By Felicia Naoum
“I loved it. Awesome show. Could’ve danced and listened all night.” – Carletta Speedy
“After a show like that, it’s hard to let go so keep posting!” – Larry Kubilus in reference to a March 2017 Club Velvet Hard Rock Rocksino Northfield Park video posted on Dirty Deed’s Official Facebook page
New Year’s Eve is one of the biggest celebrations of the year, and the Rocksino is ready to “rock-it” in such a classic way. Music lovers know that American rock band Van Halen and Australian rock band AC/DC debuted in the 70s and are still the living legends that many classic rock fans swoon over today.
When you can’t get the real thing, the Rocksino gets the next best thing, and that’s two very original tribute bands of AC/DC and Van Halen.
Meet Dirty Deeds and PANAMA.
I spoke with Freddy DeMarco of Dirty Deeds who portrays Angus Young of AC/DC, and he filled me in on why Dirty Deeds is different than any other AC/DC tribute and why you should bring in the New Year at their show!
After being ready to move from the bar scene to a bigger stage, Dirty Deeds took the opportunity and ran with it. To create originality, DeMarco explains that Dirty Deeds is the only AC/DC tribute band that does a costume change to depict each era of AC/DC: Bon Scotts, Highway to Hell Era and the Brian Johnson Era. Dirty Deeds dresses in full costume for both eras, which gives fans a two-for-one show.
DeMarco proclaims the groups’ love for AC/DC in a way that makes you understand why they couldn’t just pick one era to portray. “We love AC/DC, he says. They have so many songs and number one hits.”
Don’t worry, DeMarcus promises to keep the earlier years of AC/DC “a lot crazier” as he says AC/DC did when they were younger.
The party doesn’t just stop in early years of AC/DC. DeMarcus and his bandmates know how important New Year’s Eve is for many people and they are ready to bring more than their A-Game. “Every time we play, it’s 110 percent. With New Years, I think we are going to be as inspired as we would ever be playing that night. It’s a night that’s more than routine.”
New Year’s Eve is a great reason to bring a stellar show to stage, right? But even for a hardcore rocker like DeMarcus, the meaning of performing at the December 31 Rocksino show is far more consequential because he will be home. “I lived in almost every state of the union. It’s awesome to play music at Rocksino, on New Year’s, in our hometown,” he proudly admits.
There’s no denying DeMarcus’s love for AC/DC. However, all the love in the world still makes me wonder if it’s challenging for a tribute band to sustain their own identity. And for DeMarcus and Dirty Deeds, it’s simply “not a factor” for the group, but challenging individually.
“Our job as a tribute band is to relive the concert experience for the crowd. It’s genuine. We play our hearts out and feel every bit of it. The way we play the guitar – we’re mimicking and emulating them as close as humanly possible. Having our own identity is not a factor.”
Audience members can expect much more from Dirty Deeds than just a tribute performance. When DeMarcus speaks of his passion for AC/DC, you know that he and his bandmates are truly putting their hearts and souls into being AC/DC for the night. With that kind of passion, you will get as close to the real band as humanly possible.
And with even more passion erupting on stage, I ask DeMarcus which AC/DC songs steal the night. His answer: Highway to Hell and Back in Black.
Another element that steals the night at a Dirty Deeds show is that there is not one ordinary fan in the audience. A Dirty Deeds audience includes no limited demographics, just fans – of all kinds. “We have people as small as six years old with t-shirts and people as old as 89 years old – that’s why we love AC/DC.”
Fans are a vital component of a Dirty Deeds show, but so is who introduces you and who you play with. Dirty Deeds will be introduced on stage by AC/DC’s former Tour Manager and member of The University of Akron’s Football Hall of Fame, Mike Andy. And PANAMA is a familiar band to the group. “It means a lot to be playing with PANAMA,” adds DeMarcus.
And, I can see why.
“What an over the top show PANAMA puts on. I have gotten lots of praise about the band and many requests to bring them back next year. PANAMA absolutely recreates the energy, attitude and bombastic sound of early era Van Halen. Unquestionably one of the best bands Sterlingfest has ever booked.” – Mike Crimmins, Community Relations Dept., the City of Sterling Hts., Michigan
“When it comes to the Real Van Halen, the early Roth years – this is the closest to the real thing…bar none. Best show and likenesses to the band…even down to the Roth mannerisms…it’s awesome!” Screamin Scott, WRIF DETROIT, Scott Randall
David Lee Roth might not be in the building, but again, it almost feels like it. Ric Rzepka is the one who portrays him on stage, and it’s evident, based on the reviews, that people love him and his Van Halen Tribute Band, PANAMA.
To confirm the positive reviews, Rzepka shares messages from fans with me. “Our fans are always telling us how much we sound just like early Van Halen and bring back the early Van Halen experience. [Performing] is a great trip down memory lane.”
Rzepka, who openly admits once struggling in the construction business due to an economic decline in 2009 was one reason to get back to music. Since he was nine years old, Rzepka played music. In fact, he recalls the memory of creating a Partridge Family tribute band with his sister as a kid. But as much as the Partridge Family was a part of his childhood, it was a very specific Van Halen era that led Rzepka to where he is today – it is, as he personifies, the David Lee Roth era.
With no ill-will to Sammy Hager, Rzepka’s heart is forever etched in the Roth era. “Nothing against Sammy but when he joined Van Halen, it changed the dynamic. To me, Van Halen was always David Lee Roth.”
Rzepka’s love for Van Halen runs deep, and he dreams of sharing the stage with the original band one day. Some dreams may not be so far out of reach because PANAMA seems to be on Van Halen’s radar. Rzepka shares how Van Halen sent the tribute band a box of promotional material to share with fans.
And it is fans who truly appreciate how hard PANAMA works to mimic Van Halen. Rzepka speaks of a fan at a Cincinnati show who said he felt like he was transported back to the early 80s. Perhaps, partially because Rzepka and his bandmates strive to be 100 percent Van Halen. “I have studied David Lee Roth’s videos and music to get his mannerisms down. I think we both have the same hair!”
You may wonder why Van Halen. Why does Rzepka study David Lee Roth so hard? His answer may be simple, but musically speaking, quite profound.
“Because they were the greatest in history as far as I’m concerned.” In fact, the Recording Industry Association of America lists Van Halen as the 19th bestselling band of all time. It’s hard to argue with that.
For Rzepka, mimicking one of the greatest band of all time may only be a hobby, but a pretty special hobby to say the least.
“Is it challenging to stay original and keep your own identity in a tribute band?” I ask.
“No, not at all,” says Rzepka. It’s just a hobby for me. I become David Lee Roth for an hour, take it off, and I’m me…”
And Rzepka is someone who worked hard, followed his dream of music and made it happen. He spent years in original bands and once left music to build a family and business. But he’s back, in a legendary way, as David Less Roth. This goes to show, anything is possible. As Rzepka says, “Just follow your dreams and practice, practice.”
But for now, it’s all about your dreams for New Year’s Eve 2017 and the Hard Rock Rocksino Northfield Park has you covered for one heck of a party. And it will be a party. Just ask Rzepka. “We’re looking forward to it because New Year’s [Eve] is a big party night and Van Halen was a big party band.”
It will be a night of hometown artists, exceptional classic rock, and cheers to all things new when you spend New Year’s Eve 2017 at Hard Rock Rocksino Northfield Park.
Tickets available at the Rocksino Box Office or ticketmaster.com.
For more on Dirty Deeds, visit www.dirtydeedsusa.com
For more on PANAMA, visit www.panamavanhalentribute.com/