Victory Highway: “The Heart of Rock N’ Roll is Still IN Cleveland”!

DSC_4945_01Victory Highway, Vocalist: Lisa Caito. Photo: © 2016 Jim Carver / The Rust Belt Chronicles.

Victory Highway was the first band, we covered back in 2013 at the Lock 3 in Akron. Our Bethany Brewer nearly got us arrested for going backstage to the nearby Akron Civic Theater, to see Bill Cosby. A lot has changed since then with us and Victory Highway. We no longer try to sneak backstage, we get invited and Victory Highway is still going strong with their new drummer, Tommy Amato!

I took the short stroll from a show in downtown Cleveland at the HOB, down Interstate 77, to catch Victory Highway at the Holiday Inn’s, Club Impulse. Having never been to the club before, I was anxious to see what the atmosphere was like and hear the re-shuffled, Victory Highway.  The large room was very crowded with all of it’s barstools, booths and tables full of various locals, visitors and lodging guests. Club Impulse is a traditional nightclub/lounge with an abundance of room to party and have a good time. The staff was quickly serving drinks and food, while swamped with thirsty patrons. The venue has a large dance floor and a variety of lighting to enhance the experience!


Vocalist: Lisa Caito. Photo: © 2016 Jim Carver / The Rust Belt Chronicles.

Victory Highway is led by vocalist, Lisa Caito. Lisa is a talented, beautiful singer and still the top female vocalist on the North Coast. Her charm, appeal and stage presence is one of the reasons Victory Highway stands out among the usual bands performing cover tunes. Her ability to imitate the sounds of rock, modern country, R&B, Disco, Pop and funk is a tribute to her professional demeanor and besides; who’s going to argue with a attractive woman!

With Lisa’s stunning looks and powerful lungs propelling her vocal chords, it’s no wonder Victory Highway is one of the few bands performing at outdoor festivals; regularly booked for only tribute bands. Since I hadn’t caught her performances in quite awhile, I can honestly say; Lisa’s vocals sounded fabulous and she was as vivacious on-stage as ever!


Guitarist, Cy Sulak. Photo: © 2016 Jim Carver / The Rust Belt Chronicles.

Cy Sulak needs no introduction. He’s still rocking’ hard with his long arms on his low-strapped guitar, driving the band with his rhythm and brilliant soloing. The former member of Sweetleaf, H.C. Hooker and Michael Stanley and The Resonators (to name a few)  could have retired by now, but it’s clear music is his love as he provides the spark to Victory Highway.  When I talked to Cy during the band’s break, his eyes and smile light-up like a child on Christmas morning when discussing performances. It’s obvious music drives his life and he is in his element on stage!

While Cy often plays with his head down, his personality shines through on his occasional expressions and smiles at band mates. This man excels on blues music with his searing solos and frenzied persuasion. It’s always a pleasure to hear Cy Sulak perform!


Drummer, Percussionist, Tommy Amato. Photo: © 2016 Jim Carver / The Rust Belt Chronicles.

The newest member of Victory Highway is Tommy Amato. The veteran of the Cleveland music scene is drumming up a storm with his newest adventure! Some of you may know Tommy from his days in various bands such as: Starfleet, Lazer, Souvenir and H.C. Hooker. He’s performed  and recorded with a majority of Cleveland’s finest musicians (including Neil Giraldo of Pat Benatar). Years ago, Tommy moved to Los Angeles and performed with rocker, Lita Ford,  progressive rock vocalist, Lana Lane (touring Europe and Japan), Warrant, The Rocket Scientists and recorded with KISS and Gene Simmons. More importunately, Tommy is a two-time Cancer survivor!

Now, he is best known for his Tommy Amato Rock Relief Benefit, which will be held on Sunday, October 2nd this year. The benefit brings together Cleveland’s musicians and bands performing to assist fellow artists who’ve suffered from Cancer with funding medical or funeral expenses. Tommy’s noble “pay it forward” yearly event is a success in bringing relief and comfort for other’s suffering from a debilitating disease or loss of a loved one. Don’t miss this years Tommy Amato Rock Relief Benefit on Sunday, October 2nd and the announcement of where it will be held!

It’s been awhile since I’ve heard Tommy perform. His energy, flair and groove is still driving his spririt. It’s astounding to watch him play, despite what he’s been through in life and his professionalism is apparent on-stage and off. His yellow Pearl drum kit reminded me of his day’s at the old Cleveland Agora, but his licks are as sharp as ever and his smile emulates his attitude. I noticed Tommy has powerfully added the use of the double-bass drum pedal to his arsenal of weapons.  Judging from what I noticed, Tommy Amato is definitely playing with finesse, still creating his famous punchy sound!


Bassist, Michael Solarz. Photo: © 2016 Jim Carver / The Rust Belt Chronicles.

Bassist, Michael Solarz provides the bottom-end of Victory Highway with his powerful groove, filling the spectrum of sound with his constant funk and swagger. His versatility within the genres of the bands set-list leaves a lasting impression. Occasionally, Michael steps out of the shadows to sings lead vocals, then quietly slips back in his zone. Whether picking the strings or using his thumb, this guy lays down with the best of them! If Wild Cherry reforms and needs a bassist, this guy would be my choice with his solid structure and astute syncopation. Michael takes his performance seriously and shines through the entire evening!

DSC_4775Keyboardist, Bruce Kowalski. Photo: © 2016 Jim Carver / The Rust Belt Chronicles.

Rounding out the band is keyboardist, Bruce Kowalski. The jovial man who provides the band with it’s beautiful chords of harmony, choruses and improvisation. During their break, Bruce informed me, he performed at Club Impulse nearly 25 years ago. How many musicians can say that? Whether playing the beautiful synth sounds or singing, Bruce’s expertise is evident throughout the show. His versatility knows no boundaries and his attitude is full of fun.  The veteran musician tickles the ivories and I’ve got a feeling the ivories must do the same as he is all smiles! The set-list is heavily reliant upon Bruce and his keyboards. Victory Highway is in good hands with Mr. Kowalski manning the boards!

Victory Highway performed an abundance of several genres consisting of rock, pop, R&B, disco, funk and modern country. Their ability to consistently perform the intricate sounds of the tunes is what makes Victory Highway a success. The extensive song list of genre’s can also cater to specific types of venues or outdoor, private events, festivals and weddings. Victory Highway kept the dance floor busy the entire evening at Club Impulse!

It’s easy to see why the band is so popular. Perhaps even more refreshing to witness such a talented group of people doing what they love- performing at their best! Victory Highway is fine example of why: “The Heart of Rock N’ Roll is Still IN Cleveland”!

Photos: © 2016 Jim Carver / The Rust Belt Chronicles.

* * I’d like to thank Tommy Amato, for asking if I’d like to sit-in with the band and the drumsticks. Kudos to Lisa for the “Monster” drink and the band for providing such an entertaining evening!


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Jim Carver About Jim Carver

Jim Carver is the President of The Rust Belt Chronicles.

In 2004, Jim graduated from North Central State College with a degree in Business Information Technology. Jim developed "Rock Lines" news report online in 2010.After a trial-run of The Rust Belt Chronicles in April of 2013, Jim decided to make his dream a reality in 2014 by re-launching The Rust Belt Chronicles.

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