Moonlighting rock stars enjoy regional success
For local rock and roll cover band The Shockwaves, it started with an ad. An ad placed in this very newspaper.
Attorney John Farmer came home late from work one night about 10 years ago. His family asleep, he made dinner and began reading the Del Mar Times, which was lying on the kitchen table.
“I don’t usually read the classifieds but as I was turning the page, the word ‘drummer’ caught my eye,” Farmer said, a longtime Carmel Valley resident.
The ad read something like this: Drummer looking to put together a garage band, no pressure.
Farmer, a guitarist who played in bands through high school, replied. Turns out the drummer was another dad Farmer knew from their daughters participating in Indian Princesses. The two practiced together a couple times, Farmer pulled in other musically-inclined professionals - a front man he met on a fishing trip, a plastic surgeon who played bass, a real estate agent, guitarist Robert Hughes, host of “Robert in the Late Afternoon” on KPRI 102.1 - and the no-pressure cover band Left4Dead (later renamed The Shockwaves) was born.
“Our mission in life was to get good enough to play a few backyard parties and have fun,” Farmer said.
Their first show was the 1999 Indian Princesses Father-Daughter Dance, and after a few more garden parties, the band realized they were quickly upgrading from no-pressure garage band to serious local performers.
Playing rock classics from the 1960s to today, the group catapulted from sharing the finish-line stage at the Rock and Roll Marathon to having it to themselves, from the Coors Amphitheater side stage to opening for Ozomatli. They’ve played some of their favorite songs with original band members and performed Rocket Man with Jason Mraz at a local charity concert.
There may be more skilled bands in town, Farmer said, “but our level of commitment, organization and ability to network allows us to have a lot of success.”
The group now schedules up to seven shows a month, including private parties, charity events, and local venues like the 4th and B, Humphrey’s and the Belly Up Tavern. The group has become regulars at local summer concert series including Carmel Valley Summer Serenades and the Del Mar Twilight Summer Concert Series at Powerhouse Park.
Band members have come and gone over the years, leaving Farmer and Hughes as the two remaining founding members.
The band, recently renamed The Shockwaves to appease the wedding and bar mitzvah crowd, now includes front man Brian Prusinski, lead female vocalist April Mosebrook, bassist Steve Jewel, keyboardist Andy Shorenstein, longtime saxophonist Jim Mason, drummer Rich Muhr, Farmer on guitar and Hughes on rhythm guitar.
As businessmen, professionals and parents, balancing the demands of work, family, and twice-a-week rehearsals is tough, Farmer said.
But that didn’t stop them from recently forming a Rolling Stones tribute band, The Midnight Ramblers.
“As Left4Dead, we saw playing the Stones always gets people all fired up,” Farmer said.
Out of the band’s repertoire from AC/DC to Van Morrison, numerous Stones songs were their personal favorites as well. Hughes suggested playing an all-Stones show, which was met with some resistance.
“We kicked it around and decided actually trying to imitate the Stones was futile,” Hughes said. “But playing their songs as faithfully as we could, with the right kind of energy, if we can do that the audience will have a good time and so will we.”
The Midnight Ramblers, essentially The Shockwaves minus lead female vocals, debuted at Anthology in May, with two packed shows in one night. Band members said they had a blast playing the Stones’ music with special guests like Steve Poltz, Eve Selis and Astra Kelly.
“Structurally and harmonically, the songs are basic,” Hughes said. “But what happens with the lyrics, the signature guitar licks, and Charlie Watts drums is absolute magic. The opening notes of ‘Satisfaction,’ ‘Brown Sugar,’ ‘Jumping Jack Flash,’ ‘Honky Tonk Women’ are some of the greatest guitar sounds of all time.”
The Midnight Ramblers performed at House of Blues for tribute night last weekend and will take the stage at Powerhouse Park July 15 for the Del Mar Twilight Summer Concert Series.
As a Del Mar resident, Hughes said performing in his hometown is a dream.
“But then you add the fact that you’re playing on the shores of the mighty Pacific Ocean at sunset, in front of 3,000 people who seem to like the music,” Hughes said. “It’s like no other experience you can imagine, it’s intoxicating.”
For Farmer, playing guitar again after putting it down in college to focus on work and family is equally as thrilling.
“To have it back now is just an amazing feeling because it kind of defined my identity in high school, I was known as one of the guys in the band,” he said. “Now, to most of my adult friends, I’m the rock and roll attorney, one of the guys in the band.”
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