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Watch this Las Vegas musician cover Van Halen’s ‘Eruption’ – on a violin

Updated April 26, 2024 - 7:22 pm

A few months ago Nina Di Gregorio was learning the iconic Eddie Van Halen guitar piece “Eruption” on violin. It wasn’t going particularly well.

Di Gregorio’s husband, multi-instrumental musician and symphonic-rock star Brody Dolyniuk, finally said, “It ain’t’ gonna happen. You’re not making ‘Eruption’ on that thing.”

If you know Di Gregorio, that comment assured it would happen. The founder of the Femmes of Rock touring band was determined to blend Van Halen’s epic jam with her own violin virtuosity. The goal was a YouTube clip that would forever capture the performance.

“I’m the most stubborn Italian,” Di Gregorio says. “It just made me dig in harder.”

A month later, Di Gregorio again practiced “Eruption” in the couple’s Las Vegas home. Dolyniuk heard the piece while in the shower.

“He came out and said, ‘I thought that was Eddie playing,’” Di Gregorio says. “I knew I had it then.”

A raging performance

“Eruption” is Van Halen’s torrid, 1 minute, 42-second solo leading into the cover of the Kinks’ “You Really Got Me.” Issued as part of the 1978 “Van Halen” album, “Eruption” is considered by fans and musicians as one of the greatest rock guitar solos ever.

Di Gregorio’s year-long odyssey to master the solo culminated April 12. She and Dolyniuk cut a video of her playing the song at Reynolds Hall (they hit The Smith Center venue on a rare open day). The clip is now atop Di Gregorio’s YouTube and Facebook pages.

The video features Di Gregorio in a Van Halen-inspired, red-and-white jumpsuit. She shreds amid spotlights, lasers and colored smoke. Vegas photographer and videographer Patrick Rivera shot the clip; costume legend Diana Eden designed Di Gregorio’s rock-star attire.

In fast order, Dolyniuk edited the clip, which posted April 16.

We have a hit

Since, Di Gregorio’s majestic performance has amassed more than 3.4 million TikTok views, 2.4 million hits on Instagram, 2 million on Facebook, 408,000 on YouTube and 341,000 on X.

The clip is a hit, in short. But it was not an overnight sensation. Di Gregorio’s interest in playing “Eruption” dates several years. She needed to upgrade her violin, from a five-string, non-fretted to a seven-string, fretted instrument.

“Once I got the violin, I had to learn how to play it, because it’s huge,” Di Gregorio says. “It’s like a totally different instrument.”

Utilizing the frets, the classic-rock musician learned “finger tapping” necessary to replicate Van Halen’s distinctive style and sound. She bought new equipment, different effects pedals and effects chains (those devices on the floor musicians activate with their feet), learning an entirely new technique for this performance. Di Gregorio spells out the entire technical process on her YouTube clip.

A bevy of covers

Di Gregorio has also covered Pink Floyd, a couple of David Gilmour solos, Rush, Bon Jovi and Peter Frampton. Artists have frequently applauded the efforts. Rush guitarist Alex Lifeson commented on Di Gregorio’s FB page, on her cover of “Limelight.”

“You know what I think,” Lifeson said in string of praising messages. “Terrific response for your terrific effort.”

Frampton shared her clip of “Do You Feel Like We Do,” in which she played “talk box” and guitar solos on violin.

“Panama” by Van Halen actually follows “Eruption” on her YouTube page. Founding VH bassist Michael Anthony has commented approval several times on Di Gregorio’s work.

Return of Femmes

Di Gregorio is also an adept bassist, and a successful artistic entrepreneur. Femmes of Rock, a popular national act (headlining First Arena in Elmira, N.Y., on Friday), plays Myron’s at The Smith Center on July 27.

As always, expect a rock show.

“The whole thing started for me when I was very young, because Eddie Van Halen was one of my favorite musicians, and I listened to ‘Eruption’ over and over again,” Di Gregorio says. “I listened to guitar players, and that’s what I wanted to do. I just happened to play the violin.

“So I figured out how to translate what they did to my instrument, and have pretty much spent my whole life doing that.”

Might we recommend …

He’s played jazz piano with Arturo Sandoval, Joe Williams and Natalie Cole, among many others. He’s played for such TV shows as “Family Guy,” “Quantum Leap,” and the Emmy Awards telecast; and such movies as “Ted,” “The Birdcage,” and “Pocahontas.”

So Dave Loeb can be trusted with the tutelage of UNLV’s jazz musicians.

Loeb leads the UNLV Spring Jazz Festival next week. On Monday it’s Jazz Ensemble III, Jazz Guitar Ensemble and Jazz Vocal Ensemble; on Tuesday it’s Contemporary and Latin Jazz Ensembles and Studio Scarlet Jazz Vocal Ensemble and Wednesday it’s Jazz Ensembles I and II with guest jazz drummer Tommy Igoe (also conducted by Nathan Tanouye).

Igoe has long been recognized as one of the finest drummers in the world and is also a top-selling author. UNLV’s Jazz Ensemble I is has won the the Downbeat magazine honor as top Graduate College Large Band Ensemble in the nation. This is the latest in a string of prominent awards for the UNLV program.

All that jazz happens at 7:30 p.m. each night at Artemus Ham Hall on the UNLV campus. Tickets are $10 (a mere pittance), go to pac.unlv.edu or call 702.895.2787. This is some of the coolest music the city offers.

John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His “PodKats!” podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at jkatsilometes@reviewjournal.com. Follow @johnnykats on X, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.

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