By Gina Valencia
Long Beach is a destination city: the Queen Mary, the Aquarium of the Pacific, Shoreline Village, and my new favorite, the Gaslamp to see Knyght Ryder.
“Fridays at Gaslamp with Knyght Ryder is a Southern California Institution,” said Michael Neufeld, owner of the Gaslamp restaurant and bar. “Each Friday creates new memories for our guests, and in turn with the band and the venue.”
The locally, world famous ‘80s & ‘90s tribute band Knyght Ryder was established in Long Beach in 2002, and began their musical residency at the Gaslamp when they heard the ‘new’ place was looking for bands. That was in 2005, and with the exception of the pandemic, they have never missed a Friday night.
I walk into a dimly lit restaurant/club atmosphere, with flat-screen TVs playing ‘80s music videos and groups of people mingling around tables and the bar.
The large dance floor is accessible from anywhere in the spacious restaurant, complete with a disco ball above. Couples are seated at tucked away bar-height tables with candles, friends celebrate birthdays, clusters of ladies enjoy a girls’ night out. At almost 9:30pm, the ‘Humpty Dance’ music video is on the screen while its audio begins to fade, the lights lower, and the spotlight is on the stage. Cheers erupt and people rush to the dance floor.
Knyght Ryder has officially kicked off the weekend.
With the Band
“Watch out for those fingers, tricky fingers,” singer Matt Carmichael said to the crowd about lead guitarist Travis Goertz in the middle of a song. The camaraderie among the members is undeniable.
“We actually get along most of the time and enjoy each other’s company,” said keyboardist/guitarist Kevin Welsh.“I’ve been in a million bands,” said bass player Ed Kamp. “These guys are serious enough to sound good and loose enough to have fun.”
Whether playing piano since age 5 and earning a music degree from USC (like Kevin), or writing and recording with other bands (as Ed is doing with the Long Beach Dub Allstars), all have an impressive musical background. “We know like 300-ish songs,” said Travis.”
The guys encourage crowd requests, and everyone has a favorite, including Gaslamp owner Michael, who enjoys hearing them play ‘Africa,’ and ‘Just Can’t Get Enough.’ “Oh, and definitely the band playing ‘Only a Lad,’ but you will have to ask Ed about that,” Matt said. Mysteriously, no comment from Ed.
Making Music and Memories
“We’re like Menudo,” Travis joked. “Recycling members to keep looking young.” With his custom Knyght Ryder Vans and rolled-up blazer jacket sleeves, Travis and drummer Rick are the only original members; the others have been with the band for 10 years or more.
Aside from a loyal following, Knyght Ryder has had many notable opportunities and memories that have blossomed from their relationship with the Gaslamp, like when Kevin proposed to his wife on stage, or when a random guy approached them after a show to ask if they’d be interested in being an opening band for George Lopez at Radio City Music Hall and the Wang Theater in Boston.
“We figured this was a drunk dude being funny,” said Travis. “But he called me the next day. We got both of those shows and about 12 other dates around the country playing awesome venues for huge crowds opening for George Lopez. Long Beach Terrace Theater was one. Those are experiences we owe directly to Gaslamp.”
Another favorite memory for Matt was the night former NFL quarterback and Long Beach native Mark Sanchez climbed up on stage to sing with them.
For Gaslamp server manager Cinthia Pineda, Friday nights with Knyght Ryder is like a concert/dance party every week. “You can’t not want to sing along and dance with them, and it’s super fun when they get out of their comfort zone, swap instruments and play something ‘new’ for the crowd.”
Working for the Weekend
Running into Matt on the way to my table during a band break, I stop him and request a Prince song. “Sure thing, once we start our next set.” A few minutes later, they take the stage again, the lights dim, and I hear Prince’s prophetic words emanating from Matt: “Dearly Beloved….”
I stash my bag, join the crowd on the dance floor, and watch in delight as ‘tricky fingers’ Travis goes crazy on the guitar solo. Friday nights at the Gaslamp with Knyght Ryder is a world of never-ending happiness!