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Neon Reverb: Big Talk’s big surprise

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Big Talk helps close out Neon Reverb Sunday at Beauty Bar.
Photo: Corlene Byrd
Corlene Byrd

A couple years ago I ran into Ronnie at the airport. We hadnʼt seen each other for a while at the time, so as a token of our friendship, I offered him half of my sandwich. Can you believe this megaplatinum drummer from a world-renowned rock band actually ate half of my sandwich. The nerve of that guy. Then, he bought a sandwich, and offered me half.

Thatʼs Ronnie Vannucci. A real charmer. Iʼd be faking you out if I said I wasnʼt a fan. I have seen every band heʼs been in. Attaboy Skip, Expert on October, Romance Fantasy and a band called The Killers. But I’m used to him being the drummer. He looks different now. I can see his shoes.

Big Talk is his newer-than-not solo project. When RV takes a break from music, he passes the time by playing more music. This is his first known project where heʼs not the drummer. Heʼs the one singing the songs now. What better way to acclimate yourself to a situation than to just jump in, guerilla style. Play a local bar or two, without a powerhouse touring/booking/promotion agency behind you, and relive the burn of grassrooting. He seemed thoroughly entertained by the quaintness and intimacy of the stage vs. audience setup of this venue, taking advantage of the awkwardness of the situation by engaging in conversation with a few fans watching close to the stage.

Vannucci

Vannucci

Big Talkʼs “surprise” set was sandwiched right between Dude City and Rusty Maples for Neon Reverb’s wrap party. The show was announced informally, through social networking sites late Sunday afternoon, so the attendance was no different from an average Beauty Bar show, maybe 100 people, give or take. That’s not very many when you’ve played to millions, but RV seemed right at home, pouring his heart out.

He sounded good doing it despite the technical difficulties. The stage monitors were making it hard for the band to hear it was doing, but it didnʼt seem to trouble the performance. I’m sure all of the musicians in the band are used to top-of-the-line sound systems, but this was Beauty Bar. Donʼt get me wrong, itʼs a fine place, but once youʼve played the best stages on Earth, I can see where this would leave something to be desired.

The camaraderie of the band played a big role in the performance. RV has proved he can write a song—and sing it. But more importantly, there is a brotherhood delivering these songs. The brotherhood is clearly of value to RV, and itʼs obvious to me that’s the reason he was itching to do this. He seems to get just as much joy from bantering with his bandmates as he does from performing their signature retro-pop tunes.

Vannucci has known two members of his band for ... a really long time. Long enough to give his Big Talk other half and guitar player, Taylor Milne, a nice kiss on the cheek midway through the set. Knowing all that makes you warm and fuzzy. You know what makes me warm and fuzzy? The fact that RV is the person who got me started doing band photography, which is how I ended up writing this article you are reading.

Ronnie Vannucci sure looks different now, and I like his shoes.

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