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

Thunderhead: The Rush Experience

← Tribute Band of the Month


Band Members

Matt Meyer

Mike Ramsey
Drums, Percussion, Electronic Percussion

Billy Audrain
Bass Guitar, Vocals, Keyboards, Bass Pedals

Thunderhead: Beyond the Lighted Stage

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

Mike (Drums): : I checked out 2112 from the library in 6th grade and I was a fan!

Billy (Bass/Vocals): The band started in 1996. After multiple changes in the line-up, I was contacted by Mike in January of 2010 to see if I would be interested in auditioning for Thunderhead. Prior to this, I had seen Thunderhead a few times and thought "Man, I would love to be a part of that!". Through a mutual friend, Mike heard an audio clip of me playing bass and singing "Closer To The Heart", in a local cover band at the time. I auditioned playing 5 songs that I was asked to learn and got the gig.


Mary Jo: Tell us about your gear and set up. Any special items you'd like to mention?

Matt (Guitar): My guitars and rig are currently set up similar to Alex's "Moving Pictures" era. The guitars are a combination of vintage Gibsons and I also have a '79 Fender Stratocaster modified with a Gibson PAF pickup and an original Floyd Rose tremolo. If you watch Rush's music video for "Limelight", you'll see Alex playing a black 70s Strat that has these same modifications.

Amp-wise, I run three amps. There's a late 70s Marshall Mk II 50w driving a 1960A 4x12 cab, which does the heavy lifting. It was produced before Marshall introduced a "gain" knob, so any distortion is done via the pre-amp. All classic and smooth tube gain. And then I have another late 70s Marshall Mk II which is a 100w driving another 1960A 4x12 cab. This 2nd Marshall is what I call the "X-Factor" amp. I'm not really driving the pre-amp. The setting is loud and clean. This allows me to use it to add "oomph" to leads, or dedicate it solely to an effect like delay, reverb or pitch shift. And the 3rd amp is a Roland JC-120 from the mid-80s. It's known for its rich chorus feature. The JC-120 has the same chorus circuitry as the Boss CE-1, which is the holy grail of chorus pedals. The JC-120 is set to a very clean chorus sound and I use it sparingly. I'll pop it in for clean guitar parts or to add a clean guitar texture on top of the other amps, for say, the chorus of "Subdivisions" when the texture of the song completely changes gears. The GCX system allows me to select between or combine any combination of the amps or effects with the simple tap of a footswitch. That's a crucial element for changing textures so quickly and beautifully the way Alex does.

My effects are constantly evolving. All effects except the Cry-Baby Wah and the Dunlop Volume Pedal are controlled via the Voodoo Labs GCX/Ground Control Pro switching system. I have a TC Electronics G-Force which feeds the "X-Factor" Marshall and the JC-120. Outside of that, I also have a plethora of foot pedals tucked away in my guitar rack which I can put in or out of my guitar effects chain via MIDI control with the GCX. I don't use any distortion or overdrive pedals. Any overdrive is done naturally via the Marshall tubes. For added sustain I'll use an MXR DynaComp. My prize pedal is a vintage Maestro PS1-A. It's a phaser issued in the early 70s. It's one of the only pedals Alex used in the early days and it's on a lot of those early classics. "Lakeside Park" and the live version of "In The End", for example. It's the sweetest phaser I've ever heard. It sounds like heaven. And I love the space age design. It's light as a feather but takes up an entire rack space it's so big. It looks more like furniture from the 60s than a piece of gear that belongs in a guitar rack.

Mike: I have put together an almost exact replica of Neil's drum set from the early 80's era of Rush. Thirteen piece Tama Superstar drums, Zildjian cymbals, an electronic/acoustic drum set behind. The drum riser turns around at several points in the show.

Billy: I have a Geddy Lee Signature Fender Jazz. My Keys are Korg Triton Extreme, Roland JP8080 and the amp I use is Ampeg SVT Classic, Sansamp RBI.


Mary Jo: What's your Rush preshow ritual?

Matt: The night before the show, I might fine tune the guitars. Double-check intonation. Watch some "Walking Dead" or baseball while I'm doing it. Relax and then plenty of sleep. The day of the show is pure work until sound check. After sound check, I'll just chill out and warm up. Cuddle-time with my guitar.

Mike: I warm up on a practice drum pad.

Billy: Once sound check is complete, a light non-dairy meal (dairy is bad for my Vox), a relaxing shower and then time alone to warm up with "Grace", my Fender Jazz Bass.


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

Mike: We all give suggestions, and get it in an order that flows.

Billy: It's always a collaboration among the band and sometimes the evening is based on a theme or record in it's entirety as the highlight for the night. We've performed 2112, Permanent Waves and Moving Pictures in their entirety for different shows. We've also performed themed based nights including our own version of R40, The Battle Of Heart And Mind - "Cygnus X-1: Book One: The Voyage” and “Cygnus X-1 Book Two: Hemispheres" BACK-TO-BACK, and All The World's A Stage.



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

Matt: No, I love the challenge of learning Rush songs. If there's a song I always mess up, the other guys need to fire me! Haha. "La Villa Strangiato" is one of the most difficult songs to perform, but it's also really fun to play.

Mike: I consider "Tom Sawyer" to be my nemesis. I've gotten better at it, but it's still very difficult. We are open to try just about anything; we played "The Necromancer" a few years ago!

Billy: No. I absolutely love the challenge to try and play any of them. Mike once said to me "Each song is like a whole new Everest to climb" and that is so true.

Mary Jo: Who has the biggest Rush shrine? Tell us about any Rush memorabilia you have?

Matt: I have a certificate that states I'm in the "Rush Backstage Club"! I think I got it when I was around 14 or 15.


Mike: I have a few collectibles. My favorite would have to be a signed Vapors Trails CD with all 3 autographs with the inscription "To Thunderhead, best wishes.” signedcd

Billy: It's not me, but I nominate Rob Silverberg (St. Louis Rush fan); his entire basement is like going through a Rush Museum. Lot's of cool stuff! I do have a Scion xB named "Blackenstein" that sports a chrome decal of the star man on the back window.

Mary Jo: Who's traveled the farthest to see the guys? Who has seen Rush the most number of times?

Mike: Not sure about numbers, but I've seen them every tour since 1984 in St. Louis.

Billy: I've seen Rush in St. Louis 6 times. My first Rush concert was the KSHE 95' Rush St. Valentine's Day Massacre at St. Louis' Kiel Auditorium (now known as Scott Trade Center). I was lucky enough to attend 1 of what I believe was 3 sold out nights for the Permanent Waves Tour.

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

Matt: Rush fans are more critical than your average rock fan. But they are also more appreciative. And they usually have a good sense of humor, which is great.

Mike: Rush fans are very critical. Our manager Randy jokes that all they do is stand there and stare at the stage!

Billy: AMAZING! They're weighing in on every note. Every nuance. Every drum fill, bass line, guitar tone, etc... And when you deliver, they are that much more appreciative. Anyone that "gets it" knows it takes a lot of work to pull off Rush songs. When an audience show their love and appreciation for that, well, that is the reward for me.


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

Billy: We are playing The Pageant in St. Louis on Saturday, April 21. This is an all ages show, door open at 7. You can get tickets here:


Mary Jo: Anything else you want to share?

Billy: I like to come up with at least 1 new t-shirt design to wear on stage for each show that we do. OH! and Thunderhead could use a good booking agent. Just sayin' :)- I would love to attend a RushCon someday AND would love for Thunderhead to have the opportunity to perform at RushCon. Two bucket list items would be checked off!


Promo Video

Red Barchetta





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.