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The Winery Dogs - The Tralf, Buffalo, NY July 5, 2016

Review and photos by John Jeffrey

Buffalo, NY - When The Winery Dogs took the last stage Tuesday night at the sold-out Tralf Music Hall in downtown 'B-lo,' I knew I was in store for a night of "BS."  When I say "BS," I am referring to the one and only, Billy Sheehan, Buffalo native and bass player extraordinaire.  It's always a special time when Billy returns to his home town, as fans, friends and followers literally come out of the woodwork to see the "Buffalo boy who done good."
Sheehan's latest project, The Winery Dogs, which even calling it a "project" seems like an insult, as they are really a "band," in all senses of the word, as The Winery Dogs are a critically acclaimed blues-based, Hard-rock group, who are currently on tour in support of their sophomore CD, 'Hot Streak.'
Looking at the names of the members who comprise the group, one might think a The Winery Dogs concert would be nothing short of a musical 'wank-fest' or some sort of composite guitar/bass/drum clinic, but nothing could be further from the truth. 
While guitarist/vocalist, Richie Kotzen, may have gained his initial notoriety as the cheezy 'replacement' guitarist in Poison, Kotzen filled the extra large shoes of Paul Gilbert in Mr. Big from 1999-2002, and has recorded a massive amount of solo records and has made several appearances on other artist's records, including playing on Gene Simmons' 2004 solo CD, 'Asshole.'  As of late, Kotzen has really come into his own, not only as a guitar player, but as a singer/songwriter, and kind of has an almost Chris Cornell meets Prince type of vibe to him.
Drummer Mike Portnoy, primarily known as the former drummer and co-founder of the progressive metal/rock band Dream Theater, has really proven that although he is well known for his technical skills as a drummer (Portnoy has won 30 awards from the Modern Drummer magazine), he really knows how to play for the song.  Even while swinging more simpler grooves during the songs, Portnoy showed his ability to think outside the box, as his modern approach to his drum solo was a big change from his days in Dream Theater. 
Of course Billy was Billy, doing all the crazy stuff he does, but like Portnoy and Kotzen, was very focused on the songs and did his fair share of background vocals as well.  Sheehan and co., played a tight, near 2 hour set, playing a perfect combination of songs off of 'Hot Streak' and the debut 'The Winery Dogs' CD.  The sound started off a little muddy, but by the third song in, they had it all worked out and sounded fantastic.  It was hot and sweaty inside the Tralf, as the band just kept pounding the audience with song after song.
As the band neared the end of the evening and returned to stage for 2 encores (the piano driven "Regret" and "Desire"), you could hear the chatter amongst the crowd that everyone was hoping the band would pay homage to something from Billy's past, either perhaps "Shy Boy" or "Sink Your Teeth," but alas that dream did not come to fruition.
Regardless, The Winery Dogs killed it, and the fact that they sold out the Tralf (an indoor venue) on a night when there were other big outdoor concerts happening at much cooler (as in temperature-wise) outdoor venues (like Buckcherry at Mooney's and Artpark's regular Tuesday outdoor concert series), is definitely a good sign.  You can expect more great things coming from this band in the future.
For more on the The Winery Dogs, visit


Special thanks to Amanda Cagan for press credentials.