Pixel Tracker

Wednesday, December 19 , 2018, 6:43 am | Fair 42º


Paul Mann: Grand Funk Railroad Rocks Fairgrounds

The band treats patrons of the Santa Barbara County Fair to an explosive opening-night set

This summer’s Santa Barbara County Fair featured several headline pop-music acts for the price of fair admission.

The sprawling Santa Maria Fairpark offered an intriguing backdrop for bands such as War and The Beach Boys. But opening night, July 14, which happened to be dollar night, proved especially exciting when one of the most successful American bands in rock history opened the fair — literally with a bang. The veteran rockers of Grand Funk Railroad played loud and fast, living up to their moniker as the ultimate party band.

The group featured two of the three original members — bass player Mel Schacher and drummer Don Brewer. Together, with guitar player Mark Farner, the power trio was one of the most successful hard-rock bands of the 1970s.

Grand Funk Railroad sold more than 25 million records and headlined arenas around the world, including the 1970 Atlanta International Pop Festival in front of more than 300,000 people.

Many critics early on panned the group for being too loud, rough and meandering, with their musical vent. But for that same reason, millions of fans adored them, as one of America’s best hard-rock jam bands. Their biggest hit, the 1973 song “We’re an American Band,” was actually a sarcastic slap at the critical media of the time. The current band replaces guitar icon Farner with two veteran guitar players.

Max Carl, who is the band’s new lead singer and rhythm guitarist, was the catalyst that launched his former band 38 Special into the limelight. He penned and sang their biggest hit, “Second Chance,” which he included in the show with Grand Funk Railroad. A powerful singer and consummate performer, he brought the crowd to their feet throughout the evening.

To complete the new band, Bruce Kulik was inducted to play lead guitar. This veteran rocker, who has played with a number of rock groups, is most well known as the lead guitar player for Kiss. He played with the legendary rock group for 12 years — from 1984 to 1996 — and helped write several of their platinum selling albums.

His incredible skills as a master guitar player were well-utilized by the new Grand Funk Railroad, especially in their most brilliant jamming moments. The band played a solid 90-minute set featuring their biggest hit songs, but it was when they returned to their early roots that they shined brightest.

When they played “Are You Ready” from their first album and “Inside Looking Out” from their second, the group melded into an explosive jam band. Centered on the extraordinary rhythm talents of bassist Schacher and drummer Brewer, the two guitar players weaved a trail of screaming guitar riffs sure to please any hard-rock fan.

Schachers’ bass was uncharacteristically recorded as the loudest instrument on the band’s early recordings, and in many ways his funky rhythm was the lead in the band. Brewer showcased his incredible talents with a good old-fashioned drum solo, showing that he is still one of the best rock drummers in the business.

The band played a fitting finale of “We’re an American Band,” and had fair patrons young and old dancing and clapping in a frenzy, before everyone headed out into a classic American county fair.

— L. Paul Mann is a Noozhawk contributor.

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made using a credit card, Apple Pay or Google Pay, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments and a mailing address for checks.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Select your monthly membership
Or choose an annual membership

Payment Information

Membership Subscription

You are enrolling in . Thank you for joining the Hawks Club.

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover
One click only, please!

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.
You may cancel your membership at any time by sending an email to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.