Thursday, September 2, 2010
Ozone Rangers Float Again
Emmy and I went on a Buffalo Harbor boat cruise August 21. This isn’t your ordinary boat cruise; it was the second annual Ozone Rangers cruise. The band kept us entertained, for three hours and a number of nautical miles. I had forgotten how good the group and its lead guitarist/vocalist Bob Muhlbauer are.
Muhlbauer, a local Western New York luminary, started the Ozone Rangers over three decades ago. He is well known around town and has become a fixture at Springville Griffith Institute. He is the audio-visual technician for the school, and its six buildings including the district offices and bus garage.
Bob Muhlbauer tried for a number of years to make music his only profession. In the past decade and a half there have been numerous changes in the way people enjoy themselves. The legal drinking age has increased and drinking and driving laws have been stiffened. For years the Ozone Rangers worked most nights of every week. There are unintended consequences for all actions good or bad, new laws hurt music venues where legal beverages are served.
“From 1981 to about 1995 that is all I did, we used to play five nights a week. Then the bar scene just quieted right down. You are lucky now to get people coming out at all on weekends,” said Muhlbauer.
During those years, the group cut an album entitled “Long Way to Rock and Roll” and played gigs from Fort Lauderdale to Quebec.
The members of the band have changed through the years; it may be a figment of my imagination but I think more than one of them had a ZZ Top-type long white beard as Muhlbauer still sports these days. Other people remember the Ozone Rangers in the same way, and think of them as a ZZ Top tribute band.
Long time fans have said “I remember when all you played was ZZ Top.”
Muhlbauer indicated that a lot of people think that, but the group has always had a diverse playlist, much as it is today.
Their song list can be found at ozonerangers.com. They do perform a healthy amount of ZZ Top hits but have always played a variety of classic rock and roll, from Beatles and Steely Dan to Foghat and Queen.
On our cruise the other afternoon, when Miss Buffalo departed the dock, Bob Muhlbauer, and bass guitarist Xeno had a hard time getting their sea legs, even the seated drummer/vocalist Brendan Komenda seemed close to losing the beat, or possibly an entire drum. Unlike a normal stage, the Miss Buffalo bucked and rocked under their feet. It took them only minutes to become accustomed to the movement. Soundman extraordinaire, Howard "Dude" Wallace, with the expectations of some rough seas tied his speakers to the overhead canopy before the performance.
The four man combination performed well, Brendan Komenda, from the Buffalo based band, Sky, has a great voice which compliments Muhlbauer’s. Recently added bassist and vocalist, Xeno, from the Buffalo area band C.T. Ryder rounded out the band with backup vocals. Soundman Howard Wallace makes sure the sound levels are right and no one looses an eardrum.
Muhlbauer said of ‘Soundman’ Wallace, “We trust Howard- we will always sound the best we are able, with him out there.”
There were folks from all over Western New York at this years’ Ozone Ranger’s cruise, but plenty of room for more. It was a great afternoon for classic rock and roll. Dates for next year’s cruise, other upcoming shows and interesting commentary can be found at ozonerangers.com