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Local Bands Unite For The Benefit For Dylan Concert At Korner Pocket In Raleigh

By: Sheryl Bryant

I owe a lot to the former Volume 11 Tavern (currently the Maywood) in South Raleigh’s Caraleigh neighborhood. It was there that I first met the members of Raleigh area bands Ivy Stone, Mechabull, and Motrendus. In November 2011, I accepted a press request to cover a January, 2012 show for Raleigh band Motrendus. The band had formed in 2010 and I was anxious to hear them. I knew when Steve Msarsa, bassist for Motrendus, met me at my car to walk me in the venue that it would be a special night. A well positioned seat and table were reserved for me and someone bought me a water. Small gestures to some I suppose, but I had never been made to feel so appreciated by a local band in my life. The show was behemoth and rock and roll radiated through the venue. I was immediately impressed and ultimately strong friendships were created from this occasion.

Around this same time, I decided to check out some local bands that played Volume 11’s open microphone sessions. Motrendus was instrumental in starting up these open mic sessions, coordinating efforts to promote local musicians, artists, and bands. These sessions provided an opportunity for newly formed groups and youth bands. They also gave those struggling for recognition and validation a place to be seen and heard. The exposure was critical for these bands to continue. This was the setting where I met Mechabull and Ivy Stone.

If my memory serves me correctly, the members of Ivy Stone were still in high school and just plain lusting to release tension from the building love they had for the electric guitar and hard driving rock and the rush that it brings. The late, great Randy Rhoads had been an inspiration to the band. I had a sense that they were in it for the long run just by the sparkle in their eyes and their driving passion, so I decided to cover one of their shows. Though the band members were young and green, they were nonetheless powerfully driven. It was clear by the confidence and fearlessness exuded by Victor Arruda and Max Marotta that they were Ivy Stone’s core, and that if this band was going to succeed, all the members past or present would need to persevere and rise to that same level of self discipline to succeed. Through years of persistence and a few lineup changes, it seems they have.

It was also there at Volume 11 in a similar gathering that I met the guys in Mechabull. Later, at a fine performance at the Whisky Room in Raleigh, I would be privileged to experience the band’s live show. It was apparent then that the band’s thirst for delivering some authentic heavy metal rock and roll was dying to be quenched. They were on fire with energy, excited and full of angst. All caution was thrown to the wind and the music was a little unhinged and unbridled, which for the most part works well for heavy metal. But what was somewhat missing is now in place. I think a bit of structure has made them much more cohesive and solid.

Move forward about five years and these three bands converged at the Korner Pocket, volunteering their skills and talents for a cause near and dear to me. I am so proud of the men who make up these three bands for coming together for The Benefit For Dylan, or as it affectionately also became known, the “Do It For Dylan” fundraiser Without their gestures of kindness, the event would not have been possible. For this, my son Dylan I are both so grateful.

It didn’t take long for the walls to begin shaking as Ivy Stone turned on the juice. They proceeded to rip through a nine song set of highly volatile rock and roll that began like an approaching runaway freight train. The show started with a bang with a little something they like to refer to as "The Jam".

Members of Ivy Stone are:

Victor Arruda: lead guitar
Pedro Arruda: bass
Max Marotta : drums
Beau Lastavich: lead vocals

Other tunes that Ivy Stone churned out like a tsunami were:

What’d I Say (Ray Charles)
Break on Through (The Doors) - with Billy Baty singing Jim Morrison - who, rather than turning over, was likely dancing in his grave!
Dazed and Confused (Led Zeppelin) - with Doyle Alley singing Robert Plant. Alley’s vocals were appropriately and eerily other worldly like Plant’s.
Hard to Handle (Otis Redding)
We’re All Pigs (original)
Sunshine of Your Love (Cream)
Foxy Lady (Jimi Hendrix)
Chameleon (Herbie Hancock) - the band’s closing rendition of this jazzy rocker spun funky was impressive.

Ivy Stone has grown and progressed in both their maturity level and skill sets. Socially, they have connected well too and have a greater rapport with their audience as a result. This comes from their solid commitment to touring in both 2015 and 2016. That night as I listened to them, these kids virtually the same age as my son, it hit me that they were no longer boys but had grown into men. I can tell you they are most essential and better balanced for giving to this and other causes. Thumbs up to Ivy Stone for their help and contribution!

In Mechabull’s world of all things heavy metal, the words soft and silent have no meaning. Hard and loud, however, are right at home in their universe. The crowd was loving the raw and ravenous vocals of lead singer Brian Mitch (aka Brianitis). The audience was reeling from the wild and woolly ride through heavy rock and roll produced by Mechabull’s thunderous electric guitars and powerhouse rhythm section. Explosive is the appropriate term for their set.

Mechabull is:

Sam Kushner: (aka Cesar Blade) guitar
Dr. Shawn Toxxic: drums
Capt. Russ Thruster: bass
Brian Mitch: lead vocals

Mechabull’s all original set list included these rockers:

Never Tried So Hard
Empty Words
Wasted the Day
Just to Breathe
You Wanted Excitement
Born a Slave
Pigs Feast
Time For Action
Look Out Below

Mechabull remains unwavering in their efforts to give it all they have to be the best they can be. Since their earlier days, it appears the band has gained greater insight into how to make that happen. An awakening has taken place. They appear to have come into their own now. What a great job they did with their set and what a fine show of community involvement the band displayed by contributing to the Benefit for Dylan. I think everyone attending the Benefit expressed their views that Mechabull is substantially stronger and more relevant today than four to five years ago. Practice and hard work has paid off for them. Some movement in their lineup has proven invaluable.

Motrendus was up last on stage and may very well have exceeded its own self imposed high standards. It sounded like they took their artistry to a higher level at this gig. If the band was very good five years ago (and they were), they are exceptionally good now. The four musicians are consistently tight as a tick when playing live, and their timing is top notch. You can hear and feel the experience, wisdom, and age working for them. There is a powerfully positive karma and meeting of the minds that exists with these four artists. There seems to be a collective air about Motrendus, as if four souls have musically transformed into one. On this night I especially felt it as Pete Bustin’s lead guitar and he melded. To the band's benefit, there is a torrid love affair going on with Pete and his guitar that heightens the experience for all of us. I’m telling you he was in rare form on Saturday night.

Motrendus is:

Billy Baty Lead vocals
Steve Msarsa bass
Will Adkins drums
Pete Bustin lead guitar.

Motrendus gave us the following originals and cover:

Selling the Dead
Communicate Change
Better Watch It
Break Away
The One I Love
Thru With You
War Vet
Alone in the Night
Sex Type Thing
American Band (Grand Funk)
Just Me

With the completion of Motrendus scorching set, the Benefit wrapped up nicely and successfully.
It should be noted that all three bands have singers with hellaciously good chops, powerful rhythm sections and sizzling lead guitarists, essential elements for a solid and successful rock ensemble.

Also vital to the Benefit's success was that in between the three performances, Gina and Doug Woods kept the giving spirit of the “Do It For Dylan” alive and well. The couple worked their magic with a successful raffle and auction. Several items auctioned off provided funding that added solidly to the proceeds. Their participation was invaluable! Appreciate the two of them!

A special thanks goes out to Ronnie and the Korner Pocket management and staff. Their generosity is very much appreciated.

Another thank you is extended to Tony of Run-n-Bare Productions for providing the sound equipment and handling the sound system. Your contribution was huge and we thank you.

Much gratitude is owed to Steve Msarsa and April Anders for commandeering the event. Hours and hours of hard work went into making the Benefit a reality!

Thanks goes out to Jane Tovine Davis and Marie Sadler for selling tickets and collecting donations.

Remember to give to your local musicians by attending their shows, buying their CD’s and purchasing some of their merchandise. These bands give so much to the local music scene. Many of them, like Ivy Stone, Mechabull, and Motrendus have been willing to help extended “family” members within our local musical community at large through their artistry. They need your support to continue to offer this assistance.

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