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Last night I got to see Ion Storm‘s inaugural show! They were amazing from the first song to the last. For those unaware I interviewed  them here. Go get acquainted with them and then come right back. It’s OK. I’ll wait.

Everything I’ve heard from them so far has impressed me, but those were only recordings. One really must see them live to get the full impact. First, amazing guitar tone and a pretty tight outfit. I know these guys practice up to 12 hours at a go and it shows. Their current bass player is a recent addition and it showed a bit, but overall he brought the low end. Drummer Tim was solid, fast, and interesting. I thought there was a moment when he was losing the beat, but it was just a part of a tempo change that was written into the song. Grady and Chris had some great harmonized riffage going on that seemed to focus around 4ths and it sounded great. My main complaint was the vocal levels. This show was at the Red Room and their vocals always seem low, but Grady represented growl well.

Oh, did I mention they have a Minotaur? His name is Drew. Look at him.

Do you have a Minotaur? No, you do not. I played bullfighter with Drew for a bit. It was good times.

This band has a lot to offer and brought the heat, which leads me to the title of this post. Look up there ↑ and read it again. At most there were three people up off their butts rocking out, including me and Drew. I wish that this was the exception rather than the rule. I know people want to blame smart phones etc, but it’s not that. In my estimation it’s our self reflective, self conscious society. To put it another way: we are afraid of having fun and looking like fools(Well, not me clearly. I played bullfighter with a Minotaur). It needs to stop now. Do it for yourself. Get up!! Dance! Bang your head!! Visibly enjoy yourself!!!

But also do it for that band up there on the stage or the one on the floor where the pool tables had to be moved to make room. They don’t spend 12 hours at a go writing and rehearsing so you can sit there drinking your PBR and golf clapping after every song. And I can guarantee you they didn’t do it for the money, because bands rarely get paid much if anything just starting out. This is a two way street. They are there for you and you need to be there for them.

Some pics from the show:

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So I was very lucky to see Eric Johnson last night thanks to my good friend, Ted (he’s also my step-father-in-law. What? that’s a thing.) I’ve only seen him live in concert once before. Eric Johnson, not Ted. I’ve seen Ted live lots before, though not in concert… I was 16 ( again referring to Eric Johnson not Ted), it was in San Diego at Symphony Hall, and an as yet unknown, at least to me, Sarah Mclaughlin opened for him. This time around it was at the Aladdin Theater in Portland, Or. First let me say it is a great venue. Everyone I talked to said a version of “not a bad seat in the whole place” and they are right.

It was a great show. Eric was backed by Chris Maresh on bass and Wayne Salzmann II on drums. Maresh and Salzman are amazing!  Really interesting thing, they seemed to be their own opening band. They played a 45 min set and then took a break and then came back for a full set. I almost wish I had written down their set, but honestly I was too engaged in just enjoying the show and letting it wash over me.

Eric Johnson was one of my early guitar heroes. He has it all. Amazing tone, great technique, dedication to writing songs that fit his perspective of what is great, and he also has one of the two right hands in guitardom that I would want, the other being James Hetfield’s. Seriously, EJ can pick like nobody’s business and finger pick, and do a combination of both.

Check out the Fenders and Marshall and EJ’s pedals!

The Show 

The opening 45 minute set was tight and rocking great energy with some crowd favorites. After the break EJ was solo on the stage with an acoustic and played a few songs that blew me away. His technique is insane. For those of you who do not play let me tell you it is easier to shred on an electric than an acoustic and EJ played flawlessly on his acoustic and did shred, but in a tasteful way. Yes, yes he did.
Maresh and Salzman came back out and the band got to rocking again. Then, about halfway through the second set they played “Nothing Can Keep Me From You” and this was the first wrong note for me. Now, let me be clear-I. Love. That. Song. But, it came after an incredible version of a Coltrane song that highlighted everyone’s talents. Side note: Salzman owned those drums and Maresh made me consider giving up the bass.

Chris Maresh’s pedal board

Back to my point. It may have been that “Nothing Can Keep Me From You” came after such an amazing performance, but EJ also seemed to be a little off his game at this point. His phrasing was a little stuttery. THAT may have been due to the fact that they just got back from Europe and had been awake since 6 a.m. But I think there is more to it than that. When they played some other songs off of “Ah Via Musicom” I noticed the same thing, but when they played newer songs or covers EJ seemed to be more on. To clarify, not bagging on him, it was still better than 95% of guitarists out there when EJ was off. So no “Eff you dude” and no “Yeah he sucks.”

There was one encore and it was great! They closed with “Wind Cries Mary.” And then it was over and I didn’t want it to be over. But I scrambled up front to get some pictures, which was difficult because there was still a grip of people at the front milling about.

Drums and bass rig

Final Thoughts

Eric Johnson is stil the man at 57. The newer material is stronger than one might expect and my observations on the “Ah Via Musicom” aside he is still vital. I look forward to seeing him the next time he comes around. Also, I still need this jacket ↓

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The second I learned about these I had to have one. They are big fun. Adventures In… is playing with it as I type. I was first introduced to it via BoingBoing. Want a synth, but don’t have a lot of room? Get a Stylophone. I’m not going to type too much as I need to get back to it to figure out the theme to Doctor Who so what follows will be a bunch of links. But first, a picture of my brand new toy.

It’s for sale at ThinkGeek for $19.99 plus shipping which puts it at $24.99

Or better yet, do what I did, which is buy it from ThinkGeek through Amazon, which as of this writing has it for $14.99 plus shipping so it winds up at $19.99 or there abouts. This is basically my birthday gift to myself.

There are a lot of youtube videos so you can check it out. I recommend starting with Brett Domino
Stylophoniac: A Short Film by Brett Domino.

80s Hits Medley – STYLOPHONE

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That’s right. I won a contest. Every month for the past 3 years I have entered Carvin’s online contest to win a gift certificate and I finally won. I didn’t believe it at first when I saw the email in my inbox, but sure enough after reading it 18 times and checking the originating email address I was convinced. I had more doubt and stress after that. You see they had to mail, yes MAIL, me the gift certificate. I then had to call them up and place my order and then mail, yes MAIL, them the gift certificate back. I was convinced it wouldn’t work out and that something would get lost somewhere. I was wrong! I received my order this past Tuesday. I ordered some strings and mic cables and an amp stand and a mic stand and a Carvin SX100 1×12 combo amp, in red tolex of course.

I am very excited. I’ve played it a bit and I really like the sound. It has emulator tech in it, but instead of Carvin trying to make it sound like another specific amp (i.e. making a Carvin sound like a Mesa Boogie Rectifier) they tried to make a solid state amp sound like a tube amp. An amp with 12AX7 tubes in it to be precise. What I love about Carvin is that their amps have a meatier, beefier,  sound to them. I dig Marshalls, but they can be too tinny for me sometimes.  The clean on this is reminiscent of a Roland Jazz Chorus minus the chorus. It has chorus, just not that Roland chorus.  The gain channel can do light to pretty saturated distortion. While it may not work for some death metal it is great for classic rock AC-DC style and even Metallica type sounds. There is also a blues button that switches the gain sound to, well, a blues sound. Additionally, it has Reverb, Chorus, Flange and Echo. Though you can only choose one effect at a time (I’m sticking with reverb for now) it is great to have options while recording. Which I hope to do so I can give you some samples.

One last bit that is exciting: extension speaker out. In my dream world I would get the Vintage 1×12 speaker cab to go with.

Carvin 1×12 Vintage Series Extension Speaker

So there you have it. This was meant to be a simple post about my good fortune, but, apparently, there was a ton I wanted to write. Thank you for taking the time to read a somewhat lengthy post (if you did) and thank you for just looking even if you didn’t read this (which means you didn’t read that).

And because I still don’t feel this post is long enough, here are the specs of my new amp from Carvin’s website:

Features:

– Active tone circuits for individual contour and extreme range
– Each channel features custom tailored Bass, Mid-range and Treble controls
– SmartEffects™ – Reverb, Chorus, Flange and Echo with 2 parameter controls for 256 total variations
– One Carvin British Series BR12 12 inch speaker
– Sealed controls
– Classic black knobs
– Classic red jewel lamp

Specifications:

– Strong poplar plywood enclosure – not particleboard!
– Covered in black tolex (they actually have many choices for the tolex)
– Premium components and solid design for years of reliable performance
– 100W Output
– Carvin British Series BR12 12 inch speaker
– CH1 EQ @ 80, 700 & 11.5k Hz
– CH2 EQ @ 50, 500 & 11.5k Hz
– Cabinet Voiced Line Out, Headphone Jack, External Speaker Jack
– AC Power: 90V to 255V, 50-60 Hz
– Dimensions: 19.5 inches wide X 10.25 inches deep X 17.75 inches high
– Weight: 37 lbs.
– Made in San Diego, California

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I recently acquired an older model Carvin SX-200 that I think is from the 90s. I got a pretty good deal. I traded a Cry Baby 535Q and a little cash. It doesn’t have the SmartEffects™ that the newer models have, but this baby is awesome. The clean is super clean, almost no breakup unlike Marshall or Fender and and it is not as tinny or twangy as either as well. The dirty channel is a lot like a Tube Screamer with heavier gain. The two 12″ speakers are Celestion which matches really well with the tube emulator circuit. It has a British feel and yet is wholly unique. Also, this amp is LOUD. You would have no trouble in a small to medium venue. And if you wind up in an arena it has a speaker output to connect a 2×12 or 4×12 speaker cabinet if you want, plus, you know, they have PA systems typically. I must admit I have a bit of a dilemma. I got this amp mostly to combine it with some other items and trade for a really awesome 1×12 since I don’t need anything bigger than that. But, I really love the sound and the look. Anyway, here are some pictures for you.

carvincoll

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DIY before it was cool. U.K. Subs: Punk Can Take It was directed by Julien Temple who you may know better as the director of The Great Rock And Roll Swindle (Sex Pistols, y’all). Resting on the pastiche of World War II films Temple shows the disillusionment and anger that fueled the punk movement in England. This film is messy and vile and not well done. Exactly as it should be. There’s not really a whole lot going on here, but that’s OK. Punk Can Take It is a wonderful little snapshot of a time when punk was no longer in its infancy and you get to see the U.K. Subs live. By 1979 the second wave of punk had already been around for two years, Sid Vicious was dead, Hardcore, Oi! and New Wave were under way. Check out U.K. Subs: Punk Can Take It. Have some laughs, get inspired, learn a little history (or remember it if you were there). At the very least it’s only 18 minutes 59 seconds out of your day.

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