AfterNAMMth: 2017 Edition

Thousands descended into Anaheim for the annual NAMM convention. This convention showcases all of the new and exciting gear that manufacturers are excited to debut, and gear heads like myself, are even more excited to check out. I found myself making daily wish lists of gear that I had to have, and that list is constantly changing – even weeks after the show has ended.

One of the first booths that I checked out was Earthquaker Devices. Their pedals are gaining popularity with an assortment of musicians and it’s one of those booths that remains crowded from the start of the show on Thursday till the shows end on Sunday. The two new pedals that were debuted were the Space Spiral delay and the Transmisser reverb pedal. Both of these pedals offer a variety of unique and functional sounds that will have the user spending hours with each exploring their tonal options.

Gibson’s booth is always a treat and this year was no exception. Their True Historic guitars are fantastic and the first thing that I check out are the Custom Shop models. A standout at their booth was a Custom Shop Les Paul Jr. that was so meticulously built, you would’ve thought that this was the actual guitar from the late fifties. Another highlight was the joint collaboration between Johnny A and Joe Bonamassa on a new Johnny A model. This model, didn’t have the f-holes associated with his previous models and is much lighter. This is one of those guitars that can do it all and won’t take a toll on your back after hours of gigging. 

Photo: Steve Rose

Photo: Steve Rose

The Ernie Ball/Music Man booth was very eventful as St. Vincent discussed her signature model guitar and three new finishes were introduced for this popular model which debuted at NAMM 2016. Owner, Sterling Ball, mentioned that this guitar is one of the more popular selling models for their brand and that there has been discussion of possibly developing a short scale bass with St. Vincent. That will be something to look forward to at next year’s show.

Photo: Steve Rose

Gretsch consistently has amazing guitars, but this year they unveiled the “Salute” Jet, which is a Malcolm Young signature model made by the Gretsch USA Custom Shop. This was my favorite guitar at the show and a fitting tribute to such a famous Gretsch musician. Another model making it’s debut from the Custom Shop is the Tom Petersson 12 string bass. This instrument has long been associated with Tom and it was great to see him honored with this bass.

Photo: Steve Rose

Photo: Steve Rose

There was a great deal of buzz around the Supro booth now that they’ve added a few awesome looking guitars to their already successful line of amps. These guitars will be popular with both vintage enthusiasts and garage rockers looking to have a unique, cool sounding guitar slung across their body.

Photo: Steve Rose

Martin makes some unbelievable guitars, and as a Martin owner, I can say that their sound and build quality are second to none. This year, my two favorite guitars that they unveiled were signature models for Dwight Yoakam and John Prine. Each of these artists are giants in country music and these guitars reflect their stature. Dwight’s DD-28 had the best inlays that I’ve seen on a guitar. The pair of deuces inlaid on the fretboard is a great touch for this guitar. 

Photo: Steve Rose

NAMM 2017 is in the books and I’m looking forward to how these companies will try to outdo themselves at next year’s show.

NAMM 2017

Photos by Steve Rose

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Photo: Steve Rose

Joe Bonamassa Shines Bright in Hollywood

Photo: Steve Rose

Photo: Steve Rose

Joe Bonamassa put on a dynamic performance at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood. Bonamassa, who posses Jedi-like skills on the fretboard, played material off his latest album, Blues of Desperation, and material from last year’s Three Kings tribute. Bonamassa, backed by a fantastic group of musicians consisting of: Anton Fig on drums, Reese Wynans on keys, Michael Rhodes on bass, and a three piece horn section, were dialed in all night and played off each other very well. Known for his extensive collection of historic Gibson and Fender guitars, Joe played a number of drool worthy axes throughout his sixteen song set. Some highlights of this well crafted set were “Mountain Climbing,” “Never Make Your Move Too Soon,” and “Going Down.”

It was great to see Joe Bonamassa once more before his touring schedule wraps up for the year, and there’s no doubt that he’ll get the blues machine primed and ready to tour in 2017. Don’t miss the opportunity to see this phenomenal performer when he’s in your town.

Joe Bonamassa @ The Dolby Theatre

Photos by Steve Rose

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Bush were Marvelous at The Observatory

Photo: Steve Rose

Photo: Steve Rose

Bush continued their West Coast tour with a stop at The Observatory, a great Orange County venue. Many fans were in line a couple of hours before showtime and their energy was already at a high level. A good number of them were discussing the band’s show the night before in Los Angeles and were looking forward to another night of rocking with the band.

The Dead Deads, a five piece Nashville group, kicked things off and the fans were into it immediately. Their songs were consistently catchy and guitarists, Meta Dead and Betty Dead, did a great job playing out to the crowd as they worked the stage to get everyone involved. They were a fun band and a great choice as openers for Bush. Expect to hear more from them as they continue to pick up fans after each performance.

Photo: Steve Rose

Photo: Steve Rose

Shortly after 9pm, the house lights went out and Bush took the fog covered stage to the roar of the crowd. Gavin Rossdale, with a Fender Jazzmaster slung around his body, went out to acknowledge the fans before leading the band into Everything Zen, the widely popular song off of 1994’s Sixteen Stone. Gavin did a great job interacting with all of his fans and even went into the crowd and sang directly to select fans. Throughout the night, Bush played a great mixture of songs spanning across all of their releases and introduced a new song, Earth Keeps Burning. Rossdale and the band’s lead guitarist, Chris Traynor did a fantastic job all night playing these memorable songs and their chemistry on stage was evident. The rhythm section consisting of bassist, Corey Britz, and drummer, Robin Goodridge, were dialed in and kept the beat chugging throughout the night. After playing a fantastic cover of R.E.M.’s The One I Love, the band closed things out with Glycerine and Comedown, which were great choices to wrap up this awesome show.

Photo: Steve Rose

Photo: Steve Rose

Bush put on a helluva show and should not be missed when their tour comes to your town. It was great to relive some of that classic 90s nostalgia and Gavin Rossdale is a dynamic performer who’s still got it.

 Setlist

  1. Everything Zen
  2. The Disease of the Dancing Cats
  3. The Chemicals Between Us
  4. The Sound of Winter
  5. Greedy Fly
  6. The Gift
  7. Earth Keeps Burning
  8. Monkey
  9. The People That We Love
  10. Swallowed
  11. Lost in You
  12. The Only Way Out
  13. This House Is on Fire
  14. Little Things

    Encore:

  15. Machinehead
  16. The One I Love
    (R.E.M. cover)
  17. Glycerine
  18. Comedown

The Dead Deads
The Dead Deads @ The Observatory

Bush
Bush @ The Observatory

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Signature Style: Cost Effective Quality

It seems like more and more artists are getting signature model guitars and these guitars are being made overseas to make them more cost effective to hopefully get them into the hands of more people. As a guitar player, do you think that the quality of a particular instrument diminishes because it is made outside of the U.S.? Are U.S. made guitars superior to guitars made in China or Indonesia? Is the feel and sound of the instrument all that matters and all that should matter? These are all very important and relevant questions that should be addressed.

First off, I know many guitar players who refuse to play another artist’s guitar. Some have a problem with someone else’s name on the guitar, while others believe that the guitar should be for that artist or their fans. Personally, I have no issues in playing or owning a signature model guitar. I like that they tend to have different specs or features not on stock models and at times, they are limited production models, and have some added value. Some guitars are very artist specific like the various James Hetfield and Kirk Hammett ESP and LTD models, while other artists like Eric Johnson or The Edge have understated Fender Stratocaster signature models. It all comes down to the preference and style of the consumer and they type of guitar they feel like playing.

So if you’re the type of musician who would own a signature guitar, do you care if it is made in the U.S. or overseas? There are some musicians who if they buy a signature model, will only buy a U.S. made model because they believe the quality or sound is superior. I have owned a number of signature models and have not found that belief to be true. I care more about how the guitar sounds or feels in my hands than where it is made. I’ve played so many guitars that I can tell almost instantly if it works for my needs. One of my favorites was a 2006 Jackson Dominion that was made in Japan. The guitar could do anything and sounded phenomenal. These guitars are now made in Indonesia as are most Jackson Pro Series models, but that hasn’t hurt the playability or quality.

Recently, artists like Matt Heafy, Brent Hinds, and even the legendary Tony Iommi have announced Epiphone signature models. Each of these musicians could very easily have a Gibson signature line, but have realized that what matters is playability and reliability. If that can be achieved by making a guitar overseas and keeping the costs more affordable to the consumer then it is a great balance. Even Hinds’ fellow guitarist in Mastodon, Bill Kelliher has recently left Gibson to sign with ESP and his first model is a LTD signature that will be released in the Fall. These artist signatures aren’t just limited to Epiphone endorsees either; Paul Reed Smith has announced a PRS SE model for Periphery’s Mark Holcomb that joins other guitars in the signature SE line with artists like Santana and Mark Tremonti. This is just an example of a few guitar manufacturers that have taken their production of signature models overseas and haven’t sacrificed any quality or playability. Guitar god Zakk Wylde started his own company, Wylde Audio, to produce instruments, amps, and pedals. The first few models have begun shipping and production of all of those instruments takes place in Asia. The trend is going toward high quality, but cost effective instruments that sound great regardless of where they are manufactured.

To those signature guitar naysayers: more often than not, there is another name on that single cut Gibson electric guitar, and that signature model has done pretty well.

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Slash, Myles, and the Conspirators Were Hard to Beat at Pechanga

Slash-81As the house lights dimmed shortly before 9 pm on Saturday night, there was a palpable level of energy coursing through the 1,200-seat theater at the Pechanga Casino. Slash strapped on his Tobacco Burst Les Paul and, for the next 90 minutes or so, a legend put on a helluva show in front of rabid fans. Fronted for the past few years by Myles Kennedy the band also consists of Conspirators: Brent Fitz on drums, bassist, Todd “Dammit” Kerns, and rhythm guitarist, Frank Sidoris.

The band played a variety of material ranging from songs off of Appetite for Destruction to the band’s new release, World on Fire. It’s always great to hear Kennedy sing the Guns N’ Roses era material. On this night, Kerns took over vocal duties for “Welcome to the Jungle” and “Doctor Alibi,” a song from Slash’s debut album. The music that Slash has made with Kennedy and the Conspirators has become some of my favorite and I think he’s playing better now than he did earlier in his career. Seeing the show validated this thought as I witnessed Slash’s fleet fingers scatter all along the fretboard. Sidoris did a great job playing the nuanced rhythm parts to these songs, while Fitz and Kerns kept the rhythmic train chuggin’ along.

Slash-65It was really nice to see children and their parents enjoying the show together. I saw kids who couldn’t have been older than 13 taking it all in with a look of amazement. The same kind of look I had when I was 9 and first saw Slash plug in his Les Paul in the “Sweet Child O’ Mine” video. Slash was my inspiration for picking up the guitar and I’ll bet he did the same thing for a handful of people last night.

 

Set List

You’re a Lie
Nightrain
Avalon
Halo
Back from Cali
Wicked Stone
You Could Be Mine
Doctor Alibi
Welcome to the Jungle
Mr. Brownstone
Beneath the Savage Sun
The Dissident
Rocket Queen
Bent to Fly
World on Fire
Anastasia
Sweet Child O’Mine
Slither

Encore
Paradise City

Photos courtesy of Steve Rose

Slash featuring Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators

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The Scorpions are Dynamite at The Forum

KlausIt’s always a great experience when I get to see a show at the Fabulous Forum. The venue has great sound, courteous employees, and attracts big name acts to play there. On Saturday night, that big act was none other than the Scorpions. The band, celebrating its 50th anniversary and the release of its newest album, Return To Forever, played to a packed Forum crowd filled with a fervor that I had not seen in a while; it speaks to the longevity and success that the Scorps have had during their time together.

From the moment the giant curtain dropped and the band took the stage, they gave their fans a high energy, high output performance. Guitarists, Rudolf Schenker and Matthias Jabs, patrolled every edge of the stageRudy and Matty, delighting fans with their signature guitar licks and a number of quality rock star poses. Throughout the night, Rudolf played the iconic Flying V shaped guitars that he is known for, while Matthias played a couple of Explorer style guitars designed by Boris Dommenget. Klaus Meine proved that he still had the vocal chops to sing all of those memorable songs like, No One Like You, The Zoo, and Rock You Like a Hurricane. The rhythm section of drummer, James Kottak and bassist, Pawel Maciwoda were tight and cohesive all night. The interactive video screens worked well with the overall stage set up and definitely added to the visual performance of the band.

A notable aspect of the show, aside from the tremendous talent of the band, was the expertly crafted set list. The mixture of songs was enough to satisfy the expectations of both the casual “radio hits” fan and those die hard, longtime fans that live for their music. I overheard a woman in her fifties talking to her friend about how the Scorpions have been her number one band since high school and she was nervous and excited for the show. I have a feeling that those similar sorts of sentiments and emotions were prevalent throughout the venue.

The Scorpions are one of those few bands in the hard rock and metal scene that you need to see live and whose performance and musicianship lives up to any expectation that you may have. They have a few remaining U.S. dates scheduled before heading to Europe where they have a number of dates scheduled into early 2016.

Set List

Going Out with a Bang
Make it Real
The Zoo
Coast to Coast
Top of the Bill / Steamrock Fever / Speedy’s Coming / Catch Your Train
We Built This House
Delicate Dance
Always Somewhere / Eye of the Storm / Send Me an Angel
Wind of Change
Rock ‘n’ Roll Band
Dynamite
In the Line of Fire
Kottak Attack
Blackout
No One Like You
Big City Nights

Encore

Still Loving You
Rock You Like a Hurricane
The Scorpions




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Gary Clark Jr. is Mesmerizing at Amoeba Records

Gary Clark Jr.Gary Clark Jr. and his band took the stage at Amoeba Records just after 6 pm on Wednesday night and played a ferocious 40-minute set. The performance was to celebrate his new release, The Story of Sonny Boy Slim, his second studio release and the follow up to the popular, Black and Blu, which was released in 2012. Coming off of two sold out shows opening for the Foo Fighters at the legendary Forum, Gary Clark Jr. played to a much more intimate, but highly enthusiastic crowd. The 8-song set was bookended with crowd favorite, “Bright Lights” and closed with “The Healing,” the opening track from the new album.

Gary used a pair of Fender Vibro Kings, a modest pedal board, and a few guitars that included: a GibsonGary Clark Jr. SG, Fender Custom Shop Strat, and his signature Epiphone Casino. Zapata, the other guitarist in the band, used pair of Fender Deluxe Reverb amps, a more populated but mysterious pedal board, with almost all of the pedals covered in black tape, and a couple of his signature Moollon guitars.

It’s no question that Gary is one of the more talented players out there and that talent was on full display during last night’s performance. When Gary Clark Jr. starts playing the guitar he is a force and people are immediately drawn to him. His playing commands your attention and rewards you with long lasting sonic gifts. Those who were fortunate enough to have been in attendance left with a memory and an experience that they soon won’t forget.

Gary Clark Jr.

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Joe Bonamassa Reigns Supreme

Photo: Stephen Rose

Photo: Stephen Rose

At the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles on Saturday night, Joe Bonamassa brought his Three Kings tour to a close with a fiery performance. The Three Kings tour highlighted the work of Freddie, Albert, and BB King. Bonamassa, a virtuoso in his own right, did a fantastic job showcasing the work of these iconic blues titans and was backed by a 10 piece band that included: guitarist, Kirk Fletcher, former Late Show with David Letterman drummer, Anton Fig, and Reese Wynans of Stevie Ray Vaughan’s band, Double Trouble. Joe states, “All through the tour I’ve been saying the exact same thing: Behind me are 10 of the greatest musicians in the world. It’s true! The world’s greatest.”

I was in awe throughout the night as Bonamassa’s tech, Mike Hickey, brought out guitar after guitar that I, or any gearhead, would’ve loved to play, let alone own! The night began with a handful of Freddie King songs, including Going Down, followed by a grouping of Albert King songs before finishing off the set with some memorable material from BB King. The encore consisted of three songs that every guitar player ends up learning at some point: Hideaway, Born Under a Bad Sign, and The Thrill is Gone. 

Joe Bonamassa previously played shows dedicated to the music of Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf. Unfortunately, I missed those performances, but feel very fortunate I was able to catch him on this night of royalty. Joe could feel that there was something special about this night and said, “I’m proud to say that after 13 years and almost 30 albums, I’ve achieved one of my greatest dreams in life, so thank you for being here.” I believe that many of those in attendance felt the same way, Joe.

I want to thank Sonya Singh for her contribution.

Setlist

See See Baby
Some Other Day, Some Other Time
Lonesome Whistle Blues
Sittin’ on the Boat Dock
You’ve Got to Love Her With a Feeling
Going Down
Play the Blues for You
I Get Evil
Breaking Up Somebody’s Home
Angel of Mercy
Cadillac Assembly Line
Oh, Pretty Woman
Let the Good Times Roll
Never Make Your Move Too Soon
Ole Time Religion
Nobody Loves Me but My Mother
Boogie Woogie Woman
Hummingbird

–Encore–

Hideaway
Born Under a Bad Sign
The Thrill is Gone
Joe Bonamassa

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I miss you, B.B. King

bbking.com

I’ve had a few days to process and understand what it means not to have B.B. King in our lives any longer. His music is something that will remain, but I have not known a world without B.B. King in it physically. When I was learning about the blues and specifically blues guitar, it was B.B. King and Stevie Ray Vaughan who were my two guys. For some, their King was Albert or Freddie, but for me it has been and will always be B.B. King.

I was fortunate enough to meet B.B. King in 1988, when I was 10 years old. I met him at the LAX Airport. He walked over to my dad and they were talking about a music show they were both on years earlier. At that age I wasn’t able to understand the importance of the person who was standing in front of me. All I knew was that they were talking about boring things and I was ready to leave the airport. The only artists I cared about were Guns N’ Roses and that wasn’t Slash he was talking to. When we develop the technology to go back in time, I have made the promise to return to that moment and kick myself. Although, what did you expect from a 10 year old? Continue reading

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A Magical Night with the Foo Fighters and Friends

Photo Credit: Paul A. Hebert

Photo Credit: Paul A. Hebert

When the Foo Fighters took the stage just after 8:30 on Saturday night, no one knew they were about to witness one of the greatest all-star performances ever. Earlier in the week, the Foo Fighters sent out a couple of teaser posts on social media about something going on for Saturday night, and even posted videos from bands like Kiss and Van Halen. When tickets went on sale a few days before this epic Saturday night performance, I could tell that those in attendance would be treated to something special and I knew I had to be there. The event, billed as ‘Dave’s Rock N’ Roll Club,’ was a celebration of Dave Grohl’s 46th birthday.

 

The band performed in the round with a long catwalk leading to one end of the arena. The stage rotated throughout the performances so that everyone got a chance to see the band play in front of them. When the Foos took the stage, Dave Grohl let the audience know that this wouldn’t be a normal Foo Fighters show because he had invited a number of friends to join him throughout the evening. He then called for Paul Stanley Continue reading

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