One of the Bay Area’s longest-running hard rock acts return for another mayhem-filled weekend at their favorite Petaluma haunt
While many argue which classic hard rock band still sounds and performs like their heyday, few argue that Y & T would certainly either top the list or be a front-runner. What started in Oakland, California, in 1972 eventually bloomed into a veritable headliner seemingly overnight, with its core line-up intact by 1974 and its first record in 1976.
First conceived as Yesterday & Today, that moniker would only last for two albums before settling on Y&T for good with the release of ‘Earthshaker’ in 1981. And while many much larger acts opened for Y&T before achieving superstardom, there was little doubt who got the hard rock ball rolling in California.
Although the band may not have been as prolific as its fans would have liked, they still managed to release 12 full-lengths in addition to several live and compilation records. In that time, they’ve also managed to sell over 4 million albums and have never relinquished their headliner status except when opening arena dates for Rush and Dio, as well as high placement on massive festivals on US soil and abroad.
Led by original and founding member Dave Meniketti (lead guitar/lead vocals), the band today is rounded out by longtime mainstays John Nymann (guitar/vocals), Aaron Leigh (bass/vocals), and Mike Vanderhule (drums/vocals).
We caught up with Dave Meniketti before their upcoming Petaluma gigs and let him remind us why he and the band are standing tall an astounding 49 years later.
Bohemian: Y&T lost its core members (Joey Alves, Phil Kennemore, and Leonard Haze) many years ago yet the current line-up is still drawing sell-out numbers virtually everywhere. What do you attribute the band’s staying power to aside from the songs?
Meniketti: It’s numerous things. The performances and the commitment— the band gives their all at every show. When the fans come to a Y&T show, they know the band will bring it.
Year after year, decade after decade, no matter the members, there is an enthusiasm the band has that can’t be faked. It’s contagious, and the fans pick up on this and know they will get more than their money’s worth.
Bohemian: Your last studio album was 2010’s “Facemelter.” Do you think it’s plausible there will be a new album in 2024?
Meniketti: Always a possibility for a new record. Whether that is a full album or even 3 or 4 new songs. No time frame for when that will happen as of yet.
Bohemian: Do you have any anniversary shows planned in 2024 for “In Rock We Trust,” which was released in 1984?
Meniketti: Being that 2024 is the band’s 50th anniversary, that will likely take precedence over working up an entire album to play live. Though we’ve not committed yet to any specifics, I believe the basic idea will be to play tunes from every studio record we’ve ever recorded.
Bohemian: Has the band done any full album shows celebrating ‘Earthshaker’ or ‘ Black Tiger’ in recent years?
Meniketti: Yes, over the last few decades, we’ve done shows where we played albums in their entirety within the set. We’ve had occasions where we have done either one or two entire albums at a show or tour. The records we’ve done that for are ‘Mean Streak,’ ‘Black Tiger,’ ‘In Rock We Trust,’ and ‘Earthshaker.’
Bohemian: The band seems to play mainly West Coast shows these days. Any plans to do a longer run of shows?
Meniketti: Though the band is well known in our hometown Bay Area, Y&T has been one of the hardest-working bands since the 1970’s, touring the free world for a lot of our career. The US, Canada, Japan, Europe, and the UK have been seeing the band for decades. Y&T toured the entire US in the 70’s and 80’s, and then again, yearly from 2010 through 2020, including many years with partial tours in various markets. The band has been touring Europe, the UK, and Japan since 1982, playing major tours, & festivals with bands such as AC/DC, Ozzy Osbourne, etc. And after a break away from touring in the ’90s, the band has been back to headlining overseas tours yearly from 2003 through 2019. Next year, we’ll be in Japan in January and then touring Europe & the UK in the Fall of 2024.
Bohemian: The outpouring of love and good blessings during your semi-recent health scare was overwhelming. That must have been really emotional.
Meniketti: Yes, it was very emotional and inspirational to hear such a positive outpouring from the fans when I announced my prostate cancer diagnosis. You could feel the love and support that was so important to me and my family, as well as my close friends to experience. Luckily, I was on top of it, diagnosed early, and after all the treatments, the result was a complete success. My cancer has been gone for about a year now, and is looking to likely be a non-issue going forward. Luckily prostate cancer, if found early enough and treated correctly, is a totally survivable cancer. I’m thankful to have been diligent with keeping up on my health most of my life. It’s helped make a difference.
Bohemian: The band plays regularly every year at The Mystic Theater in addition to other South Bay haunts. Do you remember your shows at The Cotati Cabaret? As a fan, those were some of your craziest shows. What do you remember about the Sonoma County venue?
Meniketti: Cotati Cabaret was a unique place, and one of the fun “different” venues we frequented over the years. One of those up close and personal venues I’ll always remember. Especially all the wood inside the venue, which you don’t always see, plus the great enthusiastic crowds in the North Bay that have continued to be with us going forward. And of course, the Mystic Theatre weekend in November every year for since 2002, except 2020 because of the pandemic. This has been a special weekend for fans and band members alike. There’s something about the Mystic & Y&T that just can’t be easily described in a short and concise way, except to say it’s magic! Because of the talk online over the years about these performances, it’s taken on a life of its own. Y&T fans have been coming out to get the vibe from the “Y&T Mystic Weekend” experience from all over the world, making this quite the happening. We hope to keep this up for a long time to come, no matter where it may land on the calendar.
Bohemian: During your days signed to A&M, do you feel like the label took care of in all departments (marketing, sales, radio, etc)?
Meniketti: A&M Europe and Japan did a much better job than the US company in understanding and marketing the band correctly. Though we have had classic recordings those days in the early to late ’80s, I would say it was a struggle to get the attention we had hoped to get from a major label. If there was one of those “What would you have done differently?” questions posed, one thing would have been to wait out for a more complimentary label for us in the ’80s. Be that as it may, we had amazing times during 1981 through 1985 and regardless of the milling support we received from them in the US, we made things happen during that time that have allowed us through to today. We are certainly not unique in that, as many bands have had similar experiences with their labels. I moved on decades ago and just look at all the positives we’ve had since we started in 1974, and there have been a ton.
Bohemian: Do you have any plans to stop playing live and retire or is the current pace of playing a handful of shows the perfect balance?
Meniketti: Have no plans to retire at this time, and the pacing will likely change from year to year as we transition back into a fairly heavier touring schedule next year, since the pandemic repercussions slowed everyone down for a few years. We will take stock after the 2024 shows and look to find the perfect balance of shows we will feel comfortable playing each year going forward. It’s in the blood, we’re lifetime musicians and stopping seems highly unlikely as long as the band can continue to play at its current capacity. Stay tuned.
Y&T plays two nights at The Mystic Theatre: Friday, November 17, with support from Aaron Leigh, and Saturday, November 18 with support from John Nymann.
Doors open at 7 pm and the show kicks off at 8 pm. Tickets range from $42 to $55 and are largely sold out, but a few may be released day of show at mystictheatre.com. The Mystic Theatre is located at 23 Petaluma Blvd. North in downtown Petaluma. 21 and over only.