On a rainy Friday night in July, Steve Shell and his band, Shell Shock, climbed onto the small stage at Stadium Grill in Marana and launched into a three-hour romp down memory lane.
The four musicians rampaged through classic-rock hits of their youth by the likes of Led Zeppelin, Billy Idol, Alice Cooper, Aerosmith and, for diversity's sake, Dwight Yoakam.
The audience numbered about 30 when the band took the stage. As the evening wore on, the crowd size doubled. With the exception of three 20-somethings playing pool, most everyone was there to hear Shell Shock. Some took to the patch of dance floor in front, close enough to feel Shell's breath as he sang.
After the first set, the singer looked exhausted, as did drummer Charlie Martin, bass player John Amato and keyboardist/ guitarist George Gardner.
"Back in the old days, you played five days in a row. I don't know how we used to do that," said Shell, a bit winded after an energetic hour that included leading a conga line of sorts through the dining room.
Once, when their hair wasn't so gray and their lives weren't so hectic with jobs and families, the guys reveled in those late, boozy nights, living out their youthful rock 'n' roll fantasies. They even dared to dream of that one gig that would lead them to a big-time record deal, platinum sales and sold-out arena tours.
Ah, youthful dreams.
Shell Shock's members are beyond that, for the most part.
"It's just a hobby," said the 50-year-old Shell, a Tucson architect who still wears his wavy hair a good five inches below his shoulders and performs in leather pants and a halfway-unbuttoned willowy dress shirt.
"When I was young, my dream was to become a rock star. Now, it's just the love of the music," added Martin, 54, a building contractor by day.
All four rockers have been playing music since they were teens, including Amato and Gardner, who have played together off and on since they were kids growing up in Chicago. Amato said they even had a few brushes with fame, including sharing a stage with Bo Diddley.
Shell Shock has been together for nine years, the first four under the name Entire Sonora Navy. The band mates call themselves weekend warriors, performing two or three weekends a month at area bars and clubs, including Catalina's Lariat Steakhouse & Saloon, Marana's Stadium Grill and Tucson's Fenderskirts.
"It's a lot of fun," said Amato, 54, who works in construction.
"I'm fine with (the band as a hobby)," added Gardner, 55, a martial arts instructor and father of a doting 2-year-old son, Tony, who jammed along with his dad at that July concert. "It's a blast."