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

Please like & share:

Killswitch Engage Dominates Downtown L.A.

Photo: Steve Rose

Photo: Steve Rose

The Novo Theater in downtown Los Angeles was the place to be Friday evening for a great night of metal with Unearth, Exodus, and Killswitch Engage. With these three acts on the bill, this show was guaranteed to deliver and they went above and beyond with their performance.

Photo: Steve Rose

Photo: Steve Rose

Unearth kicked things off with a great set that included “The Great Dividers,” “My Will be Done,” and my favorite from their set, “Giles.” This song had one of the biggest circle pits of the night and was definitely one of their standout performances. This Massachusetts based band was a great selection to kick off the show and fire up the crowd. Guitarists, Buz McGrath and Ken Susi, were phenomenal all night as they made great use of all 7 strings on their signature LTD guitars.

Photo: Steve Rose

Photo: Steve Rose

Exodus was the next band up and these bay area vets wasted no time in unleashing their brand of brutal thrash. Gary Holt and Lee Altus were masterful on their ESP guitars as they sawed through their picks playing their signature high-octane riffs during their eight song set. Notables during their show were “Blood in Blood Out,” “Bonded by Blood,” and the closing song, “Strike of the Beast.” Steve Zetro Souza did a fantastic job all night singing these songs and getting the crowd going. He sent a shoutout to his fellow “satanic hispanics” in the crowd before inviting Dino Cazares of Fear Factory and Brujeria to take the stage so the band could wish him a happy 50th birthday.

Photo: Steve Rose

Photo: Steve Rose

Before the crowd had a chance to catch their breath after Exodus’ crushing set, Killswitch Engage energetically took the stage and put on a great headlining set. The band played a diverse selection of songs ranging from songs off their current album, Incarnate, to earlier releases like “My Last Serenade” from their 2002 release, Alive or Just Breathing. Joel Stroetzel and Adam Dutkiewicz were a dynamic pair all night. Their high energy level of guitar playing was inspiring and great to see live. Their Caparison guitars sounded great and they were able to dial in some awesome tones through their rigs. Vocalist, Jesse Leach, drummer,       Justin Foley, and bassist, Mike D’Antonio also put on noteworthy performances.

Photos by Steve Rose

Unearth

Unearth @ The Novo

Exodus
Exodus @ The Novo

Killswitch Engage
Killswitch Engage @ The Novo

Please like & share:

Santana & Journey were Timeless at The Forum

Photo: Steve Rose

Photo: Steve Rose

On Sunday night, thousands of L.A. concertgoers were treated to a rare double billing of two rock titans: Santana and Journey. On any other night, each of these bands are headliners, but for this special night, they shared the stage and churned out hit after hit for nearly a combined four hours.

Photo: Steve Rose

Photo: Steve Rose

Carlos Santana and his band took the stage first and didn’t waste any time getting the crowd going. His signature brand of Latin-infused rock and blues had the crowd dancing from the front row to the last seat in the house. Playing fan favorites like “Maria Maria,” “Smooth,” and “Oye Como Va” really got the band going and it was evident that they were enjoying themselves as much as the audience. One special moment during Santana’s set was when Neal Schon came out and joined the band in playing “No One to Depend On.” The genuine happiness could be seen on the faces of Carlos and Neal as they traded licks on this classic song. Toward the end of the set, Carlos enlisted the help of a little boy to help him strum a few notes on his signature PRS guitar before ending the night with “Love, Peace and Happiness.”

Photo: Steve Rose

Photo: Steve Rose

Shortly after 9pm, the house lights went dark at the “Fabulous” Forum and Journey started their show. For two hours, they played one memorable song after another while the sold out crowd eagerly sang along. Singer, Arnel Pineda, was dynamic all evening as he worked every part of the stage, connected with the fans, and was vocally impressive. Seeing Neal Schon dazzle with his fretboard fireworks was a highlight for me as a guitar player. His performance during “Lights” on a vintage Strat was notable, especially as nearly 20,00 fans lit up the venue with their phones. Other standouts from the night included “Open Arms,” “Don’t Stop Believin’,” and “Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin,’” which was their closing song.  

Photo: Steve Rose

Photo: Steve Rose

Both Journey and Santana have an extensive list of notable, chart topping songs that have been the soundtrack to the lives of so many. This night was a celebration of music, their fans, and to the longevity of these two historic acts. These two bands will share the bill once more during Labor Day weekend in San Francisco along with Steve Miller and the Doobie Brothers. If you’re in the area, this is definitely a show you will not want to miss.

Santana

Santana @ The Forum

Journey

Journey @ The Forum

Please like & share:

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.

Please like & share:

Santana Delivers a Supernatural Performance in Vegas

Photo: Steve Rose

Photo: Steve Rose

Carlos Santana and his band put on a spellbinding performance in front of a sold out crowd at the House of Blues in Las Vegas. For 2 hours, this musical legend took the captive audience through a journey of familiar hits that spawned over 4 decades. The energetic crowd fed off the energy from the band, and the band seemed to play even more inspired music as a result. Santana’s playing was expressive, passionate, and, at times, jaw dropping. Some standout songs from the night were “Jingo,” “Evil Ways,” and “Hope You’re Feeling Better,” which also had some teases of “Purple Haze” that Carlos worked into the solo.

Photo: Steve Rose

Photo: Steve Rose

Santana, a longtime PRS player, played an exquisite Singlecut model with a stellar red colored maple top. This was a custom built guitar for Carlos by Paul Reed Smith and I hope they decide to do a production model of this one. He also used a classic looking gold top Singlecut later on in the set, and that guitar was equally as nice. A key component of the Santana tone is the Mesa Boogie Mark I and that modest sized combo amp is a tone-lovers dream. The Santana sound is iconic, desirable, and comforts my soul.

It was impressive how tight and cohesive the band was musically, and how much they seemed to love playing this music. The joy in the faces of the band as they played was echoed throughout the crowd as they were smiling back. The music is a mixture of many styles including: Latin, Afro-Cuban, Jazz, and Rock and it all worked in an amazing musical stew that soothed the impassioned audience. 

Photo: Steve Rose

Photo: Steve Rose

Carlos Santana’s residency at the House of Blues Mandalay Bay has a handful of dates in February before returning in May. Make every attempt to see this Supernatural Legend and be sure to wear some comfortable dancing shoes.

Photo: Steve Rose

Photo: Steve Rose

Carlos Santana

Please like & share:

AfterNAMMth: 2016 Edition

It’s that time of year when gearheads like myself get excited for the late-January trip to Anaheim. It’s always hectic trying to deal with the masses when parking and then having to join them as we funnel through the few available entrances of the convention center. NAMM is the only time of the year when I agree to wait in line to use and escalator and only be allowed to ride it in small groups.

Photo: Steve Rose

Photo: Steve Rose

The Ernie Ball Music Man booth was my favorite booth of the convention. They showcased all of their new products in a thoughtful way that encouraged interaction with those visiting the booth. Some notable standouts from EBMM were their new line of overdrive and delay expression pedals, the Cutlass and Stingray guitars, and new signature models for St. Vincent and James Valentine. The St. Vincent guitar is by far the most unique and visually intriguing instrument of this year’s guitars. The guitar I was most impressed with, and the one was named Best in Show for 2016, was the new James Valentine signature model. This guitar looks great, plays great, and that’s all that you’re really looking for in a quality instrument.

Photo: Steve Rose

Photo: Steve Rose

Another standout booth was D’Angelico guitars. Their guitars are mainly hollow, or semi-hollow, body instruments that feel like art pieces as much as they do as guitars. I am highly considering getting a EX-DC as my next guitar. I was also a fan of the EXL-A, an acoustic archtop guitar that was stunning. I would recommend those to anyone looking for an affordable, well built instrument and especially to those looking for a great jazz box. D’Angelico also had a cool looking, limited edition EX-59 Marilyn Monroe guitar that caught the attention of many, but is only limited to a run of 20 — 12 of which will be for the US. The most unique guitar in their booth was the Teardrop New Yorker, which is part of their New York made Master Builder series.

Photo: Steve Rose

Photo: Steve Rose

Both ESP and Schecter impressed me with their instrument diversity and are sure to attract a variety of supporters. In the past, I felt like ESP and Schecter both catered toward the hardcore, or metal player, but now I feel like they are trying to branch out with more classic shapes, while still providing the radical designs that brought them to the forefront. Schecter had a great take on a Gibson Explorer-type of guitar that will definitely be of interest to many. They also unveiled a new Jeff Loomis guitar, called the Cygnus, which I expect will be a very popular model for them. ESP debuted two signature models that both look awesome: the Glen Tipton signature and a new James Hetfield V.

Photo: Steve Rose

Photo: Steve Rose

The Fender booth is consistently impressive and this year did not disappoint. They announced the limited edition Magnificent Seven series of guitars, which will be released for only one month per model and with limited quantities of each. Similar to last year’s 10 for ’15, these guitars are sure to sell out and become instant collectors items. I was excited about the release of both a signature guitar and amp for The Edge.

Photo: Steve Rose

Photo: Steve Rose

The U2 guitarist’s sound is immediately identifiable and a good portion of that has come from using Fender products. The black strat and maple neck are timeless classics for a reason and it was not a surprise that The Edge chose them for his signature model. His hardwired Edge Deluxe amp is the fourth signature amp that Fender has made, building upon the success of the Eric Clapton amps. Fender also introduced the Bassbreaker Series of amps which consists of nine different models that will appeal to a diverse group of players. This is definitely one of the new releases at NAMM that I wish I could’ve spent more time playing.

The return of the CE model from PRS was a definite highlight for me. After being off the market for at least 10 years, PRS has decided to bring back this popular model that first debuted in 1988. Between the resurrection of the CE and the jaw dropping Private Stock models, PRS continually puts out high quality instruments. I also appreciate that Paul Reed Smith can often be found taking pictures and answering the questions of players, dealers, and associated media.

Photo: Steve Rose

Photo: Steve Rose

In the matter of full disclosure: I’m not only a fan of these guitars, but I’m also a proud owner of a 30th Anniversary Custom 24 and couldn’t be more pleased.

The lackluster booth of the NAMM show (in my opinion) unfortunately went to Gibson. Their 2016 lineup featured the departure of the robot tuning gimmick and returned the brand to the quality and reputation that its fans have come to expect. The lowered price points will definitely help soothe the sour taste in the mouths of those who jeered the moves that Gibson had made in years past. I felt like the booth was too dark and it felt more like Club Gibson than a company trying to showcase their beautiful instruments. I like that Gibson had some top of the line models available to demo, including the limited edition Bob Dylan SJ-200, which was a treat to play. Gibson was more sad city than music city and that was kind of a let down.

As the 2016 winter NAMM show comes to a close, I’m excited about all of the new gear coming out soon. I have already begun plotting how I’m going to afford some of the things that stood out. My legs are excited to have another year to prepare for the hell I put them through walking the floor. It may be an insignificant detail, but I was impressed that D’Angelico passed out little bottles of hand sanitizer in their gift bags. I appreciated that D’Angelico was thoughtful enough to help us fight the dreaded NAMMthrax virus.

NAMM 2016

Please like & share:

Brian Setzer Orchestra Spread Holiday Cheer at the Microsoft Theater

Photo: Steve Rose

Photo: Steve Rose

Brian Setzer and his Orchestra brought their annual Christmas show to Los Angeles for a stop at the Microsoft Theater. Shortly after 9pm, the curtain came up to a festive display of oversized candy canes, Christmas trees, and Nutcrackers. The band opened with an upbeat version of “Rocking Around the Christmas Tree,” before tearing into fan favorites “This Cat’s on a Hot Tin Roof,” “Stray Cat Strut,” and “(She’s) Sexy + 17.” Some notable favorites of the night were “Here Comes Santa Claus,” “Great Balls of Fire,” and “Rockabilly Rudolph.”

Photo: Steve Rose

Photo: Steve Rose

Throughout his performance, Setzer used a number of drool worthy Gretsch guitars including his original and updated Hot Rod series and his familiar orange 6120. His Fender Bassman amps and Roland RE-301 Chorus Echo provided that signature tone that can be described as the classic Setzer sound. Before playing the Santo and Johnny cover of “Sleepwalk,” he added a little more echo before delighting the crowd with the timeless song.

Brian Setzer is a fantastic performer and the talented groups of musicians who make up his orchestra make glorious music together. The crowd was signing and dancing along with the music; some in ugly holiday sweaters and others with their young children whose faces were filled with joy and wonderment. This was my first time seeing one of his Christmas shows and it was a definite treat to experience his 12th Annual “Christmas Rocks” show.

Photo: Steve Rose

Photo: Steve Rose

Photo: Steve Rose

Photo: Steve Rose

Photo: Steve Rose

Photo: Steve Rose

Please like & share:

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




Please like & share:

Soulfly Delivers a Pulverizing Set at the Fonda Theatre

MaxSoulfly kicked off their We Sold Our Souls to Metal tour in Los Angeles at the Fonda Theatre on Wednesday night. This tour celebrates the release of their new album, Archangel, which is the band’s tenth album and second under Nuclear Blast. The new album is unmistakable Soulfly, with heavy, but melodic rhythms and crushing guitars that fans have come to expect.

The opening bands were Shattered Sun and Soilwork. Decapitated was supposed to be on the bill, but there were some unforeseeable issues and they couldn’t make it. Shattered Sun put on a brief, but heavy set and seemed to make some new fans by the time they were done. Soilwork also put on a crushing set and had many rabid fans keeping the energy going in the circle pit. When it was time for Soulfly to take the stage, the crowd was worked into a sweaty, beer drenched lather and were ready for those pulsating Brazilian rhythms that Max Cavalera pioneered.

Max ESPMax, with his signature ESP guitar strapped around him like a soldier going into battle, he had the crowd in the palm of his hand all night. The band was high energy for the duration of their set and fellow guitarist; Marc Rizzo handled the band’s complex lead lines on his Schecter seven string, making them look almost like a mortal could attempt them.

This was a great show from top to bottom and Soulfly is one of those bandsSoulfly that has the ability to pick you up, change your mood, and feed off of the energy that they provide. Check out the tour dates and catch the band when the come to your town.

 

 

Soulfly




Please like & share:

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.

Please like & share: