The Fillmore, San Francisco
by Dan Wall
Hurricane, L.A. Rocks, How Long, Black Tiger, Lucy, Mean Streak, Midnight In Tokyo, Cold Day in Hell, Dirty Girl, Winds of Change, Eyes of A Stranger, All American Boy, Barroom Boogie, I Want Your Money, Contagious, Rescue Me, I’m Coming Home. Encore: Don’t Stop Runnin’, Beautiful Dreamer (snippet), Straight Thru the Heart (snippet), Shine On, Summertime Girls, Forever
2 hours, 10 minutes.
When they write about great rock and roll in the future, Bay Area stalwarts Y & T (once known as Yesterday and Today) will hardly register as a footnote in rock annuals. But there are those ‘in the know’-especially here in Northern California-that feel Y & T is one of the most underrated and under-appreciated groups of all time. And with just one big break, the band could have been huge.
Sadly, that is not going to happen now. The band had its chance back in the late 80’s-early 90’s, but something always seemed to get in the bands way-a bad tour, a record that was overly commercial, its name (never a favorite of mine) and all of the usual trappings that go with rock and roll (drugs, booze, touring, etc…).
None of that mattered on Saturday night, as the group performed its annual Fillmore show to an adoring sold-out crowd that still treats these guys like the rock legends they never became, but deserved to be. Before the review of this year’s show, here’s a little history lesson for those of you who are new to the
The Y & T Story:
Yesterday and Today got its first breaks in the Bay Area during the mid-70’s, opening for many of the era’s biggest bands at Winterland (just blocks away from the Fillmore) and other huge venues for Bill Graham. Back then, the band was such a scary option for many of these groups as an opening act, it was often times forced off of those bills to headline Bay Area clubs.
When the crowds got bigger, the band took over for the Tubes as the Concord Pavilion’s annual Halloween headliner. As long as the gigs were in California, Texas, Europe or Japan, the scene was repeated over and over again-packed houses and thrilling performances.
The group couldn’t get arrested in most of this country, however, and thus the band never reached the heights of some of the groups it opened for, such as Aerosmith, Montrose, Boston, Queen and Journey. Even contemporaries like Motley Crue, Dokken, Great White, Poison and Tesla went onto bigger and better things, as Y & T retreated to the Bay, where a good time could always be found.
It all came crashing down in the mid-80’s, when drummer Leonard Haze left the group in a haze (of booze and drugs) and original guitarist Joey Alves also took his leave. Replacements Jimmy DeGrasso (the ex-Megadeth drummer, now with Black Star Riders) and guitarist Stef Burns (Huey Lewis) helped original members Dave Meniketti and Phil Kennemore (who passed away in 2011) keep the fire burning until 1991, when Meniketti shut the whole thing down for a solo career.
Despite being one of the best guitarists you’ve never heard of, Meniketti’s solo stuff never took hold and he looked back to Y & T for solace. The band re-grouped many times for gigs and released two records back in the 90’s, before finally re-forming for good in 2001. From there, the band re-built its career with extensive touring, a couple of retrospective album releases and finally the “Facemelter” record, the last to feature Kennemore.
And that’s where the story is today. It’s hard to believe, but Y & T might be better known now around the world then it was during its supposed heyday, when big riffs, bigger choruses and Meniketti’s incendiary fret work gave Y & T hope for a big career.
The reality of the situation is that a devoted, ever-expanding audience which knows a great band when they hear one still shows up around the world in 1000 seat venues to hear old favorites and songs from “Facemelter,” which brought the band back full circle to its early sound and style.
That sound and style is linked to one man, the great Meniketti, who was absolutely on fire at the Fillmore, providing riffs and solos that few can match. The group’s best songs, such as “Forever,” Shine On” and Mean Streak,” feature Meniketti’s over-the-top soloing and distinctive vocals, while the current backing band of guitarist John Nyman, bassist Brad Lang and drummer Mike Vanderhule lay down a thick groove and add high-pitched harmonies to fill out the classic
The Y & T template:
Never much for the Kiss-like theatrical show, it was the songs that always separated this band from the pack in my opinion, and on Saturday the group played an interesting set that featured those classics listed above, as well as a few of the band’s more recent tunes, some rarities and a few nuggets that haven’t been played in years, such as “Cold Day in Hell,” “All American Boy” and “Lucy.” As a special treat, original drummer Haze appeared for a run through “Dirty Girl” and “Winds of Change,” thrilling many in the audience who had never seen him play live with the band or appreciate a little nostalgia.
It doesn’t’ really matter what the guys play, the band will never be as big as it should have been. The first album for A & M records, “Earthshaker,” should have made the band stars and “Summertime Girls” should have made it huge. It was not to be, but Y & T continues to this day as one of rock’s great underdogs, playing to appreciative audiences around the world who either knew the band should have been huge all along or are just finding out what they missed all those years ago.
In any event, my friends and I continue to attend Y & T gigs around the Bay Area, as we appreciate the blistering speed and tone from Dave’s Les Paul and Strat, the quality of the tunes, and …well… we just like to get our face melted.
In 2015, Y & T is playing all over the US, then Germany, Spain and the UK… check it out, or just be stuck with your face the way it is.