A Bumblefoot and a panther walk into a bar . . .
That was the case last Saturday night when Ron "Bumblefoot" Thal returned to The Rock Box. This time, he wasn't a member of Scott Stapp's solo band. Or Art Of Anarchy. Or new band Sons Of Apollo with renowned bassist Billy Sheehan and drummer Mike Portnoy of The Winery Dogs. Not to mention, Thal has virtually put his eight years as Guns N' Roses' lead guitarist completely in his rearview mirror.
No, this visit served a different purpose.
Setting up a folding chair and his iPhone playlist, Thal took a seat and declared to an intimate crowd of 45 --- yes, 45 -- "This is how I warm up" as he broke out the theme to "The Pink Panther." One hour and 51 minutes later, longer than many bands play to hundreds or thousands, Thal had spanned a good chunk of his underappreciated solo career with the likes of "Little Brother Watching" plus covers such as The Beatles' "Maybe I'm Amazed" and The Police's "Every Little Thing She Does is Magic."
Thal, who spoke with me in February about his various projects past and present (listen here), began the evening lamenting the "small crowd" to yours truly while watching local band Target 7 wrap up its set. The soundman then tapped Thal on his shoulder saying, "They want to know if they can play one more."
Showing zero trace of ego that can befall rock stars a little too often, Thal happily replied, "Oh yeah, of course," while giving the band two thumbs up as it prepared to cover "The Green Manalishi (with the Two-pronged Crown)." Thal then took the stage seven minutes prior to his scheduled 9:30-11 p.m. set by joking, "I'm old" as he sat in the chair two nights before Christmas while Trans-Siberian Orchestra was playing its annual shows to thousands at the AT&T Center.
Surprisingly, Thal never mentioned his current bands. It even took him 90 minutes before referencing GNR.
"I wasn't in Guns N' Roses," he said. "I was in Roses N' Guns from 2006-14." He then offered his only GNR tune of the evening, "Used to Love Her" (ATM footage here). Thal had opened with it two years ago at South By Southwest during a 30-minute set on the Heart of Texas stage (coverage here).
Mixing in humor, such as when he slapped a guitar pick to his forehead and when he played with the braided beard strip running down his chin, Thal demonstrated why his guitar playing made him a focal point of Guns N' Roses and other acts. But he's not limited to skills on the strings.
Thal is also an accomplished producer. During our previous interview, we spoke about the project he produced and referred to as "probably the most interesting metal I've heard in I don't know how long" when discussing Fragile Mortals, the tandem of former Exodus and current Generation Kill vocalist Rob Dukes and Run-DMC's Darryl McDaniels. The Dark Project, which also features Bumblefoot's musical talents, came out Oct. 13 -- nearly two years after he had hoped.
Thal, who offered that he continues to receive "something like $200 every three months" as royalties for penning the "That Metal Show" theme song, told me Sons Of Apollo "would love to" come to San Antonio next year, adding, as most musicians do, that an appearance rests with local promoters.
Until then, watch another ATM clip of Thal on The Beatles' "Oh, Darling."
As the show wound down, Thal looked at his watch and said, "I'm supposed to end in two minutes. Who knows a good two-minute song?" He answered his own question by saying, "I have a 7 1/2-minute song" as he performed solo track "Don't Know Who to Pray to Anymore." Just as he was about to pack up, the intimate gathering called for one more.
Thal asked, "What's a good ending song," to which a woman in the back replied, "A seven-minute song!"
Thal put a bow on the holiday night with a surprise ending you can watch in the video box below. The do-everything musician then offered to sign anything and everything while joking, "I'm going to try and stuff my CDs down your throat."
And with that, a Bumblefoot and a panther had left The Rock Box. And left those lucky enough to witness it utterly satisfied.