Warner Drive
Warner Drive At The Viper Room

May 10, 2008
A Homecoming of Earth-Shattering Proportions

By Jay Maruki

When Warner Drive announced that they would be playing a big show at their old stomping grounds, one knew it had to be an unbelievable night. True to form, the "four-man wrecking crew" demolished the very foundation of the Viper Room, shattered car windows six blocks away, and shredded what little clothing the stunning sea of women were wearing! As for the male species in the audience, well let's just say that the sound waves were enough to sterilize them, and in some cases, they did the gene pool a VERY big favor!

Launching this fire hazard, overpacked house party with the de facto anthem "The Viper Room", all six-foot ten of Jonny (he's six-four, with a six-inch high Aqua Net Mohawk piercing the sky) whipped the bevy of WD fans into a frothy frenzy and leaving newcomers in stunned, gaping silence. I'll bet any newcomer to the show was not prepared for the WD onslaught and the accompanying roar of the crowd following each and every song. Party they do, and they do it well, and not just at The Viper Room; Less than four weeks ago, Warner Drive blew the roof off a Rubio's down in Mission Viejo using another band's equipment, doing nothing more than what they've gotten good at. Anytime, anywhere, it seems readily apparent that WD can lay waste to any venue of any size. The energy level that all of them exude is beyond anything that I have ever seen, and the audience responds in kind, but tenfold! It's so infectious, that I wouldn't be surprised if employees and customers two blocks away at The Hustler Store were stomping their feet and bangin' their heads in time to WD's signature brand of rock!

Normally at this point in the review, I would be running through all of the songs in the set one by one, giving my little commentary here and there, but in this case, I just plain forgot to ask the guys for a copy of the set list. No matter though: Warner Drive NEVER missed a single note or verse, keeping a frenetic pace throughout the night. The one "slow-down" (and I use the term loosely) point was when they played "Broken", a power ballad that's a 12 out of 10, and definitely a candidate for radio-friendly airplay. Although I believe that the song was originally borne out of a lost soul who found a way out of the bottom of the well, it really can be applied to any relationship, romantic or otherwise (such as the relationship between a parent and child), and can even be interpreted a an uplifting song for those who are mourning the loss of a loved one. I personally rank this song up with the classic power ballads of the 80's, not because it's a cheesy deal, but rather because most of those past ballads were written in relation to something that was very personal to them at that time in their lives. Jonny's swelling vocal performance, rife with emotional strain and soulful stirrings, is a much-needed departure from all of the imitators who use scream therapy as a way to sell a good time. Warner Drive needs no such anger to get butts in front of the stage; Their one and only selling point is to make music for themselves, not the masses. Thankfully, the masses came, and they're growing more and more with each passing show.

Frontman and second guitarist Jonny Law is the very definition of what it means to be a rock star. Charismatic to a fault with a slick sense of humor, he's the main reason why Warner Drive's shows are always at least a 5-to-1 ratio of girls to guys. Using every inch of the stage area, Jonny makes sure that everyone can see him, and that he can see everyone in passing. Mere words are not enough to fully summarize the hurricane force that is Warner Drive: From humble beginnings to headlining the Vans Warped Tour, it seems as if Warner Drive is cruising on the pinnacle of success. But they're just getting started: I'm sure that Warner Drive will not only be around for years to come, but they'll also be the ones who are imitated the most.

Peet may be the jokester personality of the group, but when he wraps that battleship gray EB Stingray bass across his torso, something magically animalistic transforms Peet of The Village Idiot into Jackhammer Peet, the intense madman of the stage. For Peet, it's not about thumping one note on one string; Peet's role in Warner Drive, like the many bassists of classic rock bands, is to tie together all of the musical elements of a four-piece band and help solidify the backbeat foundation that Matt provides on the drums. In my last review of the Charity Rockfest, I compared Peet to Flea of Red Hot Chili Peppers fame. I realize that I was mistaken, as Flea should be compared to Peet! Flea, Michael Anthony, Stu Hamm, or Mike Dirnt need to take lessons from Peet, as his musical ear is finely tuned to the frenzied pace of most of WD's songs. In this band, the bass is not overpowering, nor is it buried in the Matt's kick drum, but if you listen closely, it is an absolute integral part of their signature sound.

Armed with a humbucker-equipped guitar, a wah pedal, and a hundred-watt half-stack, Chris can pretty much kick the shit out of any guitarist just on pure tone alone. Factor in some dazzling triplet hammer-on runs across four strings, and you'd better just leave quickly and quietly, for once he's in the zone, no one's safe. Unusually clean-shaven for this outing (thanks to his boss), one would never think that this somewhat quiet, non-descript man just happens to be a whirlwind of six-string wizardry on stage! No matter what Chris plays, he ALWAYS looks like he's having the time of his life on stage, which is probably 100% true. With his tongue wagging la Michael Jordan, Chris burns the frets off the guitar, sets the amp on fire, and scorches a six-block radius around himself, while grinning from ear to ear at the same time. Chris and Peet are the perfect foils to each other, and it's obvious that they enjoy performing on stage together, taking jabs at one another while simultaneously creating seismic waves of paint-peeling tone that's as "brown" as the day Eddie Van Halen coined the term.

"Machine Gun" Matt can double-time a beat better and faster than anyone I know, and it's simply amazing to me that no one gets off track or loses count mid-song. Blazing fast drum rolls and meaty, skins-busting beats twist and bend the laws of 4/4 time to the maximum, and the staccato-like atmosphere of Warner Drive's music must be seen as well as heard. This is one of the few bands whose live show is way better than the studio performance, and the payoff is the high energy pouring forth from both the band as well as the audience.

Ah, to be young again and have all that energy bottled up, waiting like a powder keg to explode. Warner Drive makes every show seem as if it were their last, putting everything they've got into it, and then some. See you at the Aqua Lounge in Beverly Hills May 29th!