Made in Campbell: Holy Mash-Up, This Local Rock Star Has a Crazy Holiday Album
Posted by Brad Kava (Campbell Patch Editor), November 11, 2013 at 07:21 AM
Campbell rocker Robert Berry leads a band that mixes holiday music with classic rock tunes and brings down the house for fans of both.
It's hard to imagine Van Halen performing "Jingle Bells" mixed with "Jump" or the Who mashing "Quadrophenia" with "Joy to the World" or Journey linking "Don't Stop Believing" with "Angels We Have Heard On High," but that's what makes Campbell-based December's People special.
This band made up of superstars from other famous bands puts on a yearly holiday show that makes believers of classic rock fans. It sold out Monterey's World Theater Saturday in a charity show that brings a crowd that comes back year after year.
"They are incredibly skilled musicians," said Don Bradley, a former Santa Cruz Sheriff's commander who now works for the San Benito County Sheriff and attends every year. "We want to do one thing that kicks off the holiday season and this is it."
The show is like hearing the greats of classic rock, including the Who, the Eagles, Huey Lewis, Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Boston and even Michael Jackson, mixing hits with traditional Christmas lyrics. It had the audience on its feet screaming for more after a solid 90-minute delightful holiday show. The songs are intricately composed so as not to steal from the originals, but they were played with the panache and thunder of bands such as the Who or Rush.
One audience member said she felt like she had seen a concert of a dozen great classic rock bands.
"We get a flavor of the rock with the holiday melodies everyone knows," says Berry, also of the Greg Kihn Band, who once played with Sammy Hagar and Keith Emerson and Carl Palmer and has a recording studio downtown Campbell called Soundtek that brings famous rockers to town to lay down tracks for albums.
The band walks a fine line between covering rock and Christmas music, but its Saturday sold-out show proved it could do both and make it lively and fun for an all-ages audience.
The musicians should be able to cover the greats: they play with them regularly. Gary Pihl was in Sammy Hagar's original pre-Van Halen band and has been a guitarist in the band Boston since 1985. He also worked with Norman Greenbaum, of the hit "Spirit in the Sky."
Drummer Mike Vanderhule plays in Y & T, a South Bay band that was Northern California's answer to Van Halen. They still tour the world and have a loyal hard rock and blues following. Keyboard player Dave Medd plays with the Tubes, a band that has graced stages in Campbell and just about everywhere else in California.
He also toured with Quicksilver Messenger Service. Second guitarist Jack Foster is a solo artist with a great voice and five albums selling worldwide. People who have seen all four performances over the years said this year's was best.
"It's a conglomeration of a lot of things," says Berry, who formed it after being asked by a record label to do a Christmas album. "The last thing I wanted to do was a traditional Christmas album. I had been doing a series called Mother Goose rocks, which combined nursery rhymes with the latest Brittany Spears song. I thought of doing something like that with classic rock and holiday songs."
The first one got an award for holiday album of the year in 2001 and he always felt like doing it again. "It's a musician's paradise trying to figure out how to refigure these songs and it's a history lesson. This is the best thing I've ever done."
Berry tries to keep the songs separate from the classic rock tunes, although they inspire the feel of the original. "Everytime we do this thing, we prove that people like it," says Berry.
The show is a real show, with lighting done by 3B Productions, a San Jose company that does shows for Van Halen and the theatrics at the Oakland Warriors games.
You can buy their holiday-themed discs "Rattle and Humbug" and "DP 3, Unauthorized Christmas Classics" on the website www.classicrockchristmas.com and on iTunes and Amazon. They are working on a new one called "A Classic Rock Christmas," which they sold at the Monterey show.
Frustratingly, the band tours the world, but hasn't been able to get a gig at Campbell's Heritage Theater. Berry wants to do a benefit there, as he did in Monterey, where they collected huge barrels of food for the Food Bank. The local theater's price was too high for the band.
However, it's playing two nights in Pleasanton at the Firehouse Theater on Dec. 13 and 14.
Tickets > http://www.firehousearts.org/events > Tickets here.