Kickin Valentina and American Jetset live at Zen West in Baltimore, Maryland, USA Concert Review


Date: June 24, 2022
Venue: Zen West
Location: Baltimore, Maryland, USA
Reviewer: Jeff Onorato
Photos: Jeff Onorato

As our favorite bands of the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s begin to retire and gracefully bow away from the industry that elevated them to iconic status, it begs the question of who will take their place? Who will be the ones to release those albums that we crank up to ten, listen to on repeat, and cherish in the years to come? Who will be the chosen few that pack clubs and arenas and have us scurrying to buy tickets as their shows go on sale?  Let’s face it, a decade from now, the musical landscape will look vastly different than it does today as several of our beloved recording artists are no longer touring or releasing new music. Or at least not with the regularity that we, as fans, would like them to. It’s for this very reason that, while I still follow my long-time favorites with vigilance, I try to keep a watchful eye on up-and-coming bands that are still making their ascent into the stratosphere of rock n’ roll stardom. Those bands that are going to be carrying the torch for our beloved genre of music long after Mötley Crüe have gone home sweet home for good and KISS are no longer rocking and rolling all nite.

Among that list of prospects are two of the Mid-Atlantic region’s brightest and best hopes for keeping the fiery embers of rock and metal ablaze as time marches on. The new generation is there – Suicide Bombers, Leather Duchess, Babylon Shakes, Thundermother, The Dirty Denims, Pröwess, Native Sons, and The Midnight Devils are just a few of the rising stars on the list. Albeit at different stages of their respective careers, American Jetset and Kickin Valentina are also part of that movement in the past ten years. They are the torchbearers that are carrying forward the sleazy scripture of hook laden, guitar-driven hard rock built upon a foundation of great songwriting. Coincidentally, my introduction to American Jetset was way back in 2019 at the MB4 festival in Halethorpe, Maryland. On that night, they were also sharing the marquee with Kickin Valentina. When I initially spotted the flyer for this upcoming concert reunion featuring two of hard rock’s most promising prospects, I felt both a sense of déjà vu and excitement for what was sure to be a killer show. It would be the first of three dates on Kickin Valentina’s quick tri-state run, two of which (including the show in Delaware at Bar XIII) also featured American Jetset on the bill.

Hollowed Sky

Annapolis, Maryland’s Hollowed Sky appeared in promotion of their latest release Bound By Nightmares. When I read that they were one of the bands on the bill, I decided to check out Bound yB Nightmares before the show. I liked what I heard and found it very listenable but cut more from the cloth of 90’s alternative rock bands such as Staind, Deftones, Nonpoint and Tool. Deeper toned, down-tuned guitars and chunky bass lines meander around pummeling rhythms to comprise their moody sound which (under normal circumstances) underscores dark lyrical themes articulated by the angst-tempered vocals of Jay Orem. While mostly unfamiliar with the band’s line-up, the first thing that caught my eye was that they were performing as a trio. No issues with that at all — cool. Then, as they continued to play on, it became apparent that they would be doing so without their lead singer who is not only the fourth member of the band but was unable to perform that night due to a medical emergency. But the show must go on, and Hollowed Sky elected to perform an entirely instrumental set rather than cancelling. Commendable that they opted to honor their commitment rather than just pulling the plug altogether.

I can’t comment too much on their live sound because without the vocals, I wasn’t hearing the songs in their proper form. I experienced what basically amount to one long jam session. Bassist Charles Rupertus did introduce each song and strike up some banter with the audience in an effort to elicit some sort of engagement with the crowd. Highlights of their set included “Into The Ground”, which had a heavy, swamp-metal groove reminiscent of Corrosion of Conformity with Helmet’s impact. “No Light” was also a winner, with a sinister “Seasons In The Abyss” inspired intro. I can say that three quarters of Hollowed Sky are a tight band with chops. I didn’t consider their blend of nu-metal optimally paired with the bands that they were opening for on this night, however that’s often par for the course at smaller club shows. I’d be interested to see Hollowed Sky perform with their full line-up (with vocals) to witness the band at full force.


I’m 100% in favor of new and local bands getting exposure that will hopefully broaden their fanbase and increase their chances of success, but one point of bewilderment for me is when bands of completely different styles are booked on the same bill by promoters as if names were seemingly drawn out of a hat. Nothing against Chatterbox by any means – they’re skilled musicians that perform with a high level of energy and passion for what they do. But the intensity of their punkish metal amalgam sound is not at all aligned within the scope of American Jetset or Kickin Valentina. I’m baffled as to how the show’s organizers speculated that an abrasive, thrash-infused dousing might appeal to fans of two melodic rock-oriented headliners. It’s a scenario that I see often and find puzzling. To me, it only makes sense to pair an opener with a headliner of the same musical style to maximize the desired effect – warm up the audience for what’s to come from the name(s) selling the tickets.

In a further twist of irony, this isn’t the first time that I’ve seen Chatterbox ramp up a bill featuring American Jetset and Kickin Valentina. They opened that MB4 show that I previously mentioned, which also featured Every Mother’s Nightmare. Thinking about this in greater depth, the sad reality is that there likely aren’t many local bands around the Baltimore area that are poured from the melodic hard rock mold that I’m referring to. And all told, I liked a lot of Chatterbox’s set. They’re fun, unbridled, and wreak plenty of havoc on a tiny club like Zen West. “Ripped” is a perfect example of that – it’s an unapologetic, no holds barred, owed to drinking. It was one of many of their songs that definitely lifted the energy level way up in the room. Another standout was “When The Creatures Crawl” which is the title track to the band’s forthcoming new album. Lyrically and sonically, it had a Sabbath-y vibe to my ears. They were planning on breaking out a cover of Marilyn Manson’s “The Nobodies”, which immediately sparked my interest. Unfortunately, it was aborted at the last minute due to time constraints, with the band opting to play an outstanding cover of “Pablo Picasso” instead. Their version is a vast improvement on the 1976 version originally penned by the Modern Lovers.

As a stand-alone, Chatterbox are a good band. They’re entertaining to watch, and their music will knock your dick in the dirt. Within the context of maligned billing, they’ll hit you like a ton of bricks while you have a beer in anticipation of the bands that you’re there to see.

American Jetset

Nietzsche famously once said “that which doesn’t kill us only makes us stronger”. Yes, I just quoted a German philosopher in a Sleaze Roxx concert review. After nearly becoming yet another Covid casualty, American Jetset have re-emerged following a period of realignment that brought the addition of lead guitarist Michael “Skinz” Skinsacos into the fold for the release of their brand-new Cat’s Got Your Tongue record, which has just been released physically and digitally on Big Curve Music. Their pre-pandemic effort, 2020’s Saloon Rock Whiskey Pop, saw the band broadening their scope and incorporating more influences into their sound. Thankfully, Cat’s Got Your Tongue finds Jetset making a U-turn and kicking up dust back to the nasty, punched up sleaze rock that we know and love them for. Saloon Rock Whiskey Pop stands tall as a fantastic sophomore effort in the band’s catalog, but I consider Cat’s Got Your Tongue to be blueprinted more to their debut Live Love Die On Main.

With their line-up and sound fully reinvigorated, American Jetset have resumed touring activities and have bookings throughout the summer including west coast tour dates with Stephen Pearcy, D’Molls and Steven Adler. I’m cashing in my Delta SkyMiles points. It’s green light-go, and the band’s official concert comeback was a recent date opening for Jackyl at the Tally Ho theater in Virginia. I couldn’t make it to that show in Leesburg, so their Baltimore gig at Zen West marked the first time that I’ve seen the band perform live in two and a half years! Hard to believe, but the last time that I caught the band was back in 2020 at the Frozen Harbor music festival for the release of Saloon Rock Whiskey Pop. For that reason alone, I was stoked to be seeing the band live once again as they enter this new era of their career. And at the same time, curious as to how they’ve evolved and pushed forward with a new band member in the mix.

Opening with not one, not two, but three tracks from a new album is a risky move for sure. But nothing ventured, nothing gained and sometimes you’ve just got to jump. “Bomb’s Away” has the frantic tempo required to render it the perfect opening song. It’s also a track that I would consider a mostly composite representation of what the band does, which is effective in that it makes introductions around the room for those that might not have heard their music before. They chased it with the title track “Cat’s Got Your Tongue”, which boasts a prowling guitar lick that sets up the bratty but enticing disposition of the song. “Tokyo Radio” is one of the cuts from the band’s new album that stood out to me the first time that I heard it. Like many of the band’s songs, it’s modeled on a keen pop sensibility in their songwriting. This tune takes that awareness to the nth degree and should be a big hit for the guys, whatever that means in today’s musical climate.

Thinking back to the very first time I heard their Live, Love, Die On Main EP in its entirety, opening track “Go It Alone” immediately grabbed my attention as it blared from my stereo, and I knew that American Jetset were on to something special. It remains one of my favorite songs by the band to this day, so I was happy to see it included in their set following the trio of new tunes that they lifted off with. “Live Love Die” is up there too, and really the guys could play that entire album and I’d be happy. There isn’t a clunker on this disc, and I suggest getting a physical copy of it while you still can!

With those older familiars checked off the list, it was back to the task at hand – showcasing material from the new record. Their new ballad “Falling Stars” is an absolute gem on the album and the emotion of it was mirrored from the stage. Hearing it drives home my opinion on what a knack the band has mastered for writing what are essentially pop standards with a hard rock overlay. “Walking Contradiction” was the lone selection representing Saloon Rock Whiskey Pop but demonstrated the merits of the record which unfortunately fell victim to the perilous timing of its release. Hitting the streets in February of 2020, the band was unable to tour in support of the effort due to the impending shutdown on live music. One can only hope that the CD gets some of the recognition that it deserves now that a bit of light is being cast in that direction.

Marketed much in the same way as “Locomotive”, “We Rule the Night” is a stand-alone single that the band released around March of 2021. It isn’t on any of their albums at this point but is possibly the heaviest, full throttle song that American Jetset have recorded to date. It’s a beast. For that reason alone, it succeeds in pummeling any crowd wanting to rock out on a Friday night. The always apropos finale of “Monsters”, while expected, was the perfect send-off by the band in what is an “ode” to their fans. It also gave them an opportunity to show off their new guitar player, who absolutely shredded throughout the entire song but not at the detriment of conciseness.

Skinsacos brings his own historied career with him into Jetset. As the guitarist for Baltimore’s City Fixx in the late 80’s, the band was poised for stardom when they were taken under the wing of legendary producer Kim Fowley (KISS, Poison, The Runaways) to record demos intended for their first album. They also went on to share stages with Great White, Femme Fatale and Charm City’s prodigal sons Child’s Play. In the years since, Skinsacos has gone on to play in a number of Baltimore based bands, including Race The Rat. That experience made him the optimal contender for the lead guitarist slot originally held by T. Lance Reeder, and he demonstrated that he’s more than capable of living up to any lofty expectations that the band might face as they enter this new phase of their career.

Following what was surely a season of wither for all of rock n’ roll, American Jetset have made one hell of a comeback with Cat’s Got Your Tongue. With their new LP out now and guitarist Skinz Skinsacos at the plate, the band has just the shot in the arm that they needed and are back on track like a heat seeking missile.

American Jetset’s setlist:
01. Bomb’s Away
02. Cat’s Got Your Tongue
03. Tokyo Radio
04. Go It Alone
05. Live Love Die
06. Save Somebody Else
07. Unwanted
08. Falling Stars
09. Walking Contradiction
10. We Rule The Night
11. Monsters

Kickin Valentina

Kickin Valentina’s show at Baltimore’s Zen West marked the band’s much-anticipated return to stateside touring and specifically the great Northeast in support of 2021’s The Revenge of Rock. They’re hot off the heels of a long overdue return to Europe in support of this excellent album, which garnered numerous accolades for the band and won them top spots on several album of the year lists. The band performed a tight, well-rehearsed and high energy set that likely benefited from a very active concert schedule of late. They had a successful run of dates in front of large, hungry crowds throughout the UK, Germany, Switzerland and of course, Denmark during the month of May. Seeing the throngs of rabid fans that they draw overseas gives me a greater appreciation for being able to attend their concerts in smaller venues… for now at least. And Zen West is about as small as it gets. That’s not a bad thing at all. Witnessing a band of Kickin Valentina’s magnitude rip the roof off an intimate venue such as this is as good as it gets. They’ll soon be headed back across the pond for another round of dates in August, but in the meantime, they are having another go round through the U.S. to sweep up the crumbs of their promotional efforts in support of The Revenge of Rock.

The (mostly) Georgia-based outfit has a diehard following in and around the Baltimore area, and it’s not uncommon for me to see many of the same faces at their gigs year after year. Or in the case of this past weekend, night after night. Those repeat attendees were ready, waiting and flanking the stage following the three previous acts of the night. And in mere minutes after American Jetset’s performance wrapped, the house lights grew dark as the tall, shadowy silhouettes of the band standing with their backs to the audience made it known that the moment that we had been waiting for had arrived. Blasting off with “Sweat” from Chaos In Copenhagen, the foursome performed with an unwavering ferocity and fervor throughout their eleven-song set.

Kickin Valentina’s setlist was a mostly well-rounded representation of their discography, with their newest LP getting the most attention, as one might expect given that the band is still making the promotional rounds behind the album. But really, “Freakshow”, “Somebody New”, “War” and “Revenge of Rock” are such crowd pleasers that I foresee these being staples of their set long after the band releases its next album. Among those, “War” is a rallying anthem that’s so well suited to the concert treatment that I wonder how it might sound if played in a larger arena or stadium before a sea of people chanting back at the band in unison. Perhaps we’ll find out one day. Interestingly, I also saw the band the following night in Hallam, Pennsylvania and their setlist included “End of The Road” (also from The Revenge of Rock), which was not played on Friday night. I’m not certain if it was cut due to time constraints but in any case, it sounded great.

My awareness of Kickin Valentina’s music wasn’t until 2019, following their well-publicized personnel change behind the microphone. I didn’t have the privilege of seeing the band in their infancy and have never known them with any line-up other than the existing one with D.K. Revelle on lead vocals. Odd as it may seem, this incarnation of the band is the only one I know. Though I’m sure that a few Brian Johnson-era AC/DC fans have often felt the same. I’ve been a K.V. fan ever since catching them in concert that first time and have since backtracked to familiarize myself with Imaginary Creatures and their EPs that pre-date it. They touched on those releases a bit with “On My Side”, “Heartbreak”, “Alone” and “Turns Me On”. The band plays those songs faithful to the original versions, which is befitting. If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it. One song that I’d love to see them add into the mix at some point is “Crazy”, which is one of my favorite tracks from the band’s 2017 album Imaginary Creatures. I hear a lot of similarities to Joe Edwards in Revelle’s raspy, weathered delivery and have no doubts that he could pull off the song while adding his own spin on it.

But in following my delayed introduction to the band’s music, I’m not able to make comparisons between Edwards and Revelle regarding their onstage personas fronting the band. I can say that D.K. is a seasoned pro that cyclones the stage from every angle, much like the Tasmanian Devil. Just as every circus has a ringleader, I can’t imagine Kickin Valentina with any other singer at this point as the line-up has gelled into a formidable machine. He’s one of those frontmen that has an inherent knack for what he does and a gift for entertaining. Towards the end of the band’s set, Revelle ventured down from the stage to sing amongst the people that were there to see them, from various point at crowd-level. Guitarist Heber Pampillon did the same, making his way from the stage down to the floor to tear through a guitar solo. I’m sure European fans don’t see that very often! He’s such a soulful, expressive player that just bleeds his Les Paul right into the ground and notably during the solo on “Somebody New”, where he seemingly had his guitar screaming the very words to the song. It’s a spectacle to see these musical talents execute their songs in such a close, 100% live setting.

Kickin Valentina consistently capture those old-school elements of danger, debauchery and decadence into their stage vibe and performances. They’re successful at bringing rudiments of days departed into what they do without being nostalgic or a throwback. All of that is brought together in their live shows and recordings. If you haven’t heard The Revenge of Rock, you’re missing out on one of the year’s best albums from a band that is relevant and thriving in today’s rock n’ roll climate.

Kickin Valentina’s setlist:
01. Sweat
02. Freakshow
03. On My Side
04. Somebody New
05. Heartbreak
06. Shakedown
07. War
08. Turns Me On
09. Alone
10. Revenge of Rock
11. Get Ready