Doors Magic Lives On In ‘Feast of Friends’ Supergroup, By Roger Hitts, Sr. Entertainment Contributor

At the Cutting Room with “The NY Housewives Personality” Countess Luann de Lesseps

When it comes to the music of the Doors,  even decades after their tragic breakup, their magic can still be conjured up – both for an audience that longs for their music and for a certain lead singer who longs to carry the mantle.RandRockingTheMint

On a fall night at The Cutting Room in New York City’s tony Murray Hill neighborhood, a throng gathered to enjoy a Feast of Friends.  Now, the Cutting Room is a gorgeous nightclub with table seating and which often features such musical luminaries as Todd Rundgren and Rita Coolidge – but on this night, the likes of Real Housewives of New York star Luann de Lesseps huddled at tables close to the stage while back tables were moved out to accommodate an overflow crowd happy to stand.

Feast of Friends is a Doors tribute band of a whole different sort.  Unlike the dozens of other Doors tribute bands touring around the country, the band relies on expert musicianship rather than a Jim Morrison lookalike to channel the music of the legendary Los Angeles foursome who changed the rock world in the 1960s.OnStageCuttingRoom_jpeg

And the results were evident – audience members, many of whom weren’t born at the time singer Morrison breathed his last in 1971, were huddled as a mass, dancing as one as Feast of Friends gave them what they came to hear – Light My Fire, Love Me Two Times, The Crystal Ship, all performed with integrity and passion.

“This is just the coolest thing ever,”  29-year-old attendee Royce Montgomery told Highlight Hollywood. “My dad loved The Doors, and he passed along that love to me.  He got to see them live, but I got cheated since I grew to love the music every bit as much as he ever did.

“But with these guys, I feel like I got my chance, in a way. They were incredible and I got to hear these songs for the first time live.”

Feast of Friends is a supergroup of sorts and with a connection to the original. It features drummer Ty Dennis, a longtime member of Doors guitarist Robbie Krieger’s touring outfit.  Multi-instrumentalist Matt Katz-Bohen, who has been a member of Blondie since 2008, is the band’s guitarist. The bassist is NYC restaurateur Leo Kremer, who did stints as a touring member of 1990s alt-rock hit-makers Third Eye Blind.  And recreating Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek’s signature sound is Chad Dinzes, who New Yorkers may not know by face but certainly know by sound – he’s the house keyboardist at Madison Square Garden.

Ty Dennis

Ty Dennis

And while one of these things is not like the other, one of these things still certainly belongs – lead singer Bradford Rand.  Rand, who grew up in the same Forest Hills, Queens neighborhood as punk rock pioneers The Ramones, as well as Simon and Garfunkel,  has made a big name for himself in the corporate world as president and CEO of Rand Luxury Inc. & Job Expo. But he became the unlikely ringleader of the group that carries the torch for a band’s rock oeuvre fans still long to hear.

Rand gained success producing cyber security summits around the country, while also sponsoring tech expos and job fairs and promoting luxury car brands such as Ferrari and Maserati, but he tells Highlight Hollywood he long held a special passion for the music world.

It was an itch he mostly scratched singing at karaoke nights and by managing his friend John Cusimano’s popular East Coast rock band, The Cringe. But in 2002, an unlikely confluence of events led to his eventually becoming the Jim Morrison of Feast of Friends.

“The Doors did a reunion tour in 2002, with Robbie and Ray, called Doors of the 21st Century,” Rand relates. “The Cringe got an opening slot for them at a show in Sunrise, Florida, and backstage I met Ty, who was playing drums on the tour.

Ty and Bradford

Ty and Bradford

“We kind of hit it off and exchanged numbers, and when the band came to New York I threw them an after-show party. We became friends.”

Meanwhile, Rand was honing his chops as a vocalist. He began taking lessons from renowned vocal coach Don Lawrence, who has helped the likes of Lady Gaga and Christina Aguilera fine-tune their singing voices. And he began jamming  with keyboardist pal Dinzes, on the notion they would play a one-off gig of Doors songs, “just at a piano bar or something.”

But Rand wasn’t afraid to dream big – so much so he had the notion of getting Dennis, who not only played on the Doors reunion tour but was a regular member of Krieger’s band, to join a Doors tribute band!

“Almost as a goof, I called Ty and said, ‘Any chance you would want to play drums in our little tribute band we’re putting together?’ ” Rand recalls. “I was amazed he didn’t laugh me off the phone – instead he said, ‘Well, sure, maybe, but I better check out the band before I put my name out there on it.’ ”

So Rand and his evolving group of players travelled to a performance studio near Dennis’ home in L.A. to give it a whirl.

Chad Dinzes on Keyboards

Chad Dinzes on Keyboards

“Ty gets behind the drums, and says, ‘Why don’t we start with Break On Through?” Rand says. “As soon as I heard the notes, I thought I was listening the record – I had a tear in my eye, and here I am, an amateur, in a great recording studio with these great musicians. Needless to say I was intimidated.

“I thought then, I need to open it up and give it 110 percent, so I just let ‘em have it! And Ty was like, ‘That was pretty good!’  We did several more songs, and Ty had us perform When the Music’s Over with him, which is a very challenging Doors song to play.

“At the end, Ty just looked at us and said, ‘Sure, I’ll be in your band.’ That was the impetus for where we are today.”

The band performed their first concert in 2007, and now do shows on both coasts, including appearing at L.A.’s fame Viper Room, on the very same Sunset Boulevard where The Doors made their name.

But it’s a rare treat to catch a Feast of Friends show – band members’ busy lives prevent them from playing more than a handful of shows a year.

“Scheduling is so difficult,” Rand says. “Leo has 12 restaurants. Ty is out on tour with Robbie Krieger, and Matt, with being a member of Blondie, they tour pretty consistently. It’s definitely a challenge – all we can do is get a little rehearsal time and then give it our all when we get together.”

First rehearsal in late 2006 - Bradford & Ty at the legendary Mates Studios / http://matesinc.com/ in Los Angeles

First rehearsal in late 2006 – Bradford & Ty at the legendary Mates Studios / http://matesinc.com/ in Los Angeles

And while Feast of Friends is essentially a Doors tribute band, the veteran players like to throw their audience a little extra.

“At our shows, we usually do a second set where we perform some Nirvana, U2, a Depeche Mode song, a Pearl Jam song,” Rand says.  “The audience loves The Doors stuff, but especially for some of the younger people who come to the show, they get a kick out of us doing those other covers as well.”Bo_Roberts-2015-Bradford-Rand-32_jpeg

And it’s also a way to show that Feast of Friends  aren’t trying to merely ape The Doors.

“We are not that kind of Doors band – no one puts on a wig, no one dresses in strange outfits from the period,” Rand says. “We are not trying to be The Doors; we are trying to honor their music. I’ll dance around, try to channel some Jim Morrison energy, but there is no other Jim Morrison.

At the Cutting Room with “The NY Housewives Personality” Countess Luann de Lesseps

At the Cutting Room with “The NY Housewives Personality” Countess Luann de Lesseps

“We are paying homage. And it’s a way of preserving a special music that many people don’t hear a lot of any longer.”

 

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Written By: Roger Hitts, (Roger Hitts is a two-time United Press International columnist of the year whose writing appears in a host of national and international publications. He lives in New York City with his wife Daphna Inbar and their daughter, Liana.)

Photographs are Courtesy:  RANDLuxury.com

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