Who: Prime Directive, Crimson Sky and Isaac Bear
When: Friday, March 25, 7 p.m. (doors open at 6) – 11 p.m.
Where: Mother Lode (Clara Schreiber) Lion’s Hall, corner of Pleasant Valley and Missouri Flat roads
Tickets/info: prime-d-live.com, Jonny Robert 530-391-6105
If music encompassed your essence of being, your core values and major goals, Prime Directive would be a great name for your band. You might also win the 2010 Battle of the Bands at the fair.
Which is precisely what Prime Directive did last summer. Now Prime Directive brings its energy and talent to the stage at the Mother Lode Lion’s Hall this Friday night, March 25.
Crimson Sky and Isaac Bear, also fine acts, open up the concert at 7 p.m. Prime Directive will finish out the concert until 11 p.m. with their entertaining and versatile repertoire of covers past and present. They will also showcase some enchanting original compositions.
“It’s going to be mega fun,” enthused Clint Stremcha, 17, who plays guitar and banjo as well as being a singer in the group. He also wrote a song called “Hobo Man” which features a whistle solo (not the instrument, but old-fashioned whistling).
The ad hoc band leader is Jonny Robert Shapiro, who is a pianist par excellence and an amiable showman who takes to the stage like a pro. With his hat and cool shades (one pair features upside down peace symbols), he reminds one of Elton John in his early years, including the talent.
Like the other band members, Shapiro is self-taught, passionate and immensely skillful. He has some three pianos at home, but will probably just have his digital grand piano at the concert. It is probably Shapiro’s piano/keyboard expertise, along with the sincerity and aptitude of all the band members, that makes Prime Directive so unique and compelling.
Each member of the band joins in the back-up vocals and has their specialties. All students at Union Mine High School in El Dorado, each one of these wholesome young men is full of personality, verve and seemingly musical genius.
Bass guitarist Thomas Winings, 17, and the drummer, Shane O’Leary, 16, really keep the beat pulsing.
“Shane (the drummer) knows how to regulate the group,” Winings said, which helps him to drive the beat smoothly on his cool bass guitar.
Pots and pans to TAMA
The newest and youngest member of the band, O’Leary was not in the group last summer when they won the Battle of the Bands. But he is a true asset, just as he is on the UMHS baseball team, where he plays shortstop.
O’Leary said that he has been drumming “all his life.” He started with pots and pans and drumming on random surfaces ever since he can remember. Now he has a TAMA drum kit, which unleashes him to play with flair, creativity and style.
Aside from his uncle showing him some techniques, O’Leary is self-taught. An accomplished jazz drummer, he can read the drum part on some jazz scores, but really doesn’t read music. Clearly, it’s not needed — the beat seems to pulse through his veins, and he’s looking forward to doing some cool and compelling drum solos.
O’Leary, who has two brothers and a sister, grew up listening to The Beatles, Elvis and other artists.
Incredible genres and styles
Prime Directive does not seem to be the ‘”average white band.” They are influenced by many different genres and can rock out with hits from the 50s all the way to the present. Among their playlist are “old school” songs from Jerry Lee Lewis, and they have great fun doing things like the Stray Cat’s “Rock This Town” and the Beatles/Isley Bros. “Twist and Shout” and the Animals’ “House of the Rising Sun.” But they also do songs from the Red Hot Chile Peppers, Straightcuts and Talking Heads to name a few.
Shapiro said that they like to start with some songs from the ’50s, then move on through the decades.
When the band does “Billie Jean,” O’Leary plans to leave the TAMA set to mimic Michael Jackson — and his “Moon Walk” and other moves look great.
Prime Directive takes to the stage with incredible style: they wear suits, ties and hats, looking both professional and hip. Stremcha will be wearing an American flag tie. He said that his song “Hobo Man” was influenced by Chet Atkins’ guitar style.
He grew up listening to ’80s rock and the likes of Sammy Hagar, Atkins, Merle Travis and Elvis. He was named after Clint Eastwood, but as it turns out, he seems more destined for Nashville than for Hollywood … but he could be another Kris Kristofferson.
Shapiro also plays accordion, which he learned from his dad. He may even revive this wonderful instrument in future songs. However, it is on piano/keyboard that Shapiro impresses, or rather, wows.
The first time Shapiro played the organ as a young child, everyone who heard him was blown away. Shapiro can play just about anything on the piano by ear; he has a phenomenal knack. One of the most unique things is that Shapiro plays a Roland Keytar Ax Synthesizer, which should add an interesting dimension and be cool to see. Band members also play harmonica on appropriate songs, and play a phenomenal spectrum of styles.
Prime Directive, because their talent is so inherent and their ears are so attuned, are not intimidated by requests. According to their own extremely critical assessment, they managed to pull off a pretty spectacular, spontaneous “Freebird.” Even now, there’s always someone in the crowd who calls out “Freebird,” and Prime Directive accepted the challenge. Thus it can be said that they can also pay tribute to Lynyard Skynyard.
While the band is working on a CD, the expense, school and other activities has delayed it. However, they can be seen on U Tube, and there is a link on the Website, prime-d-live.com, where the video can be viewed. It can give an idea of the energy, versatility and talent that Prime Directive radiates. The group plans to record and video the concert at the Lions Club, too.
California (State Fair) dreaming
Prime Directive hopes to be hired by the California State Fair, among other venues.
O’Leary’s dad has the entire collection of “Star Trek,” even its earliest episodes. Like “Beam Me Up, Scottie,” the words “Prime Directive” are familiar to Trekkies. In Star Trek episodes, the Prime Directive is like a moral code, a philosophy and standard of behavior, almost like western society’s Judeo-Christian values, but in futuristic space.
But Prime Directive did not consciously take the words from Star Trek. “We didn’t know what it meant. We were just rushed to have a name to do a show, so we came up with it,” said Shapiro.
Doors open at 6 p.m. for a great, yet inexpensive concert that can be enjoyed by all ages. The cover charge is $5 and light refreshments will be sold, as well as Prime Directive T-shirts. The music is dance-inspiring.
“Sometimes I wish I could be in the audience!” said O’Leary. “But we have so much fun on stage, too. And we all get along.”
When music is the Prime Directive, that’s how it’s done. And like the Star Trek name’s resonance and relevance, they seem bound to endure a long, long time and to explore musical universes where no band has gone before.
For more information or advance tickets e-mail [email protected] or call Shapiro at 530-391-6105.
Email [email protected]