Joel Hoekstra and Brandon Gibbs-The Loft at City Winery NYC – September 6, 2023

Joel Hoekstra & Brandon Gibbs

The Loft at City Winery NYC – September 6, 2023


Review & Photos – Rebecca Wolf


The Loft at City Winery NYC is the perfect cozy setting for an intimate acoustic show. With tables surrounding the low, back-lit stage, glowing hot pink, there’s a warmth to the loft. Even the name invokes the feeling of being nestled in an intimate environment. This atmosphere was well-suited for the musical performance of Joel Hoekstra and Brandon Gibbs on September 6th. Hoekstra and Gibbs are both rock guitarists and singers who’ve honed their skills over the years while playing with many rock bands. Hoekstra has played with Whitesnake,  Cher and Trans Siberian Orchestra, to name a few and Gibbs has played with Poison and Devil City Angels. Seven years ago these rockers became acquainted on a Rock Cruise, sparking their musical collaboration. Each year since, the two have toured together during downtimes in their schedules to showcase each of their solo material, as well as the music they performed with the bands they’ve played in. “Now, because of you guys supporting us and buying tickets this year we’re doing two international tours!” Gibbs shared to the cheers of the crowd.

“This first song is a Devil City Angels song.” Gibbs relayed to the crowd. As the fans applauded Gibbs explained the origins of the first song on the band’s self-titled debut album. “They said, what do you want to write about and I said, ‘Well, in my current situation I know about a girl I like and she likes a guy with more money and she keeps me in the friend zone.’ Have you ever been in the friend zone?” Gibbs queried the crowd, as he walked over and raised Hoekstra’s hand.  As Hoekstra replied, “Pretty much my whole life,” audience members burst into laughter, as no one believed that this eye-catching rocker had been repeatedly friend-zoned. Opening up with the powerful number “No Angels,” Gibbs displayed dynamic vocals that were further enhanced with the addition of Hoekstra’s rich harmonies. Continuing with “Boneyard,” a second Devil City Angel’s number, the mood was set for the rocking evening ahead. 

Gibbs is an endearing, emotive storyteller who enhances his connection to the audience through the stories he shares about his musical career and the people who’ve helped him along the way. These tales paint rich, sentimental pictures that add depth and meaning to Gibbs’ music. “I’ve had a great ride, it wasn’t easy and I do have people to thank,” Gibbs expressed with a look of tenderness in his eyes. “I will do this every single show until the day I close my eyes because it takes one hand to bring you up and that’s a fact.” As the applause rippled through the audience, Gibbs turned the clock back to his first meeting with the band members of Poison, and the extraordinary kindness they extended to him, his bandmates and his family members. It was that unexpected encounter that jumpstarted his musical career and led to an ongoing bond between Gibbs and Poison. “I won’t play a show without talking about that particular thing because it just takes one person. If you have a dream you can achieve it. It takes one person to notice you, give you a hand and say, ‘I’m going to bring you up.’ I was 14 when I met them and I’m 38 now and here we are, best of friends. So, god bless my friends from Poison. I appreciate what you did!” As Gibbs tapped on his heart audience members applauded, and at Gibbs’ request waved the flashlights on their phones in the air as the duo passionately performed Poison’s hit “Every Rose Has It’s Thorn.”

Additional Gibbs songs in the set included “This Town,” from the 2012’s EP Into the Ocean and the 2022 single “Rich for Life.” Again in storyteller mode, Gibbs explained the sentimental meaning of “Rich for Life,” a song written in dedication to Gibbs’ beloved father.  “My dad let me have a dream. Home was my favorite place because I knew my dad was confident we were going to do something. I don’t care about the money in the bank. I care more about the people in your life. My dad really helped me understand that. It’s not about padding the wallet, it’s about relationships. So, let’s be kind to each other. I want to pass that on to you.” Dedicating the song to his father, Gibbs sang with heartfelt passion.

During the performance the duo played Hoekstra’s solo work from Joel Hoekstra’s 13, including “Hard to say Goodbye” from 2021’s Running Games and “Until I Left You” from 2015’s “Dying to Live,” both showcasing Hoekstra’s phenomenally dynamic rock and roll guitar skills. “I’ve now released three CDs under the name Joel Hoekstra’s 13, which I consider to be my rock side project. Does anyone have the Joel Hoekstra’s 13 albums?” Hoekstra proudly asked the crowd. Whistles and cheers affirmed the ownership and enjoyment of Hoekstra’s music. “This song is the first single from the second album. A lot of my titles people attribute to relationships but “Hard to Say Goodbye” is about forgiveness. I didn’t necessarily have the easiest upbringing in terms of people supporting me and having my back. I wasn’t the cool kid through school. When things work out for you people will come and say, ‘Hey man, we knew you’d do it, we knew it the whole way.’ You want to give those people the finger and say, ‘No, you didn’t.’ But, as you grow up you learn it’s more important to forgive and forget and move on. So, that’s what this song is about.” As the audience cheered Hoekstra and Gibbs began to sing and play guitar in unison, showcasing a beautiful, melodic rock composition. 

In addition to Hoekstra’s self-penned numbers, the two performed Whitesnake’s power ballads “Is This Love” and “Here I Go Again.” While the performance was solely two musicians and two acoustic guitars, the rich, melodic voices and passionate guitar playing of Hoekstra and Gibbs filled The Loft at City Winery with incredible music that had audience members joyfully singing along. Although Hoekstra is not overly confident in his vocal abilities he sang lead on The Doors’ iconic hit “Love Me Two Times,” prefacing his performance with, “Thank god for the 60s because it gives me some things I can sing!” As the crowd cheered and hooted the familiar twangy guitar notes began and Hoekstra sang with a wonderfully mysterious, gravely tone perfectly suited for this incredible number.  Additional songs in the set included Poison’s “Something to Believe In,” Whitesnake’s “Love Ain’t No Stranger,” and Gibbs’ 2019 single “Rain Whiskey.” The evening ended with a spirited cover of Stealers Wheel’s classic “Stuck in the Middle With You,” with all present on their feet, singing along. 

The Loft at City Winery was the perfect setting for an intimate evening of music and storytelling, music pared down to an acoustic level with life stories close to one’s heart. It’s a reminder that beneath the glitz and glamour of rock and roll, there’s always a simple acoustic inner being and one’s own personal life stories. So, let’s remember Joel Hoekstra’s words of wisdom, “It’s more important to forgive and forget and move on.” And, take to heart the words shared by Brandon Gibbs, “Let’s be kind to each other.”  Amen.