It was 10 years ago today. The completion of Guitar Craft, the birth of the Guitar Circle(s) and the eve of one of the most personally significant and effecting concerts I have ever played, the repercussions of which I am still feeling today.
Things are shutting down left and right. Schools, non-essential businesses and pretty much any public event or gathering space are now closed, thanks to COVID-19. That means (what few) gigs I had are now cancelled and I am officially a studio rat. Here’s hoping I can be productive.
Tried something new this year: only used the phone for communication and navigation and didn’t worry about the selfies and gearporn shots. So…
Day One: I sat thru some AES/NAMM panels, had a nice chat with Adrian Belew, saw Mike Watt, lotsa purty geetars and wave one of the hairband has-beens. Test drove a couple reverb pedals, which was unusual for me. I usually don’t play anything out of self consciousness and keen awareness of my musical limitations. Booths seem to be overrun with shredders on break from Musicians Institute
Day Two: More AES. Saw a presentation/interview with Finneas O’Connell. Had my annual catch-up meeting with Brad Hogg, and then…
Wandering the floor, late in the afternoon, surrounded by noise, I hear from somewhere behind me,
I turn and see a familiar face that my brain is failing to attach a name to. Then, as I look at the name badge my brain grapples with the idea that standing before me is Jason “Fish” Harper, friend and former drummer, who I haven’t seen in 30 years. Thousands of people milling about and he was able to spot me.
Day Three: Panels, and because it’s Saturday; people, so many people! Highlights? Had a lovely chat with Steve Lawson who is demoing for a handful of gear companies. Remarkable bassist and supremely nice person. While every other bass player is slapping away at inhuman(e) speeds, Steve is tasteful and melodic while still being sonically adventurous.
The other highlight was the X-Jam concert. I had the best seat (3rd row center) for a lineup that included the Travis Larson Band and Andy Timmons Band followed by Mike Keneally, Ray White, Scott Thunes, Bobby Martin and Joe Travers. All except Joe are alumns of the Zappa band (most from the ’88 band) and Joe is in charge of the Zappa archives. Never thought I’d see these guys play together again. The mix was sub-par but the performances stellar. Met Scott post-show and told him he did a great job. I was also reminded how much of a master Keneally is.
Day Whatever: SO. MANY. BASS. PLAYERS. Sheehan, Watt, Bootsy, Sarzo, Wimbish, Chaney, Hellborg, Hamm, Bromberg (haven’t seen him since just before leaving L.A.), and I know there are plenty I saw but can’t remember.
So, gear takeaways? The guys at Tech 21 seem to be intent on me picking up the bass again. First it was the Dug Pinnick pedal, then the Geddy Lee pedal, THIS year… a new Geddy Lee pre-amp/DI and a Steve Harris pedal. Takeaway # 2: There are too damn many tasty reverb pedals. Takeaway #3: MOD Devices showed me how I can replace my entire pedalboard with one small box (and a midi controller). Just have to decide which would hurt more, my wallet or my lower back. Weird side note: people take the idea of Fred Armison as a drummer for real. Saw him presenting something on a panel at a booth.
Now, the grueling journey home.
Note: my spellcheck just suggested, in place of “grueling”, “gruel lingerie”. I hope that’s not a real thing.
My hope is that this exercise of blogging will not only help me document my creative adventures for myself but also help me be accountable for how much I am (or not) getting done. I am currently in the midst of my pre-NAMM anxiety attack. The combination of logistics, dealing with huge crowds of people all trying to look like they are living their best(musical) life and just the joys of air travel is always a treat-filled ride. Not. Still there’s hope. I usually come back from NAMM with an odd mix of inspiration and despair. Let’s see which is in greater supply when I return.
In other words, I’m not getting much done in the near future but you will hear from me soon.
Rebooting the blog and redecorating the site. Mostly just moving furniture around (deckchairs on the Titanic?). Took my usual break at the beginning of Fall 2018 and then suddenly we are at the end of 2019. I had stuff to do, okay?
2019 was tumultuous as usual but there were some amazing highpoints; running around the boutique guitar show at NAMM with David Torn and Steve Klein, meeting Emmett Chapman, and making music with lots of old friends and making a few new ones. I also got my first (Tonmeister) credit on an ECM album. In the spirit of the flashback montage, here’s a gallery of some of those events. Once we’re through that it’s onward into 2020!
The old blog entries have been imported for history’s sake ‘tho many of the pic links didn’t cooperate. I will be fixing those as time allows but currently focus is forward.