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Sacred Rite & Tragic Nancy Concert Review, Phoenix, AZ, May 25, 2018

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I’m still trying to catch my breath after the events of Friday, May 25, 2018 in a small club in Phoenix, AZ.  It was something that I never thought I’d see in my lifetime.  But there I was…there we were, to witness a reunion show 30+ years in the making.  Now let’s go back in time a bit.

In 1987 I was browsing the used cassettes at a local record store and saw Sacred Rite’s third release titled Is Nothing Sacred? for $3.99.  The Michael Whelan cover drew me in as well as the band’s name.  Oooooo spooky.  The minute I popped the cassette in the shitty tape deck of my ’66 Nova 4dr, I was initially taken aback by the vocals.  Clean, melodic, great vocal harmonies, guitar hooks.  They were perfect.  I listened to that tape a lot and they became one of my favorite bands.  Shortly after I found their The Ritual on cassette and subsequently a CD pressing of it.  It took a few years to finally hear their self-titled debut.  I didn’t even know it existed until I found the second pressing on vinyl in the early 90s.  All three of their 80s albums are awesome.  Period.  Unfortunately, they were basically done by the time I got into them and they also never toured.  That was hard to do being in Hawaii and ultimately moving the band to Tulsa of all places, where they found their ultimate demise as a band.

Flash forward to my February 27, 2001, my 31st birthday.  I was browsing around on my WebTV unit (remember those?) and an email popped up from Peter Crane, Sacred Rite’s bassist who had found my Geocities page which was called Is Nothing Sacred? and used the album cover as my background.  We started emailing back and forth and I asked him about having the original recordings and if they’d be interested in releasing them on CD.  He seemed surprised that people remembered Sacred Rite and were even interested in hearing them again.  I offered my services to shop their stuff to a few labels that do classic reissues and we/they settled on going with Denis Gulbey from Sentinel Steel.  The band submitted demos, write-ups, photos etc and in 2002 Rites of Passage Vols I & II were released.  I’ve always been honored to have been a part of those releases.  Since then, I’ve stayed in touch with Pete and Jimmy.

A couple of months ago, Pete sent me a message on Facebook letting me know that Sacred Rite (Pete, Jimmy & Mark!) and Tragic Nancy (post-Sacred Rite) were doing a reunion for Jimmy’s mom’s 80th birthday.  I booked my trip immediately for Phoenix.  I’ve been beyond excited for this show since Pete let me know about it.

I flew out the morning of the show on an easy 2 hour trip.  I was originally invited to the noon rehearsal but that fell through so I checked into my hotel in Scottsdale and went out record shopping.  After hitting a few convenient shops, I went back to the hotel and to my surprise I saw that there was a Portillo’s (Chicago) across the street, so I grabbed an Italian beef sandwich and took it back to my room.  A quick nap, a shower and getting the book and my CD covers together I headed out to a small club called The Blooze as Pete said he’d be there around 8.  I was really looking forward to meeting him and the rest of the band.  Jimmy was there when I arrived and I introduced myself.  His cover band was opening so he was getting stuff set up.  Pete showed up right after that and it was great to finally meet face to face.  Shortly after Mark got there and I hadn’t realized that it had been 30 years since they had all seen each other.  I could feel a little tension in the air but it was great seeing the three of them together.  There were a lot of people there from “the olden days.”  Some folks traveled in from Hawaii, Oklahoma, Denver, California and all around who were friends and family of the band.  That was really very special to see and to meet almost all of them.  I was the outsider, just a fan, but felt very welcomed by everyone.

Jimmy’s cover band, Hair Raiser(?), opened with a solid set of covers of Whitesnake, Journey, Sabbath and some others.

After a quick drum set change up, Tragic Nancy took the stage.  Quick history, Kevin left the band and was replaced by Scott Dickerson and Jeff Begley replaced Mark a year later.  The band changed their name briefly to Beauty Knows Pain then when Tim Hewitt replaced Begley, they became Tragic Nancy.  This night’s lineup featured Pete, Jimmy, Tim and Scott who had played a reunion show a few years back in Oklahoma.  They ran through four songs with Tim strictly on vocals and during the fifth song, The Sidewalk, Mark took the stage with Tim and exchanged verses as this was originally a Sacred Rite song.  They sounded great and to be honest, I was blown away most by Pete’s backing vocals.  What a range he has not to mention his superb bass playing.  With this transitional song complete, Tim made his exit and it was time for Sacred Rite’s set.

They kicked it off by singing happy birthday to Jimmy’s mom, Connie.  This reunion show happened for her 80th birthday.  She’s a pretty awesome and spry 80 year old and you could tell she was definitely the band mom.  They all love her dearly and she loves them.  From there it was right into I’ve Seen the Wizard from Is Nothing Sacred?  With them not having played with Mark in 30 years and not having rehearsed with him for this gig, I didn’t know quite what to expect.  Then he started singing and all fears and doubts that anyone had of what this would sound like left the room immediately.  They were on fire and I stood there blown away by the energy.  I’d say that any tension of the last 30 years, perceived or otherwise, didn’t exist.  They fell right back into being Sacred Rite.

Next they paid a tribute to their original drummer, Kevin Lum, who died in 2002.  It was obvious how much he meant to them, especially since they were so young when they wrote and recorded those 3 LPs in the 80s.  From there they rolled through I will Survive, Eleanor Rigby, Resurrection, Angels Never Die, As It Was Told and Revelation.  Seven songs that were finished in the blink of an eye.  I didn’t want it to end.  But it was over and I was standing there in shock and disbelief that this show even happened at all.  It was a bucket list reunion show for the ages and I can only hope it happens again.  The whole band was great.  Jimmy and Mark trading up solos, the vocal harmonies, the bass and drums.  It was all incredible, even if it was a little loose.  I am pretty sure it exceeded everyone’s expectations.

After the show, and again, it was great seeing them all catch up together telling stories from Hawaii and Tulsa.  I just took it all in.  Before leaving, Jimmy gave me his address and said they were having a gathering at his house on Saturday for his mom’s birthday.  I said my goodbyes to the band and all of the new friends made and headed back to my hotel.  I could feel the 2 hour time difference catching up to me and needed to get some sleep.  It still took me about an hour to wind down and fall asleep once back at the hotel.

Saturday morning I got showered up, ate the hotel breakfast and started making my rounds around Phoenix and the surrounding towns doing some record shopping.  The first store I went to, Asylum Records, had a good selection metal but much of it a bit overpriced for common titles.  Nothing worth buying that I could flip!  In the last row of LPs I looked in, there was a pristine copy of Sacred Rite’s first LP, so I bought it.  I stopped at a couple of other places that morning then went back to the hotel to drop off the records.  It was hot out and I didn’t dare chance leaving them in the car.  From there I headed to Jimmy’s and brought the album cover with me to get signed.  I arrived and many of the folks from the show were there and a few of which I didn’t get a chance to meet the night before.  I was amazed at how many folks came in from Hawaii for this.  Shortly after I arrived, some more friends showed up with several large containers of Hawaiian food from a local restaurant.  It was delicious.  It was great being able to talk to Mark a little more in a more casual setting.  He really is one of my favorite singers and I was blown away by his vocals and his guitar playing.  Like the others, he’s kept his chops up.

After staying for a couple of hours, I decided to make my exit to let them all continue catching up with each other.  We did a few photos and then I headed back out to do some more record shopping.  That evening, I went to a nearby casino and got into a poker game with a $100 buy in.  I’m sure they appreciated my donation!  haha.  The cigarette smoke in there was killing me, so I didn’t stick around.  I popped into the Scottsdale Beer Company for a late dinner and a couple of local beers then took myself to bed.

I had a lot of time to kill on Sunday so I packed up my stuff and drove a little north of Scottsdale to the Carefree/Cave Creek area.  Gordon Lightfoot has a song called Carefree Highway inspired, in title, by this stretch of road.  I drove it, drove around in the desert a bit and saw some beautiful cacti, prairie dogs and quail.  I headed back down into Mesa and Phoenix to hit a couple more record stores and found some real rarities, so that was cool.  One of my best friends that I met in Austin used to live in the area and her brother had recently moved back, so I met him at the Tempe Tavern for a few beers and some street tacos before heading back to the airport.  It was good catching up with him.

Once on the plane, I just put on my headphones, jammed some music and reflected on an incredible weekend.  I can’t thank Peter Crane enough for his initial contact in 2001 and for letting me know about this show.  Also many thanks to the rest of the band, Jimmy, Mark, Scott and Tragic Tim for their fine hospitality.  It was a true honor and pleasure to meet them and all and even more so to see them play finally.  I’m still in a bit of disbelief.

Maybe we’ll get Sacred Rite at one of the metal festivals in 2019?  I’m going to work on that as well as a possible vinyl re-release of their 3 80’s LPs.  One of the guys that came in from the Bay area is sending me some of the Sabre (pre-SR) demos.  Maybe there’s an opportunity to release some of that, quality depending.

Sacred Rite forever.

Sacred Rite Setlist

Tragic Nancy Setlist

 

 

Written by The Metal Files

May 28, 2018 at 4:06 pm

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