Close your eyes, let your mind wander and pretend time travel really does exist. Suddenly, it’s 1968 and you’re in London, at a small club listening to an unknown band with a strange-sounding name: Led Zeppelin. Playing hard rock clearly influenced by the blues, the four musicians blast through their set, leaving the audience breathless. As you are taking it all in, you are suddenly jolted again.
It’s 2015. You’re now in Los Angeles at the Sayers Club, a trendy after-hours joint packed to the rafters with a funky, eclectic crowd. Clearly, there’s a buzz about this band that’s inspired people to come out at 11:00 pm on a Tuesday night. (As if that needed confirmation, you look to your right and see legendary producer Eddie Kramer, who was Jimi Hendrix’s producer and creative partner.) On the stage are four musicians whose musical roots clearly trace back to Plant, Page, Jones and Bonham.
To say that Mount Holly’s founding member and guitar player Nick Perri burns with passion is an understatement. He’s clearly spend time studying at the University of Jimi, not just musically but style-wise. (Bell-bottom pants and coiled guitar cord, anyone?)
Lead vocalist Josh Bartholomew invites undeniable Robert Plant comparisons with his voice. Watching him sing, eyes closed, pulling every note from the depth of his soul, his desire is also reminiscent of the blues/rock fire of Janis Joplin. Bassist Deanna Passarella and drummer John Bach—well, if you want to say their names in the same breath as Jones and Bonham, yeah…they’re that good. Really.
This gig was the inaugural performance under the Mount Holly moniker. In the band’s press kit, Perri explains that he changed the name from the Nick Perri Group because “I started this project by calling some of the best musicians I know, who also happen to be dear friends, to play a handful of shows with me. The remarkable chemistry experienced over the course of just a few short tours surprised us all, and the decision was unanimous: ‘This is a real rock ‘n’ roll band. Let’s do it.’”
And do it they did! The first song and video released under the new name is It Ain’t Easy. It starts with a slow, clean blues riff, which adds a little distortion to the tone the second go-around. After a few minutes the timing changes and the vocals kick in. The dramatic blue lighting in the club added to the mood and helped the audience groove to the song.
Perri was a dynamo in constant motion. Hat on, hat falling to the floor, hat back on his head. Guitar at his side, out in front, over his head. Furiously working the whammy bar. At one point during the song A Little More Time he bravely ventured out into the audience and was promptly swallowed from view—unseen but still heard.
The final song of the night, Graveyard Moon, began with a slow, bluesy guitar riff. Passarella added vocal harmonies with Bartholomew in the chorus of the tune, and it gradually ramped up in intensity as Perri burned through a solo. Like climbing a mountain and descending back down, the song ended as it began, slowly fading out.
Stage lights down; house lights up, DJ back on. Band tears down gear and heads home. The story of the gig is done for the night, but the story of Mount Holly is just beginning.