A rocking performance
By Kristian Harrison
Posted On » December 10 - 16, 2014 (Volume:12 / Issue 102)

Bahrain rocks … official. And, just to prove it, the island played host to one of rock music’s leading guitarists at a series of events taking place around the kingdom.

Ron ‘Bumblefoot’ Thal, lead guitarist for classic rock titans Guns N’ Roses, took part in Jam Up.

It was a first-of-its-kind venture aimed at giving both Bahrain and the GCC’s budding talents a chance to grab the spotlight and, hopefully, develop into internationally-renowned musicians themselves.

Kicking off proceedings was a ‘meet & greet’ event at the Virgin Megastore in City Centre Bahrain, which attracted more than 200 devotees eager for photographs and signed memorabilia from the axe-man.

Not content with just meeting his fervent fans, Bumblefoot held an impromptu jam session which lasted for around three hours, inviting those who showed up to play guitar and sing with him.

This was followed by a visit to the RIA Centre, an Adliya institute established in 1999 to cater for children with autism, where he was given a guided tour by its founder Christine Gordon.

After drawing pictures, meeting the school’s mascot mutt Baloo and posing for more photographs, events took a turn for the unexpected when he was roped into a session of ‘trampoline belly’ yoga!

Culminating in a short concert in the school’s gardens, where Bumblefoot played a selection of solos on his guitar alongside renditions of popular sing-alongs such as Yellow Submarine, it was clear that this was a very special day to savour judging by the huge grins on the children’s faces and their eagerness to join in the singing.

Christine said: “I’m pinching myself, I cannot believe it! We’ve never had an event like this on this scale. We’ve had the US and British military do full orchestra concerts, but never such a spectacular celebrity. Both kids and staff have been hardly able to contain their excitement for weeks, and it’s such a joy to see them happy and joining in today.

“My 18-year-old son Othmann got to sing and play along on a drum and he’s so happy. It’s wonderful that Bumblefoot could take such a huge chunk of his time to fit us into his schedule. These memories will last for years, there’s a huge positive vibe at RIA now.”

In an exclusive interview with GulfWeekly, Bumblefoot, who brought wife Jennifer along to experience Bahrain with him, reflected on his visit to RIA and stressed that ensuring everyone had a good time and had memories to cherish was the most important factor.

He said: “As long as they smile when they think about today, I’ll have achieved my goal. Beyond that, if I spark inspiration in some of them and they go on to pursue music more seriously as a hobby, even better.

“Music should be in everybody’s life, it brings people from all ages and cultures together and bypasses disabilities. It’s an amazing gift to share with people and I’m glad I could be a part of that. If people are enjoying it, then whatever you’re playing, you’re doing the right thing.

“Although I’ve obviously played in front of over a hundred thousand people at Guns N’ Roses shows and that’s really cool and unbelievable sometimes, I often prefer the intimacy of smaller, ‘underground’ gigs where I can go into the crowd and all the barriers and security are stripped down. It feels like a much more personal relationship with the audience rather than a ‘me on the stage, you on the floor’ situation.”

As for Bahrain, Bumblefoot says that his first visit has left him wanting more and he hopes to return soon. He said: “The weather is beautiful, the people have been so welcoming and the food is wonderful.

“I’ve been having all types of kebabs, and the spicier the better! They really know how to do spice in this country! It has its own identity and it’s such a relaxed place. The schedule has been so packed so I haven’t had much time to absorb everything, but I hope I can put that right in the future.”

Before leaving, Bumblefoot and the other Jam Up artists personally signed and endorsed various art pieces that had been created by the Artology Bahrain project. These will be auctioned off at a later date and proceeds will go to the RIA Centre.

Later that evening, Bumblefoot attended a guitar clinic at Room 2 Rock in Adliya where he offered in-depth advice on how to set up guitars, amplifiers and other equipment, before proceeding to show those in attendance how to play scales and complex solos.

He was joined by Bahrain’s own guitar maestro Ahmed Abdul Aziz from Likwid, and Royden Mascarenhas from Point of View, other acts being promoted by Jam Up.

After almost five hours of jamming and chatting with the audience and long past the scheduled event finish, Jam Up organiser Jude D’Souza finally wrestled the guitar out of his hands in order to ensure his star guest would be refreshed for the main gig the following evening.

Jude said: “The response has vastly exceeded our expectations. We were unsure at first how many would attend the meet & greet, but to get more than 200 people through the door is completely unprecedented in Bahrain.

“However, our best measure of success was the interaction with all three guitarists at the clinic. You’d expect Bumblefoot to get all the attention, but the other two guys were so talented that people were seeking them out for tips in equal measure.

“This is the true essence of Jam Up, giving local talent who are just as proficient as the more renowned names a chance to showcase their work and offer them a platform for greater things.”

The week of events culminated in a concert at Ibrida, Ramee Grand Hotel & Spa, where Likwid warmed up the crowd before Point of View were joined onstage by Bumblefoot and brought the house down to a rapturous reception with an explosive set consisting of both artists’ individual songs and Guns N’ Roses classics.
Summing up, Jude explained: “The response from the crowd was amazing, it motivates us to try even harder to replicate and surpass this in the future. We have many more events in the pipeline and we will continue to support local charities.

“Jam Up is a wonderful venture which supplies many opportunities, but, of course, it wouldn’t be possible without the artists themselves, Ali Esbai our MC for the event who has done so much to promote us, and also our sponsors for whom we are extremely grateful.”