Rod Piazza & the Mighty Flyers
Blind Willie’s, Atlanta, GA • May 31, 2000
Roi J. Tamkin
“Everyone believes in their heart they’re a lover,” Rod states to the crowd at Blind Willie’s. But instead of hearing cheers or applause from an audience at half capacity, one man from the back shouts, “Try again!” Tough audience! But Rod Piazza’s blues are about love, and with the Mighty Flyers, he hoped to spread his message to Atlanta. The California bluesman was booked for two nights and four sets at Blind Willie’s. Up on the stage with the ever-cool and always-sunglassed Rod were his wife Honey on piano, Steve Mugalian on drums, Bill Stuve on upright acoustic bass, and scorching guitarist Rick Holmstrom. Frontman Rod Piazza blows a gritty Chicago-style harp and gladly steps aside to let his masterful bandmates shine.
The opening song was a mini-concert in itself. Clocking in at just under ten minutes, the long song allowed members of the band a little time to jam and show off their jump blues talents. They followed up with “Just Like A Woman.” Rick Holmstrom’s guitar work reminded me a lot of the ’50s music you would hear at Arnold’s in Happy Days. The band’s mix of swing and blues kept that ’50s feel alive in such songs as “Baby Don’t Go” and “I’ve Got Love to Share.” A boogie instrumental break with Honey and Steve brought a couple of women to the floor dancing, while a steady stream of people came in the front door. Seats filled in quickly as Honey and Steve hammered out their duet. Soon, Blind Willie’s was standing room only, and the pair received an ovation for their work. The rest of the band took the stage, and for the first time, the room came a live with cheers, hoots, and applause after each instrumental break within a song. The boogie tune “Shim Sham Shimmy” brought more people up on their dancing feet. Then Rick and Bill each got to sing a song to showcase their own individual talents as singers and musicians. The show ended with Rod blowing an amazing harmonica solo that took him across the floor, through the audience, and up onto the bar, where he cued the rest of the band to join in for an explosive ending.
Virginia Highlands was filled with Louisiana swamp boogie, jump blues and swing. The first set lasted almost two hours, and when the band took a break, everyone crowded around Rod in appreciation. I guess he didn’t have to “keep trying” any longer.