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Hotel California: A Salute to the Eagles

Raffy Swap One and Friends

Essence Event Centre, CanadInns Destination Centre Garden City, Saturday, February 1, 2020

Photos by Jeprox Photography, Jhayzon Paredes, Karen Morrow & Ronaldo Trinidad

by Karen Morrow

The Hotel California: A Salute to the Eagles concert at Essence Event Centre on February 1, 2020 had it all – from country rock and ballads to funk and rock & roll, plus kids, colourful lights, theatrical fog, guitar tricks, and even a dramatic pre-show guitar mishap.

Raffy Swap One and Friends’ 25-song uninterrupted acoustic and electric set featured chart-topping Eagles hits, fine musicianship, and enthusiastic audience participation. Friends and family members of the band, as well as fans of the Eagles and Raffy’s Café Live Music Restaurant hooted, hollered and yelled for more – and they got it.

The Essence Event Centre buzzed in anticipation of the sold out show. VIP ticket holders enjoyed a chicken dinner before the two and a half hour performance, which started promptly at 7:00 p.m.

The band opened the acoustic part of their set in five-part harmony with Seven Bridges Road. Raffy Ramiro (aka Raffy Swap One) played the banjo, Robbie Sobrevilla, Paul Henderson and Bruce Moore were on guitars. Bernard Florentino was on drums, Paul Morrow was on bass, and Ronaldo Trinidad and Louie Rosales were on vocals.

Proud parents and relatives raised their smart phone cameras as seven of Raffy’s young music students, ranging in age from 6 to 10 years, took to the stage to sing Hole in the World, a song and plea for peace written by Don Henley and Glenn Frey after the attack on New York’s World Trade Centre on September 11, 2001.

As the rest of the band members left the stage to swap their suit jackets for plaid shirts, Louie Rosales and Ronaldo Trinidad wrapped up the acoustic portion with the ballad Love Will Keep Us Alive. Drummer Bernard Florentino accompanied the singers on a cajón while Louie played acoustic guitar. Their beautiful harmonies were tender and flawless.

Bruce Moore opened the electric portion singing the lead vocal on Take It Easy and New Kid in Town.

Crowd favourites of the evening were You Belong to the City, Rocky Mountain Way, Funk #49, Heartache Tonight and the ultra-popular must-have-it-in-the-set-or-the-audience-will-start-a-riot, Hotel California.

Raffy began the song You Belong to the City with a sax solo on the upper level of the venue, gradually descending the stairs, returning to the stage where he switched over to guitar. He roamed through the audience, a Go Pro camera on his head and another on his guitar, riffing and fist bumping as he recorded the crowd and his flying fingers. Jhayzon Paredes of 204 Live Music followed him with another video camera. A true showman, Raffy plucked the strings with his teeth à la Jimi Hendrix and spun his guitar 360 degrees like ZZ Top.

Ronaldo Trinidad, Robbie Sobrevilla, and Paul Henderson rocked the house in Rocky Mountain Way, Ronaldo demonstrating his vocal prowess and Robbie and Paul their formidable chops in their guitar solos.

Funk #49 was a real crowd pleaser. Louie Rosales got down and funky singing the lead vocal. Bassist Paul Morrow, and guitarists Robbie Sobrevilla and Paul Henderson wowed the crowd with their solos and nimble finger work.

At the end of the number, all the band members left the stage, leaving Raffy front and centre in a cloud of fog and flashing coloured lights for his 10-minute drum solo, complete with glowing drumsticks. This lead straight into Heartache Tonight, a crowd favourite that had people clapping, dancing and singing along.

After Dirty Laundry, Marienette (Mary) Mallari, Raffy Swap One and Ronaldo Trinidad drew the winning ticket for a brand new Squier Stratocaster guitar and five lessons with Raffy. Audience member Leonardo “Buddy” Digalvez was the delighted winner and happily posed for photos to mark the moment.

As the evening was coming to a close, guest soloist Mary Mallari sang a heart-felt rendition of Take It to the Limit with many audience members singing along with her.

The sound and lights were excellent throughout the evening. Norm’s Pro Audio & Lighting provided the sound with Martin Hébert (of Mainstage Backline) mixing for the audience and Norman Simard handling the monitors for the band. Nelson Saquilayan operated the colourful light show.

The penultimate song of the set was Hotel California, the song everyone was waiting for. Before strapping on his guitar, Raffy explained that it was not the guitar he had originally intended to play. His plan was to have his double-neck white Epiphone guitar lowered dramatically from the ceiling during the song’s extended intro. However, something went terribly wrong before the show even started. The guitar plummeted from on high and smashed to the floor, snapping off both heads and splitting the fretboards, rendering it unusable.

But Raffy proved himself adaptable. Hotel California was a hit. A group of men standing at the back of the audience near the bar joined in robustly and enthusiastically singing along to the “Mirrors on the ceiling, pink champagne on ice” verse. The audience applauded appreciatively as Raffy and Robbie joined forces for their guitar duet at the end. The crowd could not get enough, yelling encore! and more! They were rewarded with Witchy Woman and How Long.

Multi-instrument musicianship was highlighted throughout the entire set, not only from Raffy Swap One but other band members as well. Bernard Florentino did double duty on drums and cajón, Paul Henderson played guitar, banjo, keyboard, and drums. Louie Rosales – lead and backing vocals, keyboard and guitar; Robbie Sobrevilla – lead guitar and keyboards, and Ronaldo Trinidad on lead and backing vocals and keyboard.

With the exception of Raffy Swap One who is a professional musician, all the band members are amateurs with non-musical day jobs. This was a major lifetime experience for this talented group of Winnipeggers. They put their hearts into their performance and they did not disappoint.

Play it again, guys. We’ll be there!

Sponsors of the event were Raffy’s Café Live Music and Restaurant, Seafood City, HB Photography, FunShots Photobooth, JJ Cabinet Warehouse, CK Music/Salon 28, Mr. Takoyaki, Winnipeg 204 Live Music Online, and the Pilipino Express.