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The Ultimate Jam Night took flight from its long-running residency at The Whisky a Go-Go in Hollywood to take part in the annual NAMM show in Anaheim on Saturday night. The show, entitled Ultimate NAMM Night, was the third time that the tight-knit group of musicians graced the massive convention and when the dust finally settled rocked Orange County to it's core.  Sure, there were indeed other offsite local theaters hosting NAMM shows throughout the weekend.  However, this one was held at the Anaheim Hilton and was the only one truly walking distance to the actual convention itself.  You didn't need a cab, no Uber lines, all you needed to do was redirect yourself East and there you were.  With over 100 artists from many genres of rock slated to appear, the Ultimate NAMM Night promised a star-studded extravaganza and ultimately delivered on all levels. 

One of the coolest things about the Ultimate Jam Shows is they are not only a who’s who in the music world getting together to “jam,” but they are famously unrehearsed.  Now, right off the bat, this sounds like it could be a disaster in the making.  But alas, this is what makes this event so unique. An avenue for us as mere rock fans to observe and revel in the sheer quantity of talent all in one room.  UJN founder Chuck Wright (Quiet Riot) relocated the magic he created on the Sunset Strip down to Anaheim and super-charged the event into an improvisational firestorm that was best-in-class on Saturday night.

Some of the highlights from the evening for me included (but were not limited to):

 *Calico Cooper (Beasto Blanco) and Carla Harvey (Butcher Babies) teamed up to front a rousing version Motorhead’s “Ace of Spades.” These two on the same stage flat-out electrified the audience early on and set the tone for the night.

 *Derek St. Holmes (early Ted Nugent) and Dave Amato (REO Speedwagon) crafted an excellent version of  Ted Nugent's "Stranglehold", full of polish and class.

 *Tiffany uncorked a confident and rousing rendition of Joan Jett’s "I Hate Myself for Lovin’ You", which got everyone’s attention!

 *Pan Rocks and their 12 Steel Drums crushing covers of The Who's "Baba O'Reilly" and Rush's "XYZ" - Good Lord!

In addition, fans were also treated to to an incredible set The Winery Dogs and were introduced by Sirius FM legend Eddie Trunk.  Sticking with tradition, the Ultimate Jam Night Band was also in full effect throughout the evening including Chuck Wright, Matt Starr, Mitch Perry and frontman extraordinaire Paulie Z.  These guys are the glue that hold it all together and were amazing!

In all this craziness, I'd be remiss not to mention Frankie Banali, original drummer of the band Quiet Riot.  Recently diagnosed with stage-4 pancreatic cancer, this drumming legend stepped up to the plate and crushed covers of Led Zeppelin's "The Wanton Song" as well as Mountain's "Never In My Life". I've been a HUGE fan of his since Metal Health was released in 1983 and was in awe as he played his ass off Saturday evening.  His set literally brought tears to my eyes.  Frankie is epitome of strength and courage and someone we all look up to. It was great to see him smiling and doing what he does best - we're all rooting for you brother!

The massive All-Star lineup treated the NAMM faithful to upwards of 3-hours of non-stop kick-ass rock and roll music.  With not a single dull moment to speak of, it was truly a spectacle to behold and one I won't soon forget.  Saturday's Ultimate NAMM Night ended up exceeding all my expectations as musicians and fans alike joined in community for one incredible night of musical improvisation.  The only bad part for me personally was that it had to end. But for those who can't get enough of this amazing tradition, there is always the weekly Ultimate Jam Night on Tuesday night's at The Whisky.  There, this long-running event lives on and continues to get better with age. See you there!

John McAteer

Photojournalist - Orange County

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