Sunday, January 27, 2013

Winter NAMM 2013

I took a trip back in the 'ol time machine this weekend. It was Winter NAMM 2013 in Anaheim California. Jenn and I spent several days reconnecting with friends, former colleagues, and some forgotten memories that had long been put away.

Among the highlights were a series of great visits with Jimmy and Robin Dunn, Grover Jackson, Jon Gold, Oz Fox and Annie Lobert, Irene Kelly and Tim Gaines, Dan and Kim Lawrence, Glenn Matejzel, Jeff Freeman, Willie Houston, Trevor Tripoli, Che Zuro, Rick Salazar, Tom and Rick Seymour, Gerad Clarkson, and Jimmy Seville.

An unexpected surprise came when Jimmy, Robin, Jenn and I received an invite to the private Gypsy Jazz John Jorgensen Quartet concert by Dick and Claudia Hardwick. The evening was hosted by Rick Shubb (San Francisco graphic design legend turned capo guru). Both John and Rick were extremely gracious hosts to our entrance into the pre and post show green room. Likewise, another memorable moment came when Jenn and I saw a nice acoustic set by the up and coming Los Angeles based band King Washington. All along the way, we had a pretty great time mingling among the musical talent and sales masses...

Anyway, the thing that continues to amaze me is just how powerful music is to our collective humanity. It moves me, and our society, in ways that I can not explain. Music provides the soundtrack to some of the most significant times in my life (both good and bad).

So if you will forgive me this indulgence, I am going to put in some Stryper, re-live a moment, and pretend I am 17 again. By the way, Tim and Oz... you guys are still my heroes. And, I am proud to call you friends.

All the best,

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Fun With "Film"

It seems like every time you settle into the new, bigger, better deal something newer, bigger, and better sets another standard. As I mentioned in another recent blog, these days when I travel beyond an easy day's drive to play music I tend to run my guitar signal through an iPad for an "amp and effects." Why not, right? It is light, convenient, sounds great, and above all, is easy to use. Line6 has already done most of the heavy lifting so that I don't have to.

In that vein, this week I'd like to turn the attention to my wife, Jennifer. She is a fantastic photographer. Now when I say photographer, it's understood that she knows how to capture images in both film and digital formats (as any true shutter hound should). But lately, she has primarily been exploring digital formats. In fact, she often focuses her own blog on test shooting specific digital photography / camera apps for the iPhone.

For those of you not in the know, there are dozens of digital camera / film simulators that can be downloaded from the app store. Just like my guitar amps and effects, Jennifer has all but eliminated carrying thousands of dollars of cameras, lenses, and film. Instead, most of the time she uses her iPhone. It is loaded with a multitude of virtual camera gear that quickly captures her images with the specific kind of look she is going for.

It is pretty impressive. The above photos are from a recent We Five concert in the Seattle, Washington area. For the top left and right images she used a Tinto 1884 lens simulator, with D-Type Plate film. For the bottom left she used a Lucifer VI and Claunch 72 Monochrome film. In between taking pictures she was seamlessly sending texts to her sister... pretty amazing.

You can check out what she is doing at:

Viva Technology :)

All the best,

Sunday, January 6, 2013

A Day Not Unlike Today

Jenn and I were driving through the rain drenched mountains above Santa Barbara today. We were doing what we usually do on long drives; that is, we spend a lot of time taking pictures and talking music. As I sat down to write this blog post, it suddenly dawned on me that the iPod shuffle never landed on one of my all time favorite guitarists, Michael Hedges. That is kind of strange actually. Not only do I have the complete Hedges catalogue loaded on my iPod, but I often think of him on days like this. You see, Michael died on a winding mountain road in a rain storm on a day not unlike today.
A quick blurb from Wikipedia states: "In late 1997, Hedges died at the age of 43 in a car accident along State Route 128 in Mendocino County, near Boonville (about 100 miles (160 km) northwest of San Francisco). According to his manager Hilleary Burgess, his car apparently skidded off a rain-slicked S-curve and down a 120-foot (37 m) cliff. Hedges was thrown from his car and appeared to have died nearly instantly. His body was found a few days afterward. After his death, his record Oracle won the 1998 Grammy Award for Best New Age Album."
I know many of you don't have a clue who Hedges is in the context of "great" guitar players. Let me just say that he was a true game changer in regards to the instrument. Many a guitarist has come along and incorporated the "new way" of doing things that Michael brought to the table. In fact, some of the techniques he pioneered have become so commonplace in acoustic guitar circles that many of you will not even give it a second thought upon seeing this week's post. I would recommend that you put on your "remember when" glasses and take a trip back to the beginning of what Michael jokingly called "Heavy Mental." In my concerts I have often made thinly veiled references to this mindset by calling it "Guitar Geekery."
On an obvious personal note, my acoustic guitar playing life has NEVER been the same after seeing about 30 seconds of the following clip back in 1984. David Olivas and I were bored and scanning channels on the TV looking for something to watch. A random stop on PBS sent me on a now life long quest for the "new way of doing things." We were completely floored. I don't know if David remembers the exact moment, but I will never forget it. After the first 30 seconds, I took a hard turn toward first being an acoustic player... and then second an electric player. Enjoy :)
For more information on Michael Hedges:
For more information on Christopher Burgan:

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

The Traveling Guitar Player

Lately, I've been spending a lot of time trying to answer one of the age old questions that every traveling musician struggles with; what do I bring out on the road to reproduce my sound in a live setting without breaking the travel expenses bank? It is a quandary.
Frankly, it has been awhile since I enjoyed traveling as an electric guitarist, but not because I have lost my spark for playing guitar. Anyone who understands me knows that I love to play guitar live. It is a magical experience to be standing alongside your friends making memories. However, I was growing to HATE the hassles involved in moving gear farther than a realistic car or bus ride would afford in the performance budget.
Thinking through this blog entry has reminded me of an almost disastrous festival performance I played last year. On paper this should have been a really enjoyable gig. Travel, play a one-off show, go to some meet and greets, and see the local sights for a fun-filled long weekend in a resort town in a distant, far off land. What could be better?
Well, let me tell you. Normally, my back line rider would have accounted for all my gear needs in an adequate way. At the time I was requiring a Fender Hot Rod Deluxe, or equivalent, as my amp of choice; pretty standard stuff. Any respectable music shop in the country has something that fits the bill.
However, this time around the budget did not allow enough money to include a rental for my specific amp needs. You see, this venue was a couple hours off the beaten path of the big city. For this reason, I was being told that the rental cost was going to come out of my portion of the performance monies. That is, someone was going to have to drive the two hours each way to rent an amp for me. The cost of gas, and someone's time was going to be added on to the actual rental cost of my gear. Put another way, I was going to be paying money to play this gig. "You're kidding, right???!!!" It really should not have been my problem, but guess what, I was being told it was...
So, enter my re-occurring nightmare; what am I going to play through? Well, a kindhearted friend of the venue offered me a loaner. Great, right? Unfortunately, what sounded good over the phone soon showed itself to be a real problem. The amp turned out to be "a little spotty." SPOTTY!!!??? It was not working right up to show time. In fact, literally five minutes before show time I was out on stage, behind the curtains, cursing the capacitors to get their wires in order!!!
I can smile now. Everything turned out fine. The show went on. The amp magically kicked in just as the sound guy was telling me to "deal with it... the curtains are coming up!"
So, back to header topic: The Traveling Guitar Player. I just don't have it in me to deal with this kind of stuff any more. (Insert a LOL!!!) Of course I do... but what kind of alternatives are out there for me to try and bypass the headaches?
Lately, I've decided to go in a totally different direction. The amp I have been traveling with is the exact item I am typing this blog on, an iPad. WHAT? That's right, an iPad.
Technology being what it is I can now sling my messenger bag, iPad safely tucked inside, over my shoulder and hop on a plane with all my amps digitally simulated in not one, but three amp simulator programs that run on it. Within those programs I can choose over 30 different types of amps to use depending on what my specific needs are for an individual gig.
I know, I know... "it's just not the same" you might say. That's true. It is not. There is no substitute for playing through a real tube amp. However, to the people sitting in the audience listening there is no difference. That's right, I said it. In fact, in many cases the sound quality is actually better because the sound man just takes a direct signal feed off of the iPad and turns up my preset sounds through the sound system. Simple. No hassles. Done.
And people call me an old dog... Well anyway, I'm going to have to put down this amp, I mean iPad, for a bit. My shoulder is getting tired!
Maybe this traveling guitar player thing isn't so bad after all. Hey, who's got the keys to the rental car? :)
All the best,