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Just Yang it!

Ted Alvarez
David Stuart/Special to the Daily
ALL |

Yang-verb1. Trying your very best, doing your very best.2. Crafting the greatest work you can.3. The opposite of ‘winging it.’ -noun1. A positive, bright and energetic principle in Chinese philosophy.2. A positive, bright and energetic violinist who destroys classic rock songs with his all-acoustic band, His Unrivaled Players.

On their new record “Yang It!,” Bobby Yang and His Unrivaled players pay homage to a performance attribute of their own coinage, which they call – surprise – “yanging it.”

“The whole ‘yang it’ idea is to do the best that you can – it’s the opposite of winging it,” Yang says. “It’s like, if you build cars, you craft the greatest hot rod you can. We’re musicians, so it means we give it our all up on stage; we do our very best to bring that fire. It’s important that every single note you play makes you happy. Life is so short – I could die on any note.”Yang has been playing violin like his life depended on it since the age of five – like many kids, he was forced begrudgingly into lessons by his parents. But MTV captured his soul as a teenager, and he soon began applying his classical chops to rock n’ roll hits. He followed the symphonic track to gain a scholarship for violin at University of Michigan, but the call of the rock gods proved too strong: While playing in an Aspen summer program, he snuck out to jam with rock acts at local pubs and bars.”I would come home at 3 or 4 in the morning after playing with John Popper (of Blues Traveler) or De La Soul,” Yang says. “Then I’d have to wake up for symphony rehearsals at 7:30.”Ultimately, rock n’ roll won out and Bobby Yang and His Unrivaled Players was born. Based out of Atlanta, Yang and company have carved out a raging fanbase in the Southeast by tearing into rock classics from Zeppelin to Guns n’ Roses. Yang has gained particular notice for his finger-splitting solos, which he accomplishes entirely on an acoustic violin without effects of any kind.”I try to create the perfect balance between lyrical singing and 300-mile-an-hour shredding,” Yang says. “But without the classical training, I wouldn’t be able to play the way I do. The violin is 600 years old for a reason. You can make an entire range of sounds – you just have to know how to pull it out. If you want to make an ugly sound, it’s cool. But you can’t make an ugly sound before you make a beautiful sound.”Bobby Yang has ridden far on his unique take on rock n’ roll: In January, his group performed a selection of rock songs with the Atlanta Pops. His parents attended and saw their very first Bobby Yang show.”I don’t think they intended that I pursue it as a career; they wanted me to apply to pre-med or engineering programs,” he says. “But it kind of bit them back, because they introduced me to it, and my heart was in the violin. When they came to their first show, I don’t know if they loved it, but they didn’t say anything bad about it, which was good enough for me.”Other groups like the Trans-Siberian Orchestra offer a classical take on rock songs, but Yang is quick to point out the differences between his vision and theirs.”When I think of Trans-Siberian Orchestra, it’s cheesy electrics and fire and smoke,” he says. “We are an organic version of that. We showcase even more rippage, and our technical skill isn’t covered by smoke and mirrors or pyrotechnics. We play on entirely acoustic instruments – it’s like screaming wood. People see us onstage and request bluegrass songs, and then they hear us rip into “Kashmir” and (the reaction is) really dramatic.”



Yang (who is accompanied on this tour by Mark Cobb on drums, Daniel Luthjohn on guitar and Ben Reich on upright bass) have recently been digging deep into the work of Rush, Queen and Zeppelin. But in the future, fans should be on the lookout for original material from Bobby Yang and His Unrivaled Players.”It’s already enough of a stretch to accept a violin led rock band, so in the beginning, we sort of made an executive decision to work with melodies that people already know,” Yang says. “But we think our audience has graduated, and we have as well. They’re ready for some original music, and we’ve got a lot in our fingers.”Yang plans to debut the new material at a hometown show next month. In the meantime, expect more blistering “tributes” like Van Halen’s “Eruption” and G n’ R’s “Sweet Child o’ Mine.” And audience members take note: Bobby Yang and His Unrivaled Players can wreck pretty much any rock song you throw at them.”Usually, only the skeptics want original music,” Yang says. “As if what I’m doing isn’t valid. Would you tell Itzahk Pearlman or Miles Davis ‘you only play covers?’ We’re as improvisational as jazz, but we play high-energy rock. It’s true rock n’ roll – if the crowd is going, we’ll extend the solo as long as it takes.”Arts & Entertainment writer Ted Alvarez can be reached at 748-2939 or talvarez@vaildaily.com.Vail Daily, Vail, Colorado


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