Reflections in Red
Carved out of the pristine, Colorado landscape sits one of the most unique and elegantly engineered outdoor venues in the U.S., The Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre. Situated in Morrison, Colorado approximately 10 miles outside of Denver, Red Rocks is not only a concert venue but also a part of the Denver Parks System. With its haunting, amber glow that illuminates from the earthen stone after nightfall, one can’t help but wonder what the experience of Red Rocks must be like.
Adam Ferraioli, drummer of Get the Led Out: The American Led Zeppelin, has not only played this spectacular venue in the past week; but can lend a perspective like none other – the view from behind the kit. From the “Wanton Song” to “Whole Lotta’ Love”, Ferraioli is armed and ready to deliver to an eager audience, that reminiscent and iconic sound of the late John Bonham.
I had the thrill of talking with Adam about his experience at Red Rocks this year. One of the first things I wondered is what Ferraioli’s first impression was of the venue. “The first time I saw the venue I was in awe!” he says. “I know the history of this venue and the people that have played here. Just to be able to be on the same stage as some of those iconic performers was an honor!” This is not Get the Led Out’s first visit to Red Rocks, having played here in 2014. There is a kind of magic about this place that evokes memories of past performances. “It’s Colorado and it smelled like the old Philadelphia Spectrum with all the smoke in the air.” Adam says, remembering the days in past venues. “It was like when I used to go to concerts in the old days when you walked into a cloud of smoke and there were a lot of happy people just anticipating some great music!”
I asked Adam about how a Red Rocks crowd of nearly 8,000 looks and sounds from his perspective, being up on the platform under the heated lights. “I do get the best view of the bands’ asses.” Adam says, delightfully. This year they “…had more people this time and the feed from the audience is just amazing at that venue. They really seem to like their classic rock there.” And what group of eager Zep fans wouldn’t be ready to rock in this House of the Holy? In terms of an outdoor versus indoor venue, Adam further comments that “Red Rocks acoustics are natural and it’s incredible for drums. The drums sound so big. Dave Matthews chose that venue for a live album. You could hear every nuance that our singer (Paul Sinclair) tries to put out there. That’s probably the best part.”
A fact many fans may not realize is that Red Rocks sits at a much higher elevation than most venues. Being in Colorado and in a mountainous range, this can pose some challenges that other venues do not present. I wanted Adam to share with me how the elevation affected him throughout the night. “I actually have had some problems with the altitude. If you’re not there for four days or more it definitely will take your breath away and some stamina.” He says. “The venue is so beautiful and the adrenaline is just flying. It just all happens. I feel worse for the crew.” Ferraioli adds.
“They have the tough job of lugging that equipment up the big hill and setting everything up to make us look good.” And it’s no secret that the Get the Led Out crew does in fact make the band look good. Everything from stage setup to sound checks and lights. In fact, I asked Adam specifically about the lighting, which is always well tailored at a Get the Led Out Show. I wanted to know how a venue with so much natural beauty affected how the light was used. “Our lighting director, Beth Rehrig, does an amazing job wherever we are and last year we had a little bit better set up for lights than this year.” Ferraioli tells me. “She was able to put the scenes together on the rocks it looked magical.” She just has a really good feel for what we’re doing and what we want. “We let her run with it and she’s on point with my drum solo especially.”
Speaking of drum solos, it needs to be mentioned that Adam performed “Moby Dick”, an instrumental drum feature on the B side of Led Zeppelin, II. Not only is it a dynamic piece, but you can almost feel the sweat that is poured into this feature. So, was last Thursday’s “Moby Dick” satisfactory to the audience? “I actually had a pretty good solo that night. It varies night to night because I kind of ad-lib. The solo is not always the same. I have a set formula I go with and throw in variables throughout each night to keep people from being bored.” Adam explains. “Of course you want to give them your best. Usually the drum solo is when you take a bathroom break.” He says with a smirk.
I wanted to get into the technical side of setting up for a show, quizzing Ferraioli about his kit setup. “I use the same basic set up that John Bonham did, a 26 inch bass drum, 10″x14″ tom, 16 x 16″ floor and a 16 x18″ floor.” He explains, which is a driving force in re-creating the Bonham sound. “The miking is obviously a little bit different than they did back in the 70s I have a couple microphones mounted inside my bass drum and our sound engineer Chris Chalfin does an amazing job.”
Something fans may not be aware of that Adam shares is the influence of the big band era on John Bonham’s percussive style. With the average kick of a bass drum In the 70s at around 22 inches, the 26-inch proved to be a force with which to be reckoned. “He [Bonham] was a swing drummer and loved the big feel that the 26” bass drum gave him. Carmine Appice had a little to do with that too; a story for another time.” Ferraioli says. In addition to equipment, Adam uses Vic Firth drumsticks with either an 8D nylon tip or 8D wood tip depending on the song. “The sticks have gotten a little lighter over the years. I used to use 5B which is a heavier stick”. I was also curious as to how many sets of sticks were typically used in a night. “Obviously if I’m not breaking them it could just be one or two pair a night. Some nights I hit things wrong and break a few.”
I asked about what Adam does when preparing his kit for a show, as many drummers prefer to handle their own kits. Ferraioli is no exception. “I have a drum tech who is also our tour manager. He wears many other hats as well. I basically tune up my drums, change my heads, and fix certain things during the show. I have someone to help me out with all that stuff but I like to tune my own drums.” Having performed a 2-½ hour set at Red Rocks, the inevitable fatigue is bound to become a factor. When asked about Ferraioli’s most physically demanding song in the set, he answered with “Whole Lotta’ Love” just because it was at the end of the set and I overextended myself…my arms might’ve been a little bit tired by then.” He also adds that at the point in the night when the set is coming to a close and the crowd is captivated, you tend to forget about the physical fatigue.
Get the Led out is made up of Paul Sinclair on lead vocals and harmonica, Andrew Lipke, vocals, guitar, theremin, and keyboard, Paul Hammond, on guitar and mandolin, Jimmy Marchiano on guitar and vocals, Phil DeAgostino on bass, Diana DeSantis, vocals on “The Battle of Evermore” and of course, Adam Ferraioli on drums and additional percussion. Get the Led Out embraces their audiences with one major commonality: They are fans. With that being said, I asked Ferraioli which Led Zeppelin album was his favorite. “That’s a tough question.” Adam begins. “I have different favorites for different reasons. I guess if I had to pick one probably Led Zeppelin II. I remember hearing “Whole Lotta’ Love” on the radio and I’d never heard anything like that at the time. I was blown away. Just a great album front to back and of course, “Moby Dick” is on there also! That might’ve had something to do with it.”
I cannot possibly thank the very talented and dedicated Adam Ferraioli for taking a moment to talk to me amidst Get the Led Out’s current tour. You can check out tour dates at GTLOrocks.com and be sure to check them out on Facebook or Twitter @GettheLedOut! In closing, Adam adds that he is greatly anticipating 2016 at Red Rocks. For those of you in the Colorado area, Colorado Public Television will be airing the September 24th Red Rocks show.
Interviewer and writer: Amanda Knight @AmandaJill82
All Photos are exclusive copyright and provided courtesy of Adam Ferraioli and the GTLO Crew!