Where does the time go? It doesn't seem that long ago Harrah's Laughlin launched its Summer Beach Party Concert Series with a full roster of tribute bands performing a variety of classic and popular music from some of America's favorite groups. And now as the summer is winding down, the series comes to a close on Saturday, Aug. 10, when Aeromyth takes the stage to recreate the music of "America's Greatest Rock Band," Aerosmith.
Aerosmith got together in Boston in 1970 and exploded onto the music scene with a blend of bluesy hard rock, mixed with strains of pop and heavy metal. The band released a string of gold and platinum albums, first breaking into mainstream rock with the album Toys in the Attic and Rocks, cementing the group’s status as hard rock superstars.
Throughout the 1970s, the band toured extensively and charted a dozen Billboard Hot 100 singles, including "Sweet Emotion," "Dream On" and "Walk This Way." Fans thought the band was done with the departure of Perry and Brad Whitford at the end of the era, however, the band's comeback in the '80s and '90s is one of the most spectacular in rock history. Their plethora of hits include "Dude (Looks Like a Lady)," "Angel," "Rag Doll," "Love in an Elevator," "Janie's Got a Gun," "What it Takes,, "Livin' on the Edge," "Cryin'," "Crazy," and their signature phenomenon "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing."
Aerosmith has sold over 150 million albums worldwide and 70 million in the U.S. alone, making them one of the biggest selling artists of all-time.
So it's only fitting that a band with the caliber of talent required to pull off the persona and vocal ability of rock icon Steven Tyler, Joe Perry and the remaining "Bad Boys of Boston," should close out the season.
Aeromyth has been converting naysayers and honing its craft for more than 12 years. The band has been called "the ultimate Aerosmith tribute experience," performing all over the globe, achieving and maintaining a level of success that continues to grow with each performance with a philosophy of cloning Tyler as close as possible and putting the music first.
We talked with Aeromyth's guitarist Neal Shelton about the band, the music and the show that will be in Laughlin. Here's his take…
Give a little background about how this tribute came to be.
I'm the founding band member, and I actually started it in 2002 when we were originally called Pump, and we did that for the first five years. In 2004, we were included in the Summerfest in Milwaukee and played for 10,000 people. I remember standing on the stage and I had goose bumps on my arms because we could feel the audience singing along. I've played original music in the past, and I'd played shows in front of maybe up to 800 people, but never that massive amount. I thought, "Wow, I just can't believe this." About five years in, the singer left the band and I was looking for somebody else. I started running ads and I had somebody refer me to this guy who looked just like Steven Tyler — that was Chris and he's no longer in the band. But it took me a year to talk him into doing it. Then eventually we found other members.
Who's your newest Steven Tyler?
His name is Jay Basinger. Back in 2002, when I was contemplating putting together this Aerosmith tribute band, there was another Aerosmith tribute band out there that had been around since 1997. They're called Aero Rocks. I went to go see them perform at the Queen Mary, and that was Jay. That's who we have with us now. When Aeromyth really became strong, they sort of faded away, and he stopped doing it for quite a while.
Who are the other members of the band?
We found Frankie Wilsey, who's our current Joe Perry. He's been with us for about eight years now. Shortly after that, we got Tony Cavazo on bass, and we have Joey Grillo on drums. Everyone in the band has toured with national acts.
You're also a member of the Def Leppard tribute Pyromania, right?
At the same time I was doing the Aerosmith tribute band, the guy running the ad for the Def Leppard tribute band contacted me from my ad and said, "Hey, would you be interested in doing a Def Leppard tribute?" I was like, "Sure." I was building Def Leppard and Aerosmith bands all at the same time in 2002, getting both bands together. One of our first shows was with the two bands together down at Huntington Beach at a place called The Cosmos. It held about 350 people and damn, the place was packed. I'm like "Oh, my God, I can't believe this; this is gonna work." We've just been doing it ever since.
What's been your biggest challenge with this group?
Finding the right singer, of course. That's always the biggest challenge, finding the right guy, and I've been lucky.
He looks just like him.
Yeah, Jay's real close as far as looking like Tyler and sounding like him, and his antics when he's performing. He adds a little bit of his own flavor in there as well. He's a great performer and actually for us as a band since he's come in, it's been pretty seamless as far as response from the audience. We still have people at the end of the night and they're all just like, "Oh, my gosh, you guys are so great," and they want to take photos, and get autographs. It's still the same, basically. It really hasn't changed much for us since Jay came in.
The fact you guys are still doing this 12 years later speaks volumes about what you and the guys deliver. What do you think it is that sets you guys apart?
Aside from the fact we're playing Aerosmith music, we're a solid unit. We play from the soul, from the heart. We could all be a national act out touring. The ability, the talent is there and then the emotion is there. We play on the emotion. You see some tribute bands that are very stiff, they're not as organic and natural and flowing. I think that comes across to the audience.
No matter what show we're doing, we always put on the best show we can and give it our all. We do this for the love of it, for the love of music. This is just an opportunity for us to be able to make a living at playing music and we're paying tribute to a band that we all love and grew up with. We're Aerosmith fans as well.
What song do you have to do?
There are three songs we have to do — "Dream On," "Sweet Emotion," and "Walk This Way," we've never played a show where we didn't play those three songs.
Working in Joe Perry's neighborhood had to be sweet?
Last year we did a residency in New Hampshire for two months straight, we did over 120 shows and that was pretty interesting. We were playing in Joe Perry's neighborhood. At the end of the show, we'd always go out and take pictures. People would come up to us and say how they used to go see Aerosmith play in the backyard parties. It was sort of like being in L.A., like, I run into people who used to go to the backyard parties where Van Halen played. So we were in their neighborhood where it all began, so that was pretty cool.
What are some career highlights?
Back in about 2009, we tied for first place in the Las Vegas Music Awards with Led Zepagain, and the awards were presented at the Las Vegas Hilton. Around that same time period we were playing the Las Vegas Hilton quite a bit and we had Jimmy Crespo, a guitarist of Aerosmith for a time, come out and sit in with us. Ray Tabano, a guitarist in the group and one of the original members, sat in with us in new Hampshire and once in Phoenix. Also when we were in New Hampshire, Annie Perry, Joe Perry's sister, got up on stage with us and sang "Walk This Way."