What do you do in London on a normal Thursday evening?
You sit at home and watch Eastenders, or you go down the pub for a pint or two... or you go spend FIVE HOURS with RON “BUMBLEFOOT” THAL in a house-party-like atmosphere where he chats with you, laughs with you, plays to you and jams with you for five short hours.
Hmm... I’d go for a pint, I think.
So, me old mate Emir Hot and I headed over to Archway to a jazz bar whose name I still can’t pronounce. You try it. Caipirinha. There you go. Please leave the phonetic pronunciation in the comments. The winner (randomly selected) will get a free Live4guitar T-shirt, like the one that Ron is holding on this picture.
Ron Thal with L4g t-shirt
Caipirinha Jazz Bar is an unassuming place on a high street and we would have ignorantly driven past if it wasn’t for a long queue. So we joined a queue with our prepaid tickets; when in Rome, Roman, as they say.
Now, the security at the door was no joke. They would have put to shame any international airport with their thoroughness and attention to detail. Two formidable guys, quarter ton between them, frisked everyone, opened every gig bag, and examined every guitar that was brought in. And there were many guitars there, as there were many people, hoping to get a chance to jam with Ron.
Once inside, we’ve immediately forgotten the stern but polite treatment at the door, as there he was, the man himself, mingling with the crowd, signing T-shirts, taking photos. The venue was small, but perfectly set for the occasion. Our host, Jeremy Leeor, did a great job of putting this event together.
Ron opened with his take on Pink Panther, and then played his own Guitars suck, Guitars still suck, Guitars will always suck - I made this last one one up :).
Bumblefoot Pink Panther @ Caiprinha Jazz Bar, London - video by sam o
In between the songs he gave us some thoughts on his outlook on life and music, told some jokes, and answered some questions. When the question wanted to be too clever, his answer would become more humorous and entertaining.
BUMBLEFOOT - THE POLICE, TOM JONES AND ABNORMAL - video by OLLIE ROSE FABECK
Ron is a genuinely funny guy. He is a great entertainer and he is very knowledgeable. The story about his mom’s thimble, although told many times, still got the crowd going, and his take on quantum mechanics i.e. string theory was really, really funny. I’m a guy who would normally nod affirmatively at a hilarious joke and say: ”this is funny” with the straight face, but he got me to crack a smile too.
But there was a serious point to his “string theory”, which marked him in my book as a philosopher too. Music, he said, is made in the heart and the soul and leaves our body through our hands, which are just a tool that make the strings vibrate. That was beautifully said.
Then he played some more.
Than he talked some more about composing, demonstrated how not to sing and then how to sing, Played some more, given us his take on Asturias (tasty) and then tapped some Chopin (awesome) and then he got up and said “let’s jam”.
I was particularly looking forward to this part, because I just love seeing guys of Ron’s calibre let their hair down and interact with others in unscripted and unrehearsed way. I was also looking forward to my mate Emir taking Ron to task. Great musicians are at their best when they are pushed a little by each other. Remember Ron's and Guthrie's jam at NAMM 2011 ?
Well, what followed wasn’t quite unscripted and unrehearsed. Unbeknown to us there were a few acts lined up and they were called in strict order. Come to think of it, that is understandable. The organisers couldn’t have afforded the situation where no one would have taken the offer to jam, so they had to prepare something in advance.
However, there were about forty people with guitars there, hoping to get on stage, so they obviously underestimated the interest that promise of a jam had generated. Our mate Niro Knox with his band King Lizard took to the stage first and played a few rock classics, which the crowd utterly enjoyed. This included Led Zeppelin - Whole Lotta Love and Guns 'n' Roses - Sweet Child of Mine. It was loud and seductive.
Niro Knox and King Lizard
Afterwards, a couple of names were called out one after another and some random guys took to the stage and supported Ron in delivering another few well known standards. The show really did look like a well prepared and executed performance. Ron looked like he enjoyed himself and the crowd loved it too, but I couldn’t help feeling sorry for all those hard core fans who brought in their guitars in hope to play with Ron. They were going to get disappointed.
Therefore, Mr Thal, Sir, next time you visit, let’s just do a 5 hours jam please.
At this point Emir decided to call in some favours, as he didn’t prebook, so he got onto the stage. He was determined to get the best out of Bumblefoot, to give him a setting to really show off all his skill and imagination, so he invited him to a guitar duel, but it didn’t quite happen, as Ron was slow to take up the challenge.
It seemed that Ron was more interested in letting others get some exposure rather than showing off himself, which was a really nice thing to do. This was only confirmed later, as he invited to the stage a young beautiful girl, whose name I unfortunately didn’t get, so if you know her name, please live a comment bellow. She sang and played an acoustic, with Ron supporting her on his Vigier.
The last act of the show were local lads, Guns2Roses. They were probably meant to be the highlight of the evening, but unfortunately, they didn't quite raise to the occassion. They were struggling with the equipement, the sound was unbalanced, the borrowed guitar was out of tune...I've seen these guys deliver far, far better porformance.
Bumblefoot & Guns 2 Roses - It's So Easy - Video by Matty Harris
This jam would have probably gone on for hours if it wasn’t for the club’s licence. So after the stage was cleared, Ron hung around with us for a while, chatting and taking photos until finally he had to call it a day.
I really enjoyed myself and I think everyone else did too. Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal came across as a really nice and humble guy. He delivered an excellent show and I would recommend it to everyone. Special thanks to Jeremy Leeor, the guy who put the whole thing together and provided some of the footage for this post. I will happily go again to any gig that he puts up in the future.