of the things that left the greatest impression on members
of the band was the fine craftsmanship omnipresent in
much of Europe.
Another remarkable notion? The value placed on language
on the old continent.
Incidentally, the band, Sass (known as West during this
time), got to play some rock-and-roll, too. And what
a special performance it was.
Sass, which has Revere roots and a loyal Beach City
following, played a one-hour set this past August at
"In Guitar", a music festival organized by
Ober Muhle in Dubendorf, Switzerland.
If the festival was a feast for the ear, the entire
trip to Europe was, according to Vernon West, a banquet
for the eye.
It fed the soul, too.
"You come out of there thinking that dreams are
nothing more than the opportunity to do a lot of work
and you either take that challenge and work hard and
realize your dreams or you give up and complain that
everything stinks," said guitarist and singer Vernon
The invitation-only festival - the brainchild of organizer
Phillippe Rey, who accepted the challenge, worked hard
and realized his dream - is a celebration of the guitar.
Comprised this year of artists from the US, England,
Austria, Spain, France, Argentina, Russia, and the host
country, the festival featured not only rock, but also
flamenco, classical music, Cajun, rock, blues, folk
music and jazz.
The artists developed a fraternal sense.
"We all kind of hung out together," West said
of the global community of music makers that performed
in the Curling Hall. "It was a really great experience
for everyone involved."
Sass, made up of Vernon, his brother Dana, keyboardist
Chuck Vitale and drummer Mark Hylander, came away amazed
at how Rey translated his passion into reality.
does it all practically himself," Vernon West said.
"It's a dream of his. He selects bands based on…if
you're successful or not, it doesn't matter to him.
It matters what he thinks of your music. Is it honest?"
In the positive and upbeat lyrics, driving tempos and
heavy ballads of Sass, Rey found honesty.
was an affirmation, a certain sense of recognition,
for the heart and soul we put into what we do,"
Vernon West said.
The band's appearance in Switzerland followed its decision
to focus on original music, closing the chapter of its
collective life as a cover band.
But the band will always remain loyal to its devoted
Revere following, West said, noting the enthusiasm felt
from countless gigs in Revere Beach lounges that have
helped inspire Sass through all the years.
A CD released last winter, "Sass to West",
(Sass was the band's original name when it was formed
by then-Revere High Students Vernon and Dana), bridged
the gap from the early days to today. The release highlighted
an uplifting message - that experience makes you sadder
but wiser but can bring you out okay in the end, that
redemption is possible, that love and family are important.
New songs now being written, Vernon West said, will
have the same themes.
The musicians found some time to see the sights.
Among the most striking features of Switzerland and
Italy, West said, are the history that is everywhere,
the cleanliness and the pride people have in their work,
and the value they place on language.
West was particularly struck with a cathedral that took
hundreds of years to build, and a sidewalk inlaid with
small tiles, like a mural, projects that generation
upon generation of laborers must have worked on without
ever seeing a completed product.
And the band stayed at Wintergen in a 1,000-year-old
monastery overlooking a river.
"You get the feeling about how young America is,"
Vernon West said, "We're really like infants compared
to the rest of the world.
can go in the train station and the floor is polished…the
thing I was absolutely thrown by is the workmanship."