Before Jimi Hendrix, Ritchie Blackmore, Robert Fripp, Mark Knopfler, Eric Clapton, and Eddie Van Halen, there was Nokie Edwards. Edwards, who could easily lay claim to being one of the world's greatest lead guitarists, played in the Ventures, one of the first bands I learnt playing the guitar to, and a band that out sold the Beatles 2 to 1 in the 1960s.
After putting it off for a while, I finally had the opportunity to check them out live in concert (these guys are pushing 70, for the record) at the Maritime Hall in San Francisco. They were simply amazing and incredible! Words cannot describe my experience, and this concert is one of the best I've ever seen.
The primary reason for my enjoying the concert so much has to do with familiarity of the music. Throughout the entire concert I pretty much knew every note that was going to be played. It's arguable what the first song I ever learnt on the guitar was. But I do know that the first two songs were the riff to Smoke on the Water by Deep Purple (played on a single string) and Cruel Sea by the Ventures. I then went on to learn a lot of their songs and to this date, I even play a modified version of Walk Don't Run live.
The band consisted of Nole Floyd "Nokie" Edwards on lead guitar, Don Wilson on rhythm guitar, Bob Bogle on bass, and Leon Taylor (the son of the late Mel Taylor, one of the earlier drummers for the Ventures) on drums. They played a set that started off with a medley of Walk Don't Run, Perfidia, and Lullaby of the Leaves (a famous medley in their live recordings) and went on to play an awesome set consisting of tunes like Walk Don't Run '64, Telstar, Apache, Tequila, Bumble Bee, Wipe Out, House of the Rising Sun, Surf Rider, Pipeline, Slaughter on Tenth Avenue, Cruel Sea, Diamond Head, Caravan, and the themes from Hawaii Five-O, Secret Agent Man, and The Outer Limits. The band came back for two encores! What was missing was the presence of a great keyboard, which has been incorporated into some of the Ventures' tunes in the studio, and has also been popularised by bands like Laika and the Cosmonauts.
The opening bands were okay. The first band to open was Electric Peach which featured a female singer and guitarist (who was quite good at the guitar at least) and had a sound resembling the B-52's. While they seemed to be having fun, for better or worse, that is not the kind of music that is popular today. We left during Electric Peach since we knew it'd be a while before the Ventures came on, and came back to watch Casino Royale. They were 60s-style band containing a very good female black vocalist and a couple of go-go dancers who put on a fun and energetic performance. They were quite good though we only caught the last few minutes of their show.
Seeing the Ventures in concert is a thrilling and exhausting experience that will leave you drained. I took my friends along to this show and they weren't at all familiar with the band, but by the end they had to admit their appreciation and reverence for one of the greatest instrumental bands of all time.