may 8th – puck live, doylestown PA
may 9th – WSTW stage at wilmington flower market festival, wilmington DE
may 16th – burlap and bean, newtown square PA
ok, so…yeah. it’s a bit of a stretch, calling it a “tour”, but it’s the thickest concentration of dates that we’ve done as a band, well…ever. but it was also the string of shows where i broke in my soon-to-be-famous new addition to my amp arsenal, the gibson GA-20T that just came my way courtesy of bob stirner, just a couple of nights earlier.
for the puck gig, i brought along my deluxe reverb, just in case…because you just never know, and i hadn’t even plugged in the amp before this show. i’ve been burned enough times by assuming the best and failing to plan for the worst, so i made sure i had a backup on hand.
the puck gig was a double bill, with craig bickhardt sharing the night with JD (there was another singer/songwriter on the bill from nashville, diana jones, who was really talented as well). craig and JD have done a small handful of gigs together in the past six months or so, and i enjoy them because i get to do double duty, and i enjoy playing with both of them so much.
i thought about bringing the pedal steel in, but the drive out was so sluggish that i opted for the quick setup, and went with the old standbys – mandolin, dobro, banjo, lap steel, baritone guitar, et cetera. i took the gibson amp in, plugged it in, and fired it up at soundcheck, and….
i can’t put a finger on it. it’s not a fender, for sure…which shouldn’t be misconstrued – i’m a HUGE fan of fender amps, and i love them for everything i do. this gibson, though…for clean or dirty lap steel, it became the go-to amp the minute i heard it.
jim miades came over and we were looking at it…jim is a gear geek, same as i am, and he knows the minutiae of these things better than a lot of guitar players – so jim took a look at the speaker in the amp, which has a six digit code on the ring around the outside of the cone, and told me that the speaker itself was from 1956.
the amp is a bit of an enigma to me. i had read in an old guitar player article on ry cooder from 20 years ago or so that the gibson GA-20 was his amp of choice, and that was the main thing that led me to take it off stirners’ hands…and believe me, i’m far from disappointed.
we had a great show at puck, which came as a surprise to no one that i know of – jd malones’ band has become something of an automatic proposition, for two reasons – one, the guys in the band are such good musicians….but also, we haven’t really jacked the setlist around much, so the songs are part of our DNA at this point, i think.
the next day was what has become an annual appearance for jd malone, at the wilmington flower market festival, on the WSTW stage. we had an early slot, thankfully…since tommy geddes had a show later that night with craig, opening for suzanne vega, and he needed to cut out as early as he could. for this show, since i was able to bring the pedal steel, i brought two amps – the gibson and a fender deluxe reverb for the pedal steel. that would be my preferred setup, if i could afford the luxury of stage space, although i’d probably use something a little cleaner and more powerful than the deluxe, because it doesn’t have the headroom that something like pedal steel or baritone guitar really requires. i can get away with the baritone guitar through the deluxe, because a little grit on the baritone sounds pretty good, but i’m not a fan of it where the pedal steel is concerned. with low enough stage volume, though, i can get away with it.
one thing i did notice, though, at this show, was that i was beginning to fall out of love with the fulltone pedal that i’ve been using for overdrive. i bought the fulldrive 2 on a recommendation from paul cotton of poco, who loves his…but i’m finding that for subtle, somewhat-crunchy stuff, especially the milky, dark tone that i like for the lap steel…it’s just too much. even with the drive rolled all the way off, it’s just a little too close to the foghat thing for me.
it should be mentioned that the gibson amp doesn’t have any onboard reverb. by the time our third experts show rolled around at the burlap and bean, though, i had ordered an electro-harmonix holy grail reverb pedal to add a little depth, and it works really well with it, as it doesn’t drown the root signal, even when you turn up the effect, you still get a solid, fundamental signal.
sometimes, you have these random shows that roll around that, for whatever reason, click into sync and become something other than just a bunch of guys playing together…where some external force seems to take over and you look down at your hands and realize that you’re not even in control of your own actions – something else is playing your instrument through you, as opposed to you controlling your own instrument.
that burlap and bean show was one of those. there was a great crowd – and when i say a great crowd, i don’t mean in terms of sheer volume of people as much as the people who were there, and once the long-winded opener finished, we tore the place up. i got a note the following day from craig bickhardt, who said that “that little toaster amp” was “smokin’!”
i didn’t even begin tearing down until almost everyone had left, due to standing around so long and talking with everyone who was there…then, once everything was packed and in the car, it started to rain a little, but JD, tommy and i, along with kyle and tara and a couple other folks, stuck around and talked, sitting in a circle in the room, for almost an hour. then JD and tommy came with me to the diner for breakfast before we called it a night and headed home.