WHAT IS RUSHCON? RushCon 16: November 3-5, 2016, Toronto

RushCon is the largest North American gathering of fans celebrating the music of Canadian rock band, Rush.

Once a year, fans from all over the world gather for several days of activities such as games, a charity auction featuring rare and collectible band memorabilia, a tribute band concert, important guest speakers from inside the band's inner circle and much, much more!

RushCon is a by-the-fans, for-the-fans event where folks have an opportunity to raise money for an important charity whilst having an amazing time learning more about the band, getting to know each other and connecting with other fans from around the world. Over the past 15 years, RushCon members have formed life-long friendships and bonded over their fondness of this band.

It's a tremendously fun, informative and exciting series of events where fans are able to spend a weekend experiencing all the sites and sounds of Rush and simultaneously catch up with old friends who'll make you feel like you're not the only kid in the room who can recognize an odd time signature.

See Past Events

Sun Dogs

← Tribute Band of the Month


Band Members

Andy Rabin

Mark Schenker
Bass, Vocals, Keyboards

Vince Tricarico
Drums and Electronic Percussion

Sun Dogs: Beyond the Lighted Stage

Mary Jo, RushCon staff: Give us a little history of the band- how did you meet and discover a shared love of Rush?

Vince (Drums): In 2011, I saw Andy's Craigslist ad looking to form a Rush tribute. He attached an mp3 of him playing “YYZ”, and I was calling him before the recording ended. We formed the Rush tribute – Blame Canada (out of the Washington, DC – Virginia Suburbs) and played together for almost five years. In 2016, we needed a backup bass player and a mutual friend mentioned she knew Mark Schenker from KIX (kixband.com); I thought he might know a bass player who could fill in for us. Mark responded “I’ll fill in and I’ll sing and play keys too”. We met, had dinner, discovered shared musical interests, and discussed the market for “Tribute Bands”. Soon, we were jamming together, he filled in on a few shows with us, and we began forming a trio. For the first 6 months, Mark and I spent tons of hours figuring out how to do this as a trio, really drilling down and playing the way Rush would play. Andy would agonize in the rehearsal room while Mark and I toiled with the “execution” portion of playing live Rush; working on trigger and backing samples of synth chord progressions. We watched endless videos of Rush to try and spot who was triggering what so we could replicate that.

Mary Jo: What's the story behind the name “Sun Dogs”?

Vince (Drums): I’m probably the biggest Rush nerd in the band and I was hell bent on not naming the band after a Rush album or a song; I wanted a more obscure name. Andy had googled the name of Rush bootlegs and between the 3 of us we had a list of more than 100 names to choose from, including “Rash”. I thought it’d be cool to say “After Rush there was Rash”, a take-off on “Before there was Rush, there was Rash”. Once again, I was shot down in flames. So, we landed on Sun Dogs. “Chain Lightning” is one of my all time faves. I love Sun Dogs – it’s Rush but you have to think about it and I think it also has an original feel to it. Our logo is the “Dog against the Sun”, kind of like the 2112 Star Man representing “Man against the Masses”. That’s our take on one of the coolest band brands ever.

Mark (Bass/Vox): I took the low road and found a pic of Geddy’s “amp” from the recent tours and it said “Sausage Time” on it so I nominated that name which brought roars of laughter for days. But, we couldn’t see being in a band actually named called “Sausage Time” or “Sausage Party”. I also suggested “Permanent Shaves” using the ZZ Top model, in our case Andy is the only one with a beard. I was mainly looking for humor (no matter how low). As we all know in one of Neil’s famous blog posts from a while back, he and Alex both agreed on “more comedy, less music” for future RUSH endeavors! I concur! Fred Barchetta was another I wished we could use, my dad’s name is Fred but there is already a RUSH trib with that name. I, like Vince, didn’t want to use a Rush album or song as a name, and wanted to stay away from pirating the Rush imagery. We wanted to be creative and make our own original brand imagery while still making it obvious we are paying tribute to Rush.

Mary Jo: Tell us about your gear and set up. How is it Rush inspired?

Vince (Drums): I’m playing Drum Workshop (DW) Collectors Series Maple Shells in the Custom Candy Apple Red Lacquer (my hat tip to the Signals, Grace, and Power Windows Red Kit Neil played from ‘82 – ‘86). The drum kit from a shell perspective is an exact replica to Neil’s R30 Kit. You can learn more about my entire kit from this video from Feb 2017 - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rulP5PZY7UA. The drum sizes are the same as the R30 kit (however; my main snare is 5x14 modeled after #1). All my cymbals are A. Zildjian’s and are the same sizes as Neil’s with a couple exceptions; I have a 21” Rock Ride, his was a 22” Ping Ride. I have a 19” Wuhan China Type and the Sabian 20” Diamond-Back China Type that he designed just before the Snakes and Arrows sessions and subsequent tour. This cymbal is very interesting; it has four Tambourine Jingles alternating in between four rivets. So it has a cool jingle/sizzle sound. You can hear him playing it in the beginning of “Armor and Sword”, “Far Cry” and the coolest place he plays it, and you have listen carefully, is at the 2:23 mark in “The Garden”. He moves from the hi-hat to that cymbal and just rides it. All you hear is a sustained ‘jingle’ sound, very cool. I mean no one would do that!! The electronics I have are just like he’d have in the main kit. There’s a FatKAT trigger pedal on the floor just left of my Hi-Hat Pedal, a DAUZ trigger pad just below and in between the 12” and 13” Closed Toms and at about 11 o’clock above the main snare drum. Last but not least there are 3 Roland vDrum triggers and they’re housed in matching DW Drum Shells just like his. I think it was Lorne Wheaton that came up with that idea after the Vapor Trails Tour. During the Clockwork Angels tour in 2013, DW called me and asked me if I’d like them to make me the entire reverse electronic kit so I could have the ‘complete’ Neil Peart rotating Drum Kit. I was like, YES!! But seriously, I’d never be able to do the rotating drum kit/riser properly and I wouldn’t want to sit with my back to the audience to just have the back kit. So I opted for the three that are in the main acoustic kit. Special thanks to Drum Workshop for making those for me. Lastly, all the electronic sounds you’ll hear are either coming from the Roland TD-30 Drum Module or Ableton Live. In Ableton is/are the Glockenspiel, Tubular Bells, Bell Tree, Wind Chimes, Temple Blocks, Crotales and many custom samples like the Glass Breaks/Plywood slaps in “YYZ”, the shaker in “Jacob’s Ladder”, the car passes from the original recording at the beginning of “Dreamline” and some others. I also have an iPad that I use to switch songs in Ableton using SetlistMaker and an iRig Blueboard. I play the MalletKAT Express two octave Midi Marimba and would like to thank Connie and Mario at Alternate Mode for this wonderful instrument. My racks are all custom made by me to help with set up and tear down – but also give the familiar look. All the drums are in Calzone/Anvil Road Cases – Thank you Linda Tilson. And lastly, I’m using Audio 64 Adel A6 In-Ear Monitors. Thanks so much to everyone in the Artist Relations Group at Audio 64.

Andy (guitar): I'd love to have all of the guitars and amps that Alex has used through the years, but that's just not practical. So, I've picked gear that gets me as close as I can to all his sounds without requiring a moving van and unlimited budget. All of my guitar sounds come from a Fractal Audio AX8, which is a digital amp modeler and effects pedal board. For guitars I play a Gibson 335, which Alex used on the first 4 albums. It also covers the material on which he played his famous white 355. My other main guitar is a Paul Reed Smith CE24, which Alex used throughout the 90's. In addition to the 90's stuff, I use it for the classic 80's albums where he played a Fender Stratocaster. I've got a Godin classical electric that I have used for the introductions to “A Farewell to Kings”, “La Villa Strangiato” and “The Trees”. I have a couple other guitars that I'll play on occasion simply because I love playing them, even though they're not Alex Lifeson Approved™.

Mark (Bass/Vox): I had no problem getting gear together for this band. I am a huge collector and I already had four Geddy Lee Signature Model Jazz basses including the recent USA one with the white inlays. I use that on drop D for “Stick It Out”. I also have several 70’s Rickenbacker 4001’s which I’ve maintained in tip top shape. I have a black ’77 that is my main one and sounds just like Permanent Waves era Rickenbacker. So I use the bass models on stage that he used to record the songs to get that sound, with the exception of the Wal bass era, not interested in one of those. I even have a double neck for “Passage” and “Xanadu”. It’s not an original Rick 4080, I had it custom made and the name plate on the headstocks reads “Markenbacker”. I also have an Alex Lifeson Signature Model Les Paul, the wine colored one and Andy uses that once in a while for fun. I run everything direct with a pedalboard, using a couple of compressor pedals, Line 6 wireless, a chorus pedal and a Billy Sheehan EBS Bass pedal for nice distortion. Distortion is a huge part of Geddy’s sound and not all tribute bands seem to recognize that. My in ears are Sennheiser EW G3 IEM 300 using Ultimate Ears Pro UE-18’s. I’ve been using UE’s for over ten years and they are awesome.

For keys I have two Roland PK-5’s by my feet run into Ableton Live. All my keyboard sounds and samples are triggered in Ableton, I have a separate Ableton project for each song. My primary goal is to replicate those original keys and synth sounds as closely as possible. If you hear a little thing, ear candy, noise, pad, Taurus, or whatever on the original recordings, I’ve figured out a way to duplicate it and trigger it. Just check our promo video for the keys I created for “Spirit” and “Tom Sawyer”, they are spot on. It’s all there and it sounds really close. I bought some original modeled keyboard/synth plugins to find stuff Geddy used. OBX, Oberheims, Mini Moog, Taurus, etc. I painstakingly went through each preset on plugins I bought and found stuff that was almost indistinguishable from the original or I tweaked it. Including going through the sound banks in my Korg Kronos. There’s good stuff in there too. My Keyboard is a Novation Impulse 49. I don’t have a need for another one up top just yet. I’m able to split the keybed using Ableton’s Instrument rack with completely different sounds across the bed for example the solos in “Subdivisions” and “Xanadu” and some songs that are way more complex in terms of more than two or three synth sound banks required on songs like “Jacobs Ladder” and “Entre Nous” so I will stack them up and or cut the keybed into as many sections as I need in Ableton to accommodate all the sounds for one song. I think Rush fans will really appreciate the attention to detail. I also have two iPads one in the front and one on the keyboard that switch songs for me in Ableton using SetlistMaker and an iRig Blueboard. They also scroll lyrics for me during the song in case I forget. I’m not gonna act like I know all those lyrics down pat, it’s pretty difficult to memorize that volume of information and Neil’s lyrics aren’t exactly everyday conversational stuff with easy lines to remember so the iPads are my backup for faulty memory, more like cue sheets. Hey, Geddy has been using teleprompters for years! I checked into what system he uses and iPads and SetlistMaker software were much cheaper!


Mary Jo: What's your Rush preshow ritual?

Vince (Drums): Set up the drums – Hahaha. After sound check I like to just relax in the dressing room. I want to eat dinner about 1-2 hours before we take the stage. I warm up on a practice pad by doing some rudiments and then stretch out. I just don’t have the luxury to set up a smaller kit and do a real warm up.

Andy (guitar): I get dressed and try to make my hair look perfect.

Mark (Bass/Vox): I usually try to not talk too much before a show, save myself for when it counts. I eat very light and just try to warm up my fingers a bit, some days I feel a bit more sluggish than others, sluggish doesn’t work too good for playing Rush! I warm up my vocals for about 20 minutes and including sound check I’m good to go. Then I double check Andy’s hair and make sure it does indeed look perfect. One thing I do get to do in this band that I don’t do in KIX is wear my glasses! I have horrible eyesight, can’t do contacts and in Sun Dogs I have to see my feet, my iPads and like Geddy, often I’m throwing my hands from the bass to the keyboards in the space of one beat and I actually need to really see what I’m doing with tremendous mental focus. Doing Rush right, or at least trying as hard as we mere mortals can, is not easy by any stretch.

Mary Jo: How do you develop the set list for your shows?

Vince (Drums): Andy always does the initial draft. Then Mark will chime in as the two of them are making guitar and bass changes throughout the show. Lastly, I make the final changes. I mean, you don’t want to play – “Tom Sawyer”, “Freewill”, “Natural Science”, and “Time Stand Still” all in row. That’s a lot of drumming!

Mark (Bass/Vox): I will usually try to space out the instrumentals or some of the songs in lower registers to pace myself after Andy does the initial draft. I add minor suggestions as Andy and Vince have been doing a Rush tribute much longer than I so they know what kind of pacing works for the crowd. Three DEEP tracks in a row will test the patience of the most ardent Rush fan!

Mary Jo: Are there any songs you have decided to not try to play?

Vince (Drums): There’s nothing we’ve not tried to play as of yet – at this moment we are really a pretty new band. But something like “A Farewell to Kings” would just be a total ball buster from a vocal stand point – I’m not sure Geddy could sing that song. We’re adding new songs as quickly as we can. You can mess up any song at any time. For me, I have to be in the moment and not thinking about the next song. That’s when you have the proverbial “train wreck”..

Mark (Bass/Vox): We have videos we created for each song, trying to be original and not use Rush imagery. We have an actual train wreck video that we can trigger to override at any point in case we DO have a performance train wreck! We want the fans to be in on the joke, nobody is perfect and obviously this music is tremendously difficult to execute; a train wreck is inevitable and why not just have a good laugh with everybody in the room and carry on? I’ve seen Rush have a few myself over the years! There are a couple songs that are out of reach for me vocally. Some of the very early stuff as we all know is stratospheric, but as Geddy does these days in “Temples of Syrinx” I’m sure I can come up with an alternate melody that works if/when I have trouble with some things.

Mary Jo: How is playing to an audience of Rush fans different than a general audience?

Vince (Drums): Great Question! It’s very intense!! Rush Fans are absolutely the best in the business. I am that “RUSH FAN”. I’m just lucky to be able to (try) and play their music and specifically Neil Peart’s drum parts. With all due respect to Geddy and Alex (whom I love); I would guess that Neil is the focal point a Rush concert. So for me playing his part – I put a lot of pressure on myself to get it right. I spend hours listening to Rush. I listen for of all the subtleties in his parts because I’m amazed at the time he puts forth to create/write the ‘drum’ part (never mind the lyrics). I know that all the Rush Fans that come to see us play are listening, watching and AIR DRUMMING (that’s the coolest part of playing for Rush fans). From the kit, I can really only see about two rows of faces before everyone fades into the dark room. But those faces are trained on each of us. I can see the drummers, guitarists and bass players out there. And I can assure you - they’re taking notes!! It’s so nice when someone comes up after the show and says – “great job”. It’s the best!! To quote Neil – “Alternating currents; force a show of hands”. That says it all!!

Mark (Bass/Vox): Playing for Rush fans is very different. Anybody going to a Rush tribute band show is unlikely to be a casual fan, mostly we get the hardcore fans that know all the deep tracks and all the sonic details of the songs everyone knows. You can tell from the stage when their favorite part comes up in a song and you nail it; you get a big smile from them and see some back slaps with their buddies. Typically don't see too many girls doing back slaps! On the flip side it works both ways. Lets be honest here, again this music is notoriously difficult to perform and present, and we are most certainly not perfect, so when you blow somebody's favorite part, you get the head hang usually followed up with a shrug and a smile hopefully meaning "nice try better luck next time". For me that interaction is great too. We are human and our audience knows that and it's fun to get a nudge nudge wink wink when you have a less than stellar moment! In between songs people shout out comments like "you guys are killin' it" or something equally positive. I don't ever hear things like that from a general audience with my other band. It is tremendously rewarding when you've spent as much time as we have trying to replicate the exact sounds on the record with vintage synth samples, sequences, ear candy and guitar and bass tones, that when those parts pop out, people really notice and become wowed that we even bothered to dig that deep and go at it really hard in the interest of a realistic and detailed as possible presentation of Rush's music.

Mary Jo: Who has the biggest Rush shrine or best piece(s) of Rush memorabilia?

Vince (Drums): I’ve been fortunate enough to have gone backstage and visit during sound checks with Rush on many occasions over the years, so I have some wonderful pictures from those times. I bought that limited edition coffee table book they did of all the tour programs and it’s signed by each of them. I also have a pair of soiled (just kidding) stage played sticks from the Time Machine Tour. DW sent them out to me. I tried to get my hands on the ‘Snakes and Arrows’ Stage Kit. That is my Favorite Neil Peart Kit (Do you see the pattern – ‘I SEE RED!” But if I may digress a moment the R40 Kit is by far the best sounding kit he’s had) – I tried to buy that kit and was asking the guys at DW were it was. From what I gather Neil gave it to Nick Raskulinecz. However; I understand Nick is a KIX fan – so if you’re out there Nick?? Maybe we can cut a deal ;-). When I was younger I wrote Neil a letter and he actually replied – so I have a nice handwritten post card from him.


Mark (Bass/Vox): Vince’s replica of Neil’s kit is his major Rush shrine! (He has another identical one in his basement we use for rehearsal – uber Rush nerd!) Rush released “Clockwork Angels” through a partnership with the record label I’m signed to with KIX, Loud and Proud Records, and I got to go back stage and meet Geddy and Alex. My pic with Geddy was my very first post on Instagram. Andy Curran who is their right hand man and all time nice guy got Neil and the boys to sign my Moving Pictures tour program that I’ve had since my first Rush concert in 1981. Neil personalized it right smack dab in the middle in fat silver Sharpie – “To Mark: Neil Peart”. Alex accidentally signed it twice! So I have a program with two Big Al signatures, a Geddy signature and personalized from Neil. I always look at that Neil signature and go wow, he wrote TO MARK… I just love that! That is one of my most prized possessions.


Mary Jo: Tell the truth- who has a child, car or pet named after one of the guys or another Rush reference?

Vince (Drums): I have vanity tags on my car with (again) an obscure Rush reference. Mark has Rush vanity tags on his car as well. You’ll know him if you see him driving in Northern VA! That’s about as far as any of us have taken it so far. Oh and Andy has three kids – they’re named; Y, Y and Z – I’m totally kidding – he made me say that.

Mark (Bass/Vox): I’ve been in IT work since 1995 as a network engineer, architect and Chief Technology Officer, and I’ve always tended to attempt to name servers after Rush albums or characters. One big government agency I was a contractor for has a server named By-Tor and another named Snow Dog to this day. So I tend to leave Rush crumbs all over the place!

Mary Jo:Who's traveled the farthest to see the guys or who has seen Rush the most number of times? Anyone even close to 70? No? (I am!)

Vince (Drums): I’ve seen them probably 25 times or so. I’ve traveled to at Radio City Music Hall, Madison Square Garden, also VA Beach. My guess is Mark – I know he saw an R40 Show in Vegas.

Mark (Bass/Vox): I’ve seen Rush about 45 times starting with that magical show in 1981 on Moving Pictures tour. I think I saw them three times just on that tour. I saw Time Machine five times and Clockwork three. So every tour I try to catch as many as I can. I’ve traveled to Mohegan Sun Arena in CT and Chicago for Time Machine and to Vegas for one stop on Clockwork. So I’ve put in some miles and I still have most of my ticket stubs.

Mary Jo: Tell us about any upcoming shows you have.

Friday, January 5, 2018 at the Tally Ho Theater in Leesburg, VA, USA, We’re a pretty new band so we have some interesting and exciting announcements coming up. Please check our Facebook and Twitter and track us on Bands in Town for updates. You can buy tickets here


Upcoming Shows

Fri, Jan 5, 2018 @ 8:30 PM

Tally Ho Theater in Leesburg, VA

Click here for tickets


YouTube Channel



Instagram - @sundogsband

Twitter - @SunDogsBand


Click here for Bigg Time Entertainment booking Information

or call 818.817.7540


All Contents ©2013 Rushcon. RushCon is a by-the-fans, for-the-fans event where folks have an opportunity to raise money for an important charity whilst having an amazing time learning more about the band, getting to know each other and connecting with other fans from around the world. RushCon has no official affiliation with Rush or Anthem Entertainment. As much as we wish we could, we have no way of getting anyone concert tickets or ways to meet the band.