guitar, but when groups would get together and jam, there were ten guitarists and no bassist. So, Crane picked up a bass guitar, and “from there,” he said, “I guess you could say I became the local bass player.”

The coming years brought a greater evolution of their albums. “Musically, I think we are inspired by all genres of music,” Crane told The Griffin, “and I think the band came from an inception or creation or a part of the Thin Lizzy legacy.”

However, Crane elaborated, the band thrives in elements of versatility. “We all bring different things into the band musically,” he said. “We all love Springstein, we all love Van Morrison, but we all love, you know, Iron Maiden and we all love Metallica.” A little of everything, Crane said.

In the coming years, the band put out The Killer Instinct (2015), and recently, Heavy Fire (2017). “We write for ourselves when we get together,” said Crane. “We write what feels great to us at the time… I think musically, we are very diverse and it shows in our musicality.”

The band finds variation in their preferred music styles but also in their hometowns. While Crane was born in LA and grew up in Hollywood,  Warwick is originally from Northern Ireland, Belfast specifically, Johnson is from Alabama, Gorham is from Glendale, but has lived in London for the past 40 years, and Chad Szeliga, the band’s current drummer, is from Pennsylvania.

Black Star Riders, said Crane, is a different “infusion” of these people from varying cultures and backgrounds, making things interesting with their music. “You know, for me, it was a bit of a culture shock, to be honest with you,” he said. “Just because mainly my past bands, mainly were Los Angeles-based bands or Hollywood-based bands, so there was a certain style and stigma and just a way that people did business and played and interacted with each other, being from Los Angeles. And then getting to meet these other guys who are from completely different backgrounds and just different experiences, like I explained, really made for an interesting blend of people and experiences.”

Each member brings unique mentalities, experiences, ways of addressing things, ways of handling business, writing songs, just different ways of life, Crane told. “And I think it’s been a very growing experience for me. I’ve felt that it’s been a lot for me as a person just to experience these different types of people,” he said.

All the while, the band’s membership has evolved, with new members replacing additional members, and Crane described how well the band has “meshed” regardless of this process. “If you saw us together, you would kind of laugh,” he said. “Most people are like, ‘Do you guys actually really get along?’ and we’re like, ‘Yeah, we actually really do get along,’ because we live so far apart from each other in our day-to-day lives and when we come together as a band, we’re so excited and happy to see each other. It’s almost absence makes the heart grow fonder.”

Not only are these men established in their music, but some are established in their family lives. Members go months, sometimes almost a year, without seeing each other, given their varying homeplaces, but lucky, can rely on technology for easy, fast communication.

“Technology has allowed us to live where we want to live, and on a business level, we correspond regularly, weekly,” said Crane. “It’s pretty simple, especially with the songwriting and everything, we’re able to utilize technology and the old school cell phone and get out there and communicate with each other. And we’re able to do real-time business transactions and stuff because, again, technology has allowed us to that, afforded us that opportunity to be able to just write songs and correspond and everything from wherever we are in the world. It’s great.”

The band is eager to present Black Star Riders in the light that they “believe it should be seen in,” said Crane, referring to their current nationwide tour with Judas Priest and Saxon.

“For us,” he continued, “I think our main objective anytime that we get together to do the band is to be true to who we are as a band, and stay true to those morals of who we are, not rest on the morals of what we were, or what we did last year, or the year before, or our past band. And just to always perpetuate our future as a band, you know? We have a lot to say still, and we just want to share that with everybody… And if they’re not into it, that’s fine too, you know, thanks for coming. But we really just love what we’re doing, and we’re proud of what we’re doing, and we hope people share that joy with us, you know, musically.”

Crane spoke with life and passion, recalling music as his passion since age 14. “I think the 14-year-old kid in me that picked up the bass guitar for the first time, that had aspirations of going out and making it big, if you will, and being afforded the opportunity to be able to play just for my friends, much less for fans or for people who were fans of the band, and to enjoy the music that we put together from scratch, pretty much, it’s an amazing experience,” he said. “It’s almost, like, surreal to a degree. You get up there and you’re just caught in the moment. You’re so into what you’re doing.”

While some musicians might step up on the stage and “just get crazy for the crowd,” Crane has a different experience. “I don’t think people quite comprehend how musicians get onstage,” he started. “…Most musicians get up there and they’re just locked into their own mind and their own world… They’re really sharing themselves and exposing themselves musically.”

Black Star Riders paid a visit to our own Buffalo Iron Works this past Wednesday, but there’s still a chance to catch the rest of their tour. This weekend alone, the band will stop in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. on Fri., March 16, as well as in Uniondale, N.Y. at The Chance Theater on Sat., March 17. Following tour cities will be Washington, D.C., Newark, N.J., Newport News, Va., Worcester, Mass., Ottawa, Ont., Canada, and London, Ont., Canada. Additional event and ticket information, can be found on http://www.blackstarriders.com/events/.

“I think our whole band shares that individually and collectively,” Crane said. “And I think it is an amazing experience to be able to go out there and to play for 100 people, for five people, for 500,000 people. It’s just an amazing gift and a blessing and we’re excited that we’re able to be afforded that still to this day.”

 

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