EDITOR BOY AT NAMM—Saturday, January 16

January 18, 2010
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A fun and anxious day for me, as I’m playing Muriel Anderson’s All-Star Guitar Night for the first time. Not as an “all-star,” of course, but as a little something different near the end of the show. Ol’ Cheeky Bastards mates Dave Dalton (lead vocals) and Cheryl Doll (vocals) are joining me (rhythm guitar), GP Guitar Superstar 2009 champ Steve Senes (lead guitar), GP Guitar Superstar 2008 finalist Mike Orlando (lead guitar), bassist Stu Hamm (Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, Frank Gambale, etc.), and drummer Danny Gottlieb (Pat Metheny, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Sting, Herbie Hancock, etc.) to jam on the old Faces classic “Stay With Me.” Soundcheck at noon. Show at the fabulously retro and swanky OC Pavilion in Santa Ana.

Spent the morning with Art Thompson, Albert Margolis, and Joe Perry showing the new Guitar Player redesign to Rickenbacker’s John Hall. Didn’t know the company was back-ordered TWO YEARS on guitars and basses. Man, that’s one of the definitions of “loyalty” if you’re going to wait 24 months to get your instrument! The company’s 80th anniversary is dropping next year, so we’re trying to come up with some ideas for coverage. Then hit Tregan guitars, who signed up a pretty wild act, One-Eyed Doll. We’ll be covering the guitarist, Kimberly Freeman, in a future issue.

Off to soundcheck. The OC Pavilion is lovely—chandeliers everywhere (even in the men’s room), great seats, two side balconies, and a huge stage. Mike Orlando is working out his two tunes, but Danny was booked elsewhere and couldn’t make the rehearsals, so Mike was going over things with Stu and a young “fill in” drummer. Mike is a gas—he’s always super happy and animated. A lot of vocals for the “Stay With Me” set, so mics were adjusted as Mike met Steve and the gang. Stu bailed after two minutes because he had another engagement. “I got it,” he assured everyone. I think Stu has a jukebox running in his head with every song ever released, and in every possible key. He’s amazing. After we made a ton of noise, Laurence Juber and Greg Bennett rehearsed their acoustic performance. What a shift in mood! Totally beautiful stuff flying off those fingers.

Back to convention center for more meetings and to video Paul Reed Smith for the GP site. Paul was rushed for time because he was slated to introduce Ted Nugent before he played the “Star-Spangled Banner” in the front of the convention center. Got some great quotes on why he risked comparing his guitars to a vintage 1958 Les Paul at his Tone Quest party on Friday (see Friday’s blog for info). Then, we rushed to the Nugent performance, only to discover that the Nuge decided to rock on without an introduction. Oops. Nugent’s performance was great, and I certainly applaud him telling the crowd to “Thank the troops because they make it possible for you to rock” after he stopped playing. But then he said something that I still haven’t been able to figure out. “Look around you,” he said, “You can’t do this in France!” Huh? You can’t have concerts? You can’t say what’s on your mind? You can’t have a music-gear convention? You can’t congregate in a conventional hall? Oh, well. It made a good sound bite. And I’m sure Ted knows what he means.

In a weird twist of fate—given Ted’s comment—my next stop was the LAG party. LAG is a French guitar company that is importing a line of beautiful acoustics through Korg USA. The setting at the Sheraton was very vibey—low lights, candles, and a nice couch set up on the performance stage. Headliner was Richie Kotzen, whose voice and guitar playing just get more amazing every time I hear him. Wow. Stay tuned for more news on LAG in GP and online.

Had to run to Hilton to meet Steve and the Bastards to get to All-Star Guitar Night. A bit of a Spinal Tap moment when none of us could find the shuttle to the Pavilion, so not wanting to BECOME Spinal Tap, we gave up and hailed a cab. It seemed like the theater was already filled to capacity. Downstairs, we found pasta, drinks of all kinds, Reeves Gabrels, Stu Hamm, Jeff Berlin, Mark Egan, Jude Gold and Gretchen Menn (their duo is called Lapdance Armageddon), Mike Orlando, Pete Huttlinger, Monte Montgomery, Scott Henderson, and Johnny Hiland, among others. Nice little party, huh?

Performance time was tightly scheduled, so many of the artists hung out by the side of the stage to ensure rapid transitions (Brad, Ali, and Ed of Truefire run this production like a military operation, but in a real nice and nurturing way). I came on to prop GP’s Guitar Superstar competition and introduce Mike Orlando. I said to the crowd that Guitar Superstar “was an idea born of the truly sublime and the utterly idiotic. The sublime part was Muriel Anderson teaching us that people could enjoy a mixed-stylistic bag of transcendent guitar playing, so many thanks go to Muriel. The idiotic part was GP wanting its own version of American Idol.”

When I introduced Mike, one of those gig nightmares occurred. Everything was fine during his soundcheck, of course, but when he bounded onstage after I screamed his name, nothing roared out of his guitar. Brad covered by having Little Kids Rock do their presentation of a guitar to Muriel early, as Mike discovered one of his pedals had totally crapped out. After a quick switch, he was off to a raging performance. Then, I brought the Bastards onstage and we burst right into “Stay With Me.” Well, almost. I had my own nightmare second when my designated amp was silent, but I quickly saw that someone has turned the master volume down. After a rapid knob twist, and I was banging out the intro chords—soon to be joined by Mike and Steve’s shredderiffic guitars, an absolutely pounding rhythm section, and the raging and sweet vocals of Dave (rage) and Cheryl (sweet). It might have been a little too punk rock for some of the folks, but we got a wash of applause, and no one threw fruit. Whew. Not a bad way to end a day—especially given the fact that I got to talk to one of my favorite guitarists, Reeves Gabrels, for most of the night. How cool is that?

—Michael Molenda, Editor in Chief, GUITAR PLAYER

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