PJ Farley and Steve Brown of Trixter performed an acoustic show at Count’s Vamp’d on Thursday, August 10, 2023, with members of The Nocturnal Affair opening the gig.
August 10 brought not one but two acoustic sets to Count’s Vamp’d, with members of local favorites The Nocturnal Affair, and 2/4 of the classic members of Trixter. Vamp’d always manages to get together a worthy assortment of shows, and this evening certainly sounded like a promising one. Being an unusual Thursday night gig, the venue wasn’t overly busy, but those who didn’t come out to rock certainly missed out.
Opening the evening was an acoustic set from two members of The Nocturnal Affair. While a Vegas-based group, I won’t deny that I’m not overly familiar with their music, aside from having heard a few songs online. It’s possible I saw them as a support act at Vamp’d in the pre-pandemic years as well. In either event, this was an entertaining opening set, featuring the group performing several of their original compositions in the expected stripped-down format. This performance has certainly made me eager to check out the band in a more standard concert setting as well, with all their members. Hopefully by then, I’ll have had a chance to check out more of their back catalogue! They’ll also be a support act on Fozzy’s upcoming tour.
The headliners, of course, were Steve Brown and PJ Farley, formerly the guitarist and bassist, respectively, in Trixter, a group that seems to no longer be active. Recent years have also seen Brown filling in for both Phil Collen and Vivian Campbell in Def Leppard, so he gets around! I’d previously seen the full Trixter band playing at Vamp’d in around 2015, which was a solid show, but was particularly curious to see how this acoustic format would play out!
With the absence of Trixter vocalist Pete Loran, these two handle the vocal duties themselves at these gigs (don’t worry; they do a good job). Likewise, Trixter drummer Mark Gus Scott isn’t present either, so the group has recruited Ben Hans. Right from the get-go, it was clear that this trio is tight and has a good chemistry; Farley and Brown are as charismatic, fun, and likeable on the stage as they’ve ever been. Hans is the one musician with whom I had no familiarity whatsoever prior to the gig, but he did his job fantastically.
Although billed as “acoustic,” this was still a loud show. The band members jokingly referred to it as an “Atomic Acoustic” gig. While using hollow-bodied acoustic guitars, they were certainly plugged in and loud, and of course, Hans’ drumming was quite intense as well. I typically wear ear plugs to concerts to protect my hearing, though I usually refrain from wearing them at more intimate and stripped down gigs. These guys were loud and raucous enough even in this so-called “unplugged” format that I still found myself wearing them. How many acoustic gigs can you say that about? And that’s a good thing.
The group managed to put together a fantastic setlist as well, with a diverse and eclectic mix of songs, including a few unexpected surprises! The pair of classic hits, “One in a Million” and “Give it to Me Good,” were of course included, as well as deeper album cuts like “Rockin’ Horse” and “Surrender” (not the Cheap Trick song). I was also pleased to see the band didn’t neglect their two most recent studio offerings, HUMAN ERA and NEW AUDIO MACHINE, which to me are the two best albums the group has ever done, and are certainly worth looking into. My one minor complaint regarding Trixter songs in the setlist was the omission of my favorite cut from the former album, “Rockin’ to the Edge of the Night.”
But it doesn’t stop there. As was previously stated, we certainly got a few surprise cuts! This included a PJ Farley solo song (I didn’t even know the guy had solo material but am certainly curious now), and a cover of Paul Simon’s “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover” (Trixter had previously recorded this for a covers album in the mid-1990s). The biggest surprise and highlight of the evening for me, however, was a cover of the underrated KISS song “A Million to One,” originally recorded for that band’s LICK IT UP album back in 1983. I always enjoy live KISS music, regardless of who’s performing it, but these guys truly did the song justice (I think Paul and Gene would’ve approved). Moments like this are the reason I love live music.
While it’s a shame Trixter as a proper band seems to be on an indefinite hiatus these days, this unplugged show from half the group was a fantastic one, packed with great performances, musical surprises, and the signature humor these guys are known for. Even Eddie Trunk (who’d interviewed the guys earlier in the day on his Sirius XM show) was in attendance, along with his longtime photographer and friend Ron Akiyama, and Angel vocalist Frank DiMino! The night didn’t fail to please, and The Nocturnal Affair’s opening set was a fantastic way to kick things off. If you have a chance to catch Steve and PJ doing this gig, don’t pass it up.