With a beer in hand and the rush of hard rock running through their veins, rock and rollers The Blackfires take the stage at The Bitter End on a Friday night in New York City.
“These guys just opened for Aerosmith over in Russia!” a friend had mentioned to me earlier in the week. “You HAVE to come see them play this weekend, they’ll blow you away!”
It’s not the first time I’ve heard someone claim their band would blow me away, but if they’re good enough to open for Aerosmith, then they sure have my attention. I’m not the biggest fan of the Bitter End, but seeing these guys made the place sound so much better than I’ve ever heard it before. Their brash energy, tight playing, and all or nothing attitude reminded me that in rock and roll, anything worth doing is certainly worth overdoing. Long hair, loud guitars, ripped jeans- these guys had everything a great rock band should.
The band’s first time playing Bitter End saw them ripping through originals and a few covers, one being my absolute favorite blues song ever in ‘Red House’, a song the band pulls out every now and then and almost got Brad Whitford to come on stage with them to jam along to during their stint in Europe.
“I’ve known Brad since 2008, and we’ve slowly become friends.” Guitarist Anthony Mullin pointed out. “I saw him do that song on the Experience Hendrix Tour he’s always on, and I’ve noticed Aerosmith is known for throwing that into their set list. He didn’t have the chance to make it out due to our short set time, but he said next time we’re doin’ it and I’ll be holding him to it.”
The band closed out their set with an impressive cover to Led Zeppelin’s ‘Whole Lotta Love’. Lead singer Cheggi has the powerful banshee-esque vocals of Robert Plant while guitarists Mullin and Hector Marin had their own chemistry as the duo traded leads, solos, and guitar mastery all night long.
By the end of their set they had a pretty crowded venue rocking right along with them. I was so taken back by how impressive the band sounded live as a whole unit and how fun they were to watch. No wonder they’re earning spots opening for some of rocks biggest acts. Knowing the band and I would share a love of hard rock, guitars, and partying, I had to get a word in with the guys backstage after their blistering set. Cheggi immediately made it clear (as if it wasn’t already) what he feels makes the band stand out among the hundreds of other New York rock bands.
“We love energy, we love making it into an actual show. We want people to move, to dance, and to have a really great time. We had 15,000 people chanting the words to one of our songs when we played over in Moscow. That’s the energy we want to bring to each show, regardless of what venue it is. I want to grab everyone’s attention. I want the first song to kick you in the face basically.”
“No matter where we play, I play as if we’re playing to a sold out Madison Square Garden. No matter if it’s two people to two hundred, that’s the way we deliver.” Drummer Joe Mitch added.
What brings them each together is their passion for unleashing that energy and playing rock music like their heroes. Unlike their heroes however, this band is aiming for a career in a music industry that doesn’t see a lot of hard rock bands on top of the iTunes charts or rock artists seeing very much money coming from labels in the form of advances. Like any smart musician who understands the flux of the current industry model, Cheggi understands where the bands opportunities come from today.
“We grew up in that era where you’re looking for the big deal from the big label, but now we understand that everything you need is already in your hands, and we’re in control. It’s a fucking hard job to do that but it’s really all you need. The playing field is much more even this way. You just have to work it. The only downside is that it takes away from the time spent working on your actual music. I wish I could spend more time writing and recording but you’ve got to balance this and that, which comes with the do-it-yourself strategy.”
With a great rock band like this, it only makes you hope that hard rock can climb back out of the ashes and back into the top-40 spotlight. The Blackfires seem to symbolize that raw, organic sounding musical energy that was lost sometime around N*SYNC’s first lyrical fart into a microphone and is only seen in glimpses around pop music today. The guys don’t seem to let that phase them though, as they are as certain as we are they there is plenty of opportunity and talent out there to keep rock music relevant going forward.
“It looks like everything is too overproduced right now, too polished and too fake ya know?” Cheggi mentioned. “Even in rock, I really believe right now there’s a great chance for us to get rock out there. We were talking to Glenn Hughes recently and he was talking about a paradigm shift on how rock is beginning to come back. There’s a new generation of kids at 14/15 years old that wear Zeppelin or Aerosmith shirts. There were a lot of really young kids at the Aerosmith show we played on that came up and thanking us just for being a young band playing their favorite kind of music for a younger generation. For them it’s almost something new again, just true, primal rock delivered honestly. That gives me hope.”
Article by: Tom Shackleford
Photo credit: Peniston Photography