Backstage News, Front Row Pics

2014 ~ The Year of The Dogs


Winery Dogs top pic 

By SethM

They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but when you have three old dogs like The Winery Dogs, who needs to, as they proved this week at the kickoff of their 2014 tour with phenomenal back-to-back shows at BB King’s in New York City.

Before I even get into the show, I just need to remind everyone that I love music and will give anything a fair listen with an open mind, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I will like what I hear.  In this case of The Winery Dogs album, however, I loved what I heard and can honestly say that it is without question one of my top 2 albums for 2013. I’d even go as far as saying that it’s probably in my top 5 albums of the last 5 years ~ and I’ve listened to A LOT of albums in that time!

Mike Portnoy

Mike Portnoy

For those of you who’ve missed the boat up ‘til now, I’ll back up a bit.  The Winery Dogs are a powerhouse trio whom some might even consider to be a super group ~ and I wouldn’t argue with them, because when you put Mike Portnoy, Billy Sheehan and Richie Kotzen together, you have some serious power that results in nothing less than super!

I’ve been a fan of all three musicians since way back when, so I’ll go even deeper into the little history of the band; you might just discover that you’re more familiar with them than you thought.

Mike Portnoy is probably best known for being one of the founding members (along with John Petrucci and John Myung) of Dream Theater. Being from Long Island, I was able to catch them back in the Majesty days and these guys were and are some of the most technical and talented musicians you’ll ever see play live. Mike has also had many other music projects including Transatlantic, Liquid Tension Experiment, Adrenaline Mob, and even Yellow Matter Custard (a Beatles Band that played only a few times but were fantastic). Additionally, he has appeared on a ton of albums and done tour guest appearances for everyone from Avenged Sevenfold and Overkill to Stone Sour and Neal Morse to…the list goes on and on.

Billy Sheehan

Billy Sheehan

As a teenager, I was impressed when I saw a band called Talas at a local club and was especially blown away by the bass player. That guy’s name? Billy Sheehan.  And since that first time I saw him play, every time he hits the stage it is mind-blowing.  Like Mike, Billy also hails from New York and has a ridiculous amount of musical history; he is probably best known for being in David Lee Roth’s band after DLR split from Van Halen and for being in the chart-topping band Mr. Big. However, Billy also has recorded numerous albums with Niacin, put out some solo work, and appeared on a variety of other albums including three of Richie Kotzen’s.

Richie Kotzen

Richie Kotzen

Richie Kotzen rounds out the trio and despite probably being the least well-known member, his accomplishments are no less impressive, starting with the fact that he’s been playing music since he was 5.  When C.C. DeVille was fired from Poison, Richie stepped into the band as well as into the co-writing position on Native Tongue, which produced multiple hits and made it into Billboard’s Top 20. He’s since purchased a studio, recorded about 20 solo albums, and may even have made more album/guest appearances than Sheehan and Portnoy combined.

So like I said, with three dogs like this, who already have an exceptional legacy of musical tricks, who needs new ones, right? When you put them together in a recording studio or on stage, they’re totally revitalized and their combined musical history and talents produce nothing less than a sound with majorly fierce teeth!

But getting back to the live show.  Now don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of amazing artists out there and even ones who play on albums or live together and sound fantastic. But The Winery Dogs have a special chemistry that translates so well live that it’s amazing to witness.  The crowd is theirs before they even walk on stage and you can watch these guys taking their performance to another level not only because they’re feeding off the crowd’s energy, but also because they’re feeding off of, inspired by, and entertained by each other as well, a camaraderie that shows in the smiles they exchange onstage. If you pay close attention, too, you’ll notice Sheehan and Kotzen watching each other play licks almost as if they were jamming together for the first time, while Portnoy sits center stage almost as if he’s conducting the whole thing as he lays down the backbone.


Given that they only have one album, you won’t be disappointed if you have a favorite track since they play them all during the set. They kick off all their shows with the first single, “Elevate,” and with its “Elevate me, Take me higher” lyric, that pretty much says it all, that the show is only going up from there (and “there” is already pretty damn high). Following up with the heavy blues guitars of “Criminal” and ridiculous bass lines of “We Are One,” by the time they bring it down, just a little, for the fourth song of the set, “One More Time,” you have already witnessed all three of these music master show their chops.

Winery_Dogs50Did I say, “…bring it down?” Because even when they are “down,” they are still completely grooving… and groove right into “Time Machine.” The Winery Dogs keep it old school, giving each member a solo to showcase his talents, although to be honest, every single song is basically a showcase. I am sure that adding in the solos has something to do with the limited material, but to flesh out the set they also do some covers of artists that included Hendrix and The Four Tops, plus some songs from each of their previous “past musical lives.”

Winery_Dogs11The Winery Dogs’ set comes with plenty of energy, great songs, drum stick twirling, bass slapping and Richie’s incredible voice that has been accurately compared to everyone from Chris Cornell to Prince and David Coverdale to Paul Rodgers. Reading that list of vocalists might make the comparisons sound crazy, but Richie can hit the highs and the lows and do it all while playing a six string like the best of them. The band played about two hours and they even played a “New Song,” which I’m hoping means this isn’t going to be the last album we get from Portnoy, Sheehan and Kotzen as an entity.

When I first heard The Winery Dogs I was beyond impressed and saw a few articles and reviews comparing them to Cream or calling them the Cream of the 2000s; that description is 100% accurate, as they are three virtuosos of their own instruments who came together, have written incredible songs, and have an amazing dynamic.


If you like rock, blues, metal, and even some jazz, and appreciate musicians who have exceptional talent and a rare, infectious connection on stage,  then The Winery Dogs is a band you MUST check out because they are a kick ass, cross musical genre trio, the kind that doesn’t come along very often.

If the band is playing a date near you, DO NOT MISS IT!!

Mar 29 Monsters of Rock Cruise Miami, FL

Apr 30 Bergen Performing Arts Center Englewood, NJ

May 02 Ridgefield Playhouse Ridgefield, CT

May 03 State Theater New Brunswick, NJ

May 04 Penn’s Peak Jim Thorpe, PA

May 07 Birchmere Music Hall Alexandria, VA

May 09 Variety Playhouse Atlanta, GA

May 10 Amos Southend Charlotte, NC

May 11 Ziggy’s Winston-Salem, NC

May 14 Culture Room Fort Lauderdale, FL

May 15 Largo Cultural Center Largo, FL

Jun 26 Coach House Santa Ana, CA

Jun 27 Saban Beverly Hills, CA

Jun 28 Canyon Club Agoura Hills, CA


And if you’re a musician and can’t get enough of these guys and want a really cool experience, then check out “The Winery Dogs Camp” July 21st-25th in Big Indian NY.

For more dates and information, check out The Dogs’ official site.

And if you haven’t bought their album or want some good special packages that include shirts, prints, vinyl copies and more, head here.

The album

The album

The Dogs are also on Facebook, so go Like them  ~ and don’t forget to like, too!