Fulldrive Vs. Tim Vs. Liquid Blues

I’ve been wanting to do this shootout for so long. Now understand, I started doing these demos because my head was about to explode. Let me explain. The internet was a wonderful concept. I mean, information that we could get directly from each other? We didn’t have to rely on people with money? It’s fantastic. However, what they (everyone in power you just refer to as ‘they’) forgot to consider was that it appears the culture has been exposed to television for so long, that now if information comes off of a glowing screen, it is considered fact. So, I could write ‘Starbucks uses little slave children underground in all their suburban stores to manually grind the coffee beans’, and now that will turn up in search engines. And google will show a little snippet of that statement, and people will be too lazy to actually click on the site link, and then find out what I’m talking about, and hence…a new ‘fact’ is born: Starbucks harbors little slave children to make their coffee taste good.

Three Amigos 1
(Right before one of the many shootouts in Three Amigos. You simply cannot tell me that you don’t like this movie…just a little bit. ‘We ride, we fight, we love.’ Classic.)

And that’s when your head explodes. When you can no longer distinguish fact from ‘some guy wants hits on his website.’ Like me. Now anyone who thinks Starbucks is the reinstated Roman Empire will go to back up their opinion with the internet, search ‘Starbucks is bad’, find my site, and I’ll get tons of hits and a ravenous following. However, I used ‘Starbucks’ as my example, so as not to get hits, and to not become the very essence of what I’m talking about. Because no one in America will ever search ‘Starbucks is bad.’ It’d be considered heresy, and I honestly think you can be burned at the stake for distrusting Starbucks. See? I just proved they are the Roman Empire. How? The internet.’

And (sweet mercy, where am I going with this?) it’s the exact same with guitar pedals. You don’t want to have to spend money on an expensive Tim pedal to get great tone? Search the internet. You’ll find sources to back you up. You don’t want to own a Fulldrive because everyone and their guitar-playing second cousin has one? Search the internet. You’ll find sources telling you it’s a terrible pedal. But I warn you…do not search any deeper. Head explosion. As soon as you ask, ‘So how long did you have the Tim pedal for, to find out it wasn’t very good?’ You’ll get these answers: ‘Oh. Own one? Well, I’ve never actually owned one.’ Or, ‘Oh. I’ve never played one, if that’s what you mean.’ Or, ‘Ya, I’m just not a big fan of Paul Cochrane stuff.’ And how about my favorite, ‘I’ve been playing guitar for x amount of years. I don’t need to hear the pedals. They all sound the same.’ And suddenly you realize that in order to keep your head in the place on your body where you prefer it to be (i.e. not in tiny pieces scattered around your pedalboard…might help the tone, though…something to think about), you’re going to actually have to try the pedals out for yourself.

Which is why I do these shootouts. I’m trying to give an at least objective view on some of the incredible opinions out there. So then someone can ask, ‘Which is better? The Fulldrive or the Tim?’ And then I can not only give my answer, but say, ‘Here. Here’s a video. This is where my conclusions came from. Now listen to it. And draw your own conclusions.’ It’s a little thing I like to call ‘science.’ ‘Science’, as it refers to guitar gear, is a big word for, ‘Believing something because you heard it from your amp, rather than hearing it from the guy who wants to sell you the Fulldrive.’ Or the guy who bought it, hates it, but it didn’t sell, and now has to justify having it on his board, even though it’s not cool anymore because it no longer has a waiting list, and you can buy it at Guitar Center.

Three Amigos 2
(My favorite scene from Three Amigos: ‘It’s a sweater!’ Okay, I’ll stop now.)

Now are my videos the definitive answer? Absolutely not! Maybe if I didn’t play the same riff over and over, and could stop talking for a little bit. ;) But no, they are not. They’re a reference to use as a tool to help you decide which pedal might help make your tone the stuff tears are made out of. But it’s always a good idea to try these things out for yourself.

So anyway, here we go. We’ve got the Fulltone Fulldrive 2, and the Paul Cochrane Tim. Two pedals that are constantly being compared, put down, lifted up, glorified, and trodden upon. I’ve seen literal fights break out over these pedals. (Of course, they were fights over the internet, which means that the climactic ending without fail is always the picking apart of each other’s grammar. Yes. I know.) And so it’s just been a matter of time before I was able to get them both in my hands, and hear things for myself.

And we’ve also got the newcomer, the Damage Control Liquid Blues. I haven’t heard much about how it compares to the other two. But Damage Control makes good pedals, it’s blue, it’s got two switches, I figured it was close enough.

The Players

–Fulltone Fulldrive 2, blue version, non-mosfet, with the three-way toggle switch. (There’s a ton of versions of this pedal.) Running at 12 volts.

–Paul Cochrane Tim. Running at 12 volts.

–Damage Control Liquid Blues.

The Base Tone

Prairiewood Les Paul (Woldetone Dr. V pickups)–>

Matchless HC30 (EF86 channel)–>

65 Amps birch cab (Celestion Blue and G12H30 speakers)

Possible Tonal Biases

–I’ve had the Tim the longest, so it’s more set to my rig. As you can see, I never even have to touch a knob on it. (And also, I’ve demo’d it before, and didn’t want people to get bored by me going through all the knobs again.)

–The Liquid Blues has tubes. Sometimes that sways me. I love tubes.

–The Liquid Blues also has interesting tonal options with its knobs. So it’s quite possible I’ve yet to tap into its full sound yet.

Possible Personal Biases

–Everyone has a Fulldrive. And I want to be cool by not having one.

–It sounds stupid, but the Tim fits really well on my board.

–The Liquid Blues is huge, and runs on 2 Amps of power. So, if it ends up sounding the best, I’d have to get a bigger power conditioner or sell a Timeline. (And I’m not selling a Timeline.) So I kind of didn’t want it to sound the best.

And the Shootout:

And the addendum, with more rhythmic playing, after some comments that I was face-melting too much in the first video. ;) And by the way, ‘face-melting’ for me, is warm-up scales for most other guitarists. hehe

The Results

–Okay, whoa. The Liquid Blues not only sounded way better than I expected, but is also extremely versatile. If Damage Control was able to put their pedals in smaller packages, they’d be all over everyone’s boards. Wow. It can do compressed, searing lead tones, bluesy tones, but also just a warm pushing of your amp into it’s natural overdrive. Only one tone knob; but at least in my rig, it still was able to not change the tone of my amp, quite nicely. No control over the boost switch, though. It didn’t seem to matter, as it boosted the first channel audibly, but not over-the-top, but I could see that perhaps being a problem in some rigs. But just an incredible sound that really, really surprised me.

–And of course, the Tim never disappoints. It’s hard for me with the Tim, because it always sounds so good that sometimes I’m not excited by it anymore. It’s like, ‘Oh ya, the Tim sounds good no matter what. Whatever.’ But hearing it against the other pedals, it sounds good no matter what you throw at it in terms of your rig. Pushes your amp. Can’t say enough good about this pedal.

–And the Fulldrive. I was disappointed at first, because it did not bring out the natural overdrive in my amp like the other two did. However, once I found and started using its strong points, which seemed to be just by being a distortion on its own, it sounded very good. A little boxy, and it could have done with a better tone circuit. The one tone knob makes it very selective as to what amp it sounds good with. I would have liked to be able to dial it in to match the amp’s sound a little more. But overall, a very good pedal when used as a distortion sound on its own, and with a really clear and transparent boost section.

The Conclusion

As I like pushing my amp into its own natural overdrive, I’m going with either the Tim or the Liquid Blues. Sorry Fulldrive. And I’m going to be honest here. As much as I rave about the Tim, that Liquid Blues might actually be a touch warmer. But my rig already runs at about 11.5 Amps, and my power conditioner only handles 12. So the 2 Amps from the Liquid Blues would push me over the edge. So, we’ll have to see if I can come up with the money to get a Furman IT20. (And that’s probably a ‘no.’) But it did sound incredible. As did the Tim. It’s a tough choice. But as for the Tim versus the Fulldrive? In my hopefully extremely humble opinion, it’s the Tim, by a definite margin.

So there ya go. It’s on the internet. It must be true.

;)

Splendid.
Karl.

The U2 Concert

Edge frame 1

That was the gift that was given me last night.

No, not the actual guitar. Being that close to that guitar. If the gift had been the actual guitar, that means that Edge and I would really have gone out for frozen yogurt. And I suppose then, to have given me that guitar, he would have had to have been really impressed by my knowledge of tone. And both of those things are of course, almost complete impossibilities. I really enjoy U2′s music; so I like to joke around about my obsession with them. But hopefully it’s clear that when I say things like, ‘I hope I meet Edge at True Tone’, I’m not actually expecting to meet Edge at True Tone. It just makes for much more fun and conversation-spurring posts. And I tend to like fun and conversation. At the very least, it’s a bit more fun (in my very humble opinion) than throwing up a twitter: ‘gearin’ up for the U2 show.’ I like to keep it interesting.

But in all seriousness, U2 is an experience. And I know that sounds kitsch and over the top if you don’t like them, and have never been to one of their shows. I’ve heard that said over and over again, and I thought I understood it. I’ve got the dvd’s of previous tours, and watch them a fair amount. But when I got there, and stood in front of Edge’s amps as he drove out perfect note after perfect note on ‘Breathe’, taking a rather normal base chord structure to levels you wouldn’t think it could go to, and as Bono quite literally sang his heart out, and 97,000 people for just 2 hours got to drop their learned inhibitions and allow songs to take them somewhere they might not otherwise be able to go……as over the top as it might sound, it is a spiritual experience.

So as much as I joke about the night not being fulfilled until security escorts me out for trying too hard to touch Edge, Bono, Larry, Adam, or even one of the stage crew, once you get there, it’s just about letting yourself go. Now, U2 is not for everybody. They’re obviously for a lot of people, but not for everybody. But I can pretty much guarantee you that if you were to go to a live show of theirs, and leave any preconceived notions at the door, you would at the very least feel something. Something you weren’t expecting. For me, U2 has a way of lending these orchestrations with the perfect mix of countering yet simplistic lines, to support a melody that aches and yearns as much as it gives joy. In fact, the joy probably comes out of the ache. And they do it with power and with passion, and it sings to people. Not to everyone, but to at least 97,000 people last evening at the Rose Bowl. To be able to sing with my wife with tears in our eyes during ‘City of Blinding Lights’. To be able to be crushed by 2490 fans in the inner circle jumping to ‘No Line on the Horizon’ as I in turn crush the 10 in front of me. To sing ‘No more!’ until you think you’re going to collapse, but it’s okay because thousands of other people from 5 years old to 65 years old are singing the same thing with the same intensity around you. And of course, to almost be able to touch Edge’s guitar when he leaned over the rail. And above absolutely everything else, to hear the untouched and pre-mic’d tone directly from his amps. ;) Not to sound overly sentimental (as if the last few sentences didn’t take care of that already), but it was a special couple days.

So, the last post lays out everything in chronological order. If you didn’t read that one, I’ll give you the cliff notes here: we waited in a 2500 person mob for 12 hours, there was a stampede, and we ended up getting spots in the one place that mattered most. The inner circle, about 10 feet from the stage, directly in front of Edge’s amps. The sound system was incredible, but if I’m going to be there, I’m going to need some stage volume. I wanted to hear some of Edge’s tone from his own speakers. And it was glorious.

Here’s where we were, and the opening of the first song. And by the way, if you hadn’t heard, they not only filmed this concert in Pasadena for a dvd, but they broadcast it live over youtube; and as of now, you can still watch the re-broadcast. Way better quality than my little camera. But we still took just a couple videos for mementos. Here’s some pics, and the end of the opening song (and me screaming…just a little bit loudly):

U2 Pasadena 1
(Where we were. With the amps facing us, and that’s about 15 feet from Edge…even though the picture makes it look farther. We’re almost right on the rail, but then there’s still a good five feet between the rail and he stage so that the security guards can glare at us…like the one on the far left there. hehe But they were cool. They even hit a couple beach balls back to us. Which is fairly rare amongst most of the shows I’ve been to. I was impressed.)

U2 Pasadena
(And that’s what it looked like from another fan’s vantage point. Absolute craziness. Amazing.)

I have to tell you; hearing that sound and power coming from Edge’s amps…indescribable. Perfect weight, clarity, warmth, and focus. You could feel his sound rushing through your body. Seriously, people were responding to some of his guitar parts as if they were vocal parts. He sings with that thing. And to be right in front of it…an amazing experience, and a definite learning experience.

And then the world stood still. This is what the picture is from at the beginning of this post. On U2′s ‘Until the End of the World’, the outro just pumps my heart. It’s some of my favorite musical anything ever. (How’s that!) Edge just lets his fuzz go crazy, and he plays this killer riff around the 2,3, and 4 notes…never hitting the 5 or higher octave that is anticipated. And then just when you feel it has to go there, he hits the seventh instead, giving it this great aching and driving quality. I absolutely love it live. And then it happened. As he’s playing it, he’s on the bridge, to my right. And suddenly the bridge starts moving towards me. And he ends up playing it directly over me. And then, I don’t even remember it happening…his guitar is in my face, and he’s leaning over the railing of the bridge, looking right at me. I was about 3 feet from him. Now, the camera was in my hand. And I had pushed record. But that’s about it. So, I’ve got the video of it, but it’s just sheer craziness, and then whoa!…Edge’s guitar is right there. hehehe I laugh every time I watch it. But there are very few moments in life when you’re literally not thinking about anything. And that was this moment for me. By the time the bridge passed back over me and over to the second bridge that Bono was on, I realized that I was laying diagonally with my full weight on some guy, who was also laying diagonally, with his full weight on some other guy, and I guess the rest of the pit was just supporting us. It was awesome. Here’s the worst video ever of the best moment ever:

And some stills from the video:

Edge frame 2

Edge frame 3

Edge frame 4

So those are the things that I had to talk about in depth. And much as I’d like to go through every song, I’m sure none of you would like me to go through every song. But there was a ton to take in, and a ton to mull over, learn, and experience. So here’s the highlight reel.

The Good

  • The first thing was how intimate this show was…and then at times how much it challenged your senses. On certain songs, the band was all around you…on bridges, behind the stage, on the outer circle stage…and yet they would still connect musically and facially with each other. The end of Beautiful Day with just Edge and Bono standing next to each other improvising was amazing. Could have been two guys playing in a coffee shop. And the whole band standing around each other doing Still Haven’t Found. Intensely intimate.
  • Yes. I did cry. Literal tears. During Walk On, and the Amazing Grace intro to Streets. But my wife cried too, and so did a lot of other people around us.
  • The sonic power yet space they create is incredible. That makes no sense, I know. You have to see them live to get it.
  • Edge holds those songs together. He is doing so much…guitars, loops, backing synths, piano, vocals, and at times leading the band. The parts he chooses are just perfect for the textures of each song, whether the song needs something in the background, something structural, something driving, something to pull the band along, or to support it. And many times it’s not at all where you would expect a guitar player to go. But it’s just what the song needs. I’ve known this, but to see it unfold live right in front of you, is something else.
  • They played 24 songs. And believed every one of them.
  • These guys play as a band better than anyone I’ve ever seen. They play to loops and click tracks live, are moving all over the stage of 360 degrees and with an outer ring and two bridges, and yet still somehow manage to improvise. In at least 5 songs, Bono was motioning to the band to give certain dynamics and to hang on or cut out, and they followed and supported perfectly. It’s awesome to watch Edge at those times. He watches Bono like a hawk.
  • The passion that pours out of Bono. Say what you like about him, and I will too. He does do some dumb things on stage. But seeing him live…he feels the living daylights out of every word he sings. It’s inspiring to watch.
  • Edge’s sound is fantastic. I know, I know, I’ve said that before. But honestly, I was a little nervous hearing it live for the first time, in case it didn’t measure up. And it actually went beyond my expectations…even though I mentally prepared myself to be objective about it if it wasn’t up to snuff. The sheer weight of the tone coming from the amps…and yet still clear…but yet still warm…can tone be icy and warm at the same time? I didn’t think so, but I guess it can. Amazing.
  • Adam is cool. And every bass player should take a page from him on how well he supports the melodic lines of the other instruments.
  • Bono’s voice sounded incredible live! I know it’s changed from when he was younger, but last night it sounded crisp and full, and just grabbed you. He’s still got it, and in a large way. Some of the improvised melodies on With or Without You, Streets, Walk On, Magnificent…wow.
  • U2 has a lot of fun. It was awesome to see them just laughing with each other, playing around, to see Edge smiling and shaking his head good-naturedly at some of the dumb things Bono said, and to see Bono laughing at himself after saying certain things. Very, very cool to see, and gave the whole night a very natural and close feel…even amongst 97,000 people. At one point, Bono even caught Edge off guard. He was saying something about some random song they did a little piece of…I think it was Stand by Me, after Still Haven’t Found. And then he just off the cuff asked Edge if he had anything to add. And Edge just kind of said, ‘Oh! Uh…no…he’s great, like you said.’ And then Bono said something like, ‘Whoa. He doesn’t speak much; but when he does!’ lol It was great, and just set you at ease.
  • Larry is ripped.
  • I love seeing the mistakes. On the beginning of Beautiful Day, something went wrong with Edge’s guitar. The first few harmonics were incredibly low in the mix. And the look he gave his guitar tech, Dallas, under the stage…haha. Yikes. The best look ever as he motioned with his hand to up the volume. It was very funny.
  • The sound system was amazing! Everything was so well balanced. You could hear the backing vocals…but not too loud. You could hear Larry’s toms…but right where they should be. That was cool, and very refreshing, too.
  • I hate to harp on it…but what a ride on that wave of emotion, fueled by sound and melody. It was so rad to see Edge feeling that same thing too. I’d watch him as he played parts, just gaze across the enraptured audience, and then just close his eyes as he finished out his part, allowing the sound to come over him as well. Feeling like you and the band are one, and feeling the same things…now there’s an experience.
  • No Line plays really well live.
  • Being in a crowd like that, everyone just screaming the songs and throwing their bodies at the songs…wow. Humbling to be a part of something that big. I yelled constantly.
  • Their songs simply moved me. To a place I’ve never been before.
  • And get this. Tone is hugely in the hands. Gear is really, really important, too. Don’t get me wrong. But right before U2 came out, Edge’s tech Dallas came out and tested a few of his guitars, and all his different effects for each song. And I almost had a heart attack. The tone, from Edge’s exact gear, was thin, brittle, a little harsh, and yet also very unclear. It was still good tone, but it was far from the best I’d ever heard. And that’s nothing against Dallas, either. I’m sure he’s a great guitarist in his own rite. But on Edge’s gear, it just wasn’t Edge’s sound. And then Edge came out…and whoa. Immediate touch difference. It was a softer touch…almost as if he was coaxing the sound out of the guitar. And suddenly there it was. Edge’s sound. I also noticed this waiting in line outside the stadium when they were sound-checking his guitar. Through that awesome sound system, his sound just wasn’t that great. But…once he starts playing…there it is. Very interesting. ;)
  • The live arrangement of Moment of Surrender is way better than the album version. Album is decent. Live is goosebumps and open-heart surgery.
  • Like I said, Bono does some odd things for showmanship. And I have most of their live dvd’s. I know his antics. But live? This is gonna sound weird…but they work live. It’s almost as if he turns off the filter of thought, and just acts on sheer adrenaline and emotion from the particular song, and just goes. And some of the stuff that watching back looks dumb, is actually really, really fun live. And it really gets the crowd engaged. Even if it’s laughing and hooting. Definitely something to learn there.
  • Larry is the tightest drummer I have ever heard. Perfect.
  • On City of Blinding Lights, towards the end, something must’ve gotten bumped on Edge’s delay setting. Because it was ever so slightly off. (Or maybe I’m just crazy.) But he realized it, and started playing off the beat ever so slightly to compensate. It was amazing. And that is a beautiful song.
  • I almost lost it so many times. The soul on the solo of Unknown Caller, the candor of In a Little While, the love of Streets, the ambience of Magnificent.
  • Oh, Edge’s sound.
  • Not even joking, earlier this year, my wife asked me what were the songs that I hoped they’d do but that I was sure they wouldn’t. And both Ultraviolet and and Unforgettable Fire were on my list. And they did them both. It was incredible to be there with her.

The Bad

  • U2 is not perfect. (Much as I’d like to think they are.) But I tried so very hard, and ended up succeeding, in just for one night, turning off my critical mind, and allowing myself to be taken somewhere. It’s extremely therapeutic to allow that to happen to you every once in a while. The trouble is finding something worthy enough to have that happen with. So I didn’t notice too much bad. And I watched back most of the youtube broadcast afterwards…and there really wasn’t much bad anyway! Just a special, special experience. But the little things, mics not being on, Adam on the wrong string for a couple notes, most of that was absolutely lost on me, and the rest of us in the pit. I was way too busy just singing my heart out, jumping on people, yelling loud enough to scare myself, and letting the music take me. I highly suggest it. Just for a night. I’ve never felt better.
  • And if you’re looking for some bad reviews, feel free to check the internet. There’s plenty. They don’t run around enough/they run around too much and it’s not intimate enough. The crowd wasn’t into it enough/people were too into it and squished me. They played too many songs from x album/they didn’t play enough songs from x album. Bono’s not a good enough showman/Bono’s showmanship annoys me. It’s too loud and muddy/it was too soft and tinny. We’ve all got opinions, and many of them are valid. But this whole post was more so about letting go and feeling the music. Some incredible music.

So…as is my regrettable custom, I start off by saying something is beyond words; and then I use a ton of words to describe it. So I should probably stop now. But here’s the rest of the pictures and videos. Terrible quality video, but it’ll be out on dvd soon.

U2 Pasadena 3

Edge's Amps 2

U2 360 speakers

People in the Claw

U2 360 screen

Edge in Pasadena

And lastly, my favorite picture of the night. It’s like, the perfect personification of how Edge exists in my mind:

U2 Pasadena 2

hehe Just a brilliant white light. lol This was not planned…it’s just an extremely oddly symbolic picture. haha :)

I am so sorry, but nothing else does this evening justice: a spiritual experience.

Splendid.
Karl.

Edge Watch: Days 1 & 2 (Waiting for the U2 360 Tour in Pasadena)

U2 Line

Well, I’m not sure if anyone will read this post, as this is about the time leading up to the concert, and I’m posting it at the same time as I give a review of the actual concert (see the above post). However, the time leading up to it was just as exciting and experiential as the concert itself. No, that’s a lie. But in its own rite, important. So here ya go:

Saturday, 4:30 PM.

Claw in Rose Bowl

We got to the Rose Bowl in the late afternoon, on the off chance that we might see a member of the band, hear a soundcheck, or be able to make friends with a security guard or something. Of course, none of that happened. But we did get to stroll around the stadium and get a good idea of the layout of the grounds…the last time for a long time that we’d actually be able to see ground. And we got to see the top of The Claw, as they were still building it up. And we saw the people already camping out. Awesome. We thought about camping out, but in the end, I really wanted to shower in the morning, because we knew that this concert was going out live over youtube and getting filmed for a dvd. And of course, you’ll be able to make out my showered or unshowered body in the sea of 96,999 other people. Hey, I like to look good.

Saturday, 7:00 PM.

True Tone Music

We made it to True Tone in Santa Monica. No Edge. But the chances of actually seeing Edge there were pretty small. Okay…really small. It’s more an excuse to go to True Tone, and for my wife and I to hang out at the 3rd and 4th Street Promenade. Mmmm…True Tone.

Saturday, 9:00 PM.

Stuck in an underground parking structure off of La Brea. Ya, we forgot some stuff and had to go shopping. And it’s difficult to park in LA on a Saturday night. So, we’re in this structure, and all of a sudden lines just start to back up. It looks like the computer-controlled exits all went down at the same time. And then the actual people (you know they still hire some of those?), won’t let anyone out by just lifting the gate arms, even though the first hour of parking is free and the main store there is Target. You don’t stay in Target more than an hour–they don’t sell guitar gear. How much money could you possibly lose just lifting the gates while you reboot the system? Obviously more than I would think, I guess, because they didn’t. We finally found the one lady who was letting people out. My life flashed before my eyes (I don’t think that phrase really works here), as I thought I might spend the U2 concert in a Target parking structure. Ya, the concert wasn’t until the next day. I guess I can get a little bit dramatic when it comes to music. Can anyone say buffer versus true bypass? hehe Hey. It makes a difference. ;)

Saturday, 11:00 PM.

Yard House in Pasadena. My last meal before the next evening. When I get excited, I can’t eat. Yep. It was that bad.

Saturday, 11:30 PM.

At our hotel in Pasadena. And I am of course, freaking out, and quite ecstatic about the morning.

Sunday, 6:00 AM.

Awake. At this point I checked online, and found out that 550 people camped out at the Rose Bowl and were already in the GA line. GA stands for general admission, and is access to the floor of the stadium. However, how close you are to the stage, from first row to the very back, is first come first serve. So at least now I don’t have to freak out about getting in the first 50. The concert is laid out with a ring around the main stage, with bridges to it from the main stage. And that outer ring creates an inner space, with more of a club atmosphere. We heard they were only letting 2500 into that space, so we figured if we showed up by about 9:00 we’d be good.

Sunday, 7:30 AM.

Packing up the hotel room. We had the tv on, and there was a cowboy holding a gun to someone’s head, but I guess the guy with the gun to his head can make earthquakes with his mind? Or, at least make the camera shake in a very soap opera-ish fashion. And now it looks like the young kid in the bad cowboy crowd is saying goodbye to the girl he loves in the town his gang has taken over. He knows he should stay and help, but it looks as if the bad cowboy gang is the closest thing to a family that he’s ever had.

Sunday, 8:00 AM.

At a Starbucks for breakfast. I don’t like coffee. But Starbucks has fantastic water. And my wife adores pumpkin spice.

Sunday, 8:25 AM.

Getting lost. They shut down the 210 west. Which is a big deal. Apparently there’s going to be a lot of people in Pasadena today? Not sure the logic of shutting down a freeway to help the traffic, but…I am not a person who runs Pasadena.

Sunday, 8:45 AM.

IMG_3724

In the parking lot, and walking to the Rose Bowl. The Claw is enormous. And you gotta remember that the Rose Bowl has two decks. You can only see the upper one from the outside, because the lower one and the field are built below ground level. And we can still see the Claw.

Sunday, 9:00 AM.

In line. Absolutely crazy. U2 doesn’t go on for about 12 hours, and there’s already over 1,000 people ahead of us in line. What idiots. ;)

And everyone in line has ez-ups, coolers, lawn chairs, ipod docks, barb-q’s (yep), blankets, umbrellas, sunscreen, and board games. We brought some crackers and water. That’s right. You’re not a real U2 fan unless you’re in the pit, completely sunburned and heat-stricken. Rock ‘n roll.

And they played ‘Zest for Love’ about 8 million times. Must be their system check song for some reason. But it was amazing to hear it keep getting clearer and clearer. Amazing sounding system in there. Even from outside the stadium, you could hear every instrument crystal clear…best sounding cd you’ve ever heard. I was very impressed. And I have this weird urge, too, to love…zestily.

Sunday, 12:00 PM.

U2 Numbers

Well, they numbered us!! We are going to see U2!! And we’re in the first 1250, which is supposed to be the first wave into the stadium, and first shot at the inner circle of 2500 people. So we’re stoked! Supposedly, they’re going to let in five sections of 250 for the first 1250. Rock. Edge, watch out.

Sunday, 1:00 PM.

And the madness begins. There is no more golf course, no more ground anywhere. We’re 1201 and 1202 in line, and then the line wraps behind us about 3 times, and then into another golf course, and we can’t see the end of it. Has to be at least 5,000 people by now. But it is so awesome to be amongst a bunch of other U2 fans. And not just because it’s U2. There are very few opportunities in life just to be with people who are united with a common goal, and common interest. There was a huge energy! Well, and then that energy was balanced back out by the 90 degree heat, and sitting in the sun for the last 4 hours. But people are cool. The people in front of us even let us use their blanket, seeing as we…ya…brought none. I guess I was just counting on my love for U2 to carry me all day. Oh! And every other car was having a tailgate party and playing U2. So rad! But almost every one was playing their B-sides. Almost as if we were all trying to prove to each other that we were the coolest and most ‘indie’ fan of this multi-platinum artist. hehe And there was ‘the guy’; the one trying to audition for Bono’s role during every U2 song played from someone’s ipod dock. Very loudly, and with much vibrato. :) People rock.

Oh, and the sound-checking guitar is obviously not Edge. I gotta say, I am amazed how much tone is in the hands. That’s his rig, but not his tone.

Sunday, 2:00 PM.

They have now given us all wristbands, in addition to the numbers on our hands. I don’t know why. But it makes me feel more secure. I must see them.

Sunday, 3:00 PM.

Waiting.

Sunday, 4:00 PM.

Still waiting.

Sunday, 4:30 PM.

Oh, sweet mercy! So, there’s only so long, I suppose, that you can control a crowd of 20,000 people. Jamianne and I went off to find some water somewhere so as not to die. As we were coming back, we decided to walk up the GA line just to see everything, maybe meet some interesting people. So as we walk by the front of the line, we see them moving the first group of 250 closer to the entrance gates. Awesome, we think. They weren’t supposed to do this until 5. So maybe all the groups will get in early. Apparently though, no one told the next group of 250 what was going on. Or they did, and they just couldn’t take it anymore. Or people were jumping in line. I did talk to a couple who thought for sure that showing up at 4 meant they were going to get in the inner circle. They were more than a little disappointed when I said they’d been numbering us since 8 in the morning, and that the line stretched for probably 5,000 to 10,000 people by now. Whatever the reason, as we’re walking back to our spot, right when we get to it, we look to our left, and the entire line just starts stampeding. So, as any good citizen of any big riotous mob would do, we jump in and start running too! It was like racing through a refugee camp. People just up and started running for the gate. Lawn chairs, clothes, food, barb-q’s, full ez-ups, all just left, and then run over by the mob. When the next 250 started moving, I guess, it just started a chain reaction, nobody knew what was happening, and the safest thing we all figured to do was just to run with the mob. Here’s what it looked like when we stopped, and there’s more people after where it looks like it ends. It doesn’t end there, it’s just a rise in the hill:

Ya. So those numbers on our hands? Yep. Didn’t mean a thing. But it’s totally cool. I mean, in a way, I was stoked on the energy of this crowd. It’s a rock ‘n roll show! (And you might disagree, and I hear ya. But 10,000 people right then sure thought it was a rock ‘n roll show. :) ) There’s only so much crowd control you can do with a line of 10,000 people (and about 30,000 more milling about the grounds and having tailgate parties) without very large guns. And about one trash can and one portable toilet per every 500 people outside the stadium? And the promise of U2 once you got in the stadium? Yep. It was more than the angry mob could handle. hehe And they’re allowing 2500 people in the inner circle, and then there’s even more incredible places on the outer circle, as U2 spends tons of times walking around during the show. So it’ll all work out, and we’ll all get great seats. We saw some higher numbered hands in front of us; but we also saw some lower numbered hands right next to us. So no worries. Apparently not for everyone. hehe Lots of interesting and colorful conversations. But for the most part, this is a 97,000 person rock ‘n roll concert. You just gotta enjoy the ride.

Sunday, 4:45 PM.

Okay. To make matters worse, U2 starts to soundcheck ‘Magnificent’ right as the mob comes to a halt. And this is the first time we’ve heard the actual band playing, not their techs. So as this one event staff tries to instruct the mob using what had to be the smallest megaphone known to man, everyone is paying absolutely no attention; but instead screaming ‘It’s Bono! That’s Bono!’ So finally…I don’t know if they just put out the word to find the biggest security guards in the Pasadena area who could make it to the Rose Bowl in a half hour or what…but all of a sudden the hugest security guards were out, and of course cops started lining the mob, and we went in, in not so much numbered waves, as random clusters.

Sunday, 5:00 PM.

In the gates. Some security are saying run, there’s too many people for us to move slowly. Others are saying walk, there’s too many people for someone to go down. Most people followed the first advice. ;)

Sunday, 5:10 PM.

Alright. For all my nonsense about touching Edge, and getting pulled on stage by him, none of that is really possible. I know it’s odd, but Edge actually doesn’t know me. I know. Shocker. ;) So in reality, all I cared about was hearing stage volume from his amps. I know the house system is amazing, and I know he knows how to mic his amps, but it does not matter. If I am going to see him play live, I want to hear some sound pure and direct from his speakers. And we did. We got into the inner circle, about 5 feet back from the front rail, in front of Edge. His amps were facing directly at our heads. Perfect placement.

Sunday, 5:30 PM.

Pandemonium. We’re packed up like sardines in here, which is awesome. It’s a show, and we need to be close to feel the collective love from each other. But we are so close to each other, and there are people leaving for food, drinks, and beer, and then coming back and expecting their spots to still be there. hehehe And then there are people sitting. And others falling on top of them…because when you sit in a mob of people, from anywhere other than where you are sitting, your spot looks like empty space towards which everyone else is trying to get. And then there are my favorite people. The ones criticizing how dirty it is amongst all those people, and how rude it is for people to touch them, and how it’s too noisy. Amongst 2500 squished in, sunburned, bedraggled music fans. Hey. You gotta hand it to their optimism, I suppose. They apparently, truly thought the mob would be well-mannered.

Sunday, 7:15 PM.

Black Eyed Peas. And you know what? My respect grew for their musical abilities. Some catchy melodies and beats (mixed with some really terrible stuff, in my humble opinion), and I liked the melding of urban music with actual instruments. Pretty cool. But my respect for the band itself? Not so much. They had Slash come out, and they did the longest and worst cover ever of Sweet Child of Mine. And Fergie danced up on Slash while he was solo’ing. And it was awkward. He could be her grandfather. And actually, the only time the crowd went crazy for them was when she shook something. And she’s got a good voice, too; she shouldn’t have to do that. And they all know that they are really, really cool. Oh. And too many male pelvic thrusts than I normally care to see in an evening. But their drummer was extremely talented, in a very minimalistic way. Cool. Oh, and there were definitely some dancing radios. Awkward:

Sunday, 8:35 PM.

The world stops. Edge’s amps are revealed:

And the rest is just pure bliss. hehe And bliss in the post above. And of course bliss in my heart…forever and ever. Childish? Yes. But so is standing in a living heat stroke for 12 hours to see U2…absolutely worth every minute of it.

Splendid. (A lot.)
Karl.

Edge Watch: Day 1

U2 360 band

Beautiful.

There are two kinds of people in this world. Those who embrace the beauty, and those who lie. And as usual, I’m kidding…just not very much. :) U2 somehow manages to sneak into so many posts here, that I try very hard to do precious few (the emphasis being on ‘precious’) posts solely on them. But this weekend I must make an exception. For they will be in Southern California. This is where I live. They will be close to me. How close, however, is dependent upon a few things:

  • How little sleep can I function on?
  • How many cops will be surrounding them?
  • Is getting a chance for the Edge to tell me the secret to great tone worth a few nights sharing a small, barred room with the wonderful citizens of Los Angeles?
  • If I do get close enough to Edge for him to tell me the secret to great tone, and he says, ‘it’s in the hands’, how many years of depression will I suffer?
  • Adam Clayton will probably have no security. Perhaps he’s a better target…I mean, mark. Nope. A better person to casually hunt for. Ugh. Um, to hope that perhaps there is an off-chance I might see?
  • Will Edge visit True Tone Music in Santa Monica?
  • Probably not.
  • But if one of his ’76 Explorers mysteriously ‘goes missing’, will he then have to visit True Tone for a replacement? ;)
  • Will Edge let me hug him? (Bono probably would, but that’s a different thing entirely.)

U2+makes+a+homecoming+K96pPIkSzFIl

So in order for these things to come true (except for the stealing of an Explorer…Edge, I will not do that…but the hugs? Oh most definitely), my wife and I are leaving tomorrow for the great ‘Edge Watch’ in Hollywood. We’ll scope out True Tone, Vintage Gear Hollywood, Guitar Center (I guess…my respect for Edge will significantly go down if I see him there, hehe…no…it won’t), and maybe Amp Shop in Ventura. My goal is to find him in a guitar shop, silently usher him towards a bench in front of a Matchless, hand him a Gibson ES335, and say, ‘Go.’ And then I will watch, and there will be much rejoicing. (Oh, and we’ll probably have to stick a Damage Control Timeline delay in that 335–>Matchless chain somewhere. I’ll just keep that in my back pocket for when the time comes.)

But in all seriousness, Sunday will be a wonderful day. I’ve never seen them live, due to some previously unfortunate personal musical tastes, two of their tours ago, involving finger-tapping, pinched harmonics, and Tourniquet; and then on their last tour, I had a little problem with my finances (meaning, I had none). So I’m very, very stoked. And expecting my life to never be the same again. And it must be said how incredible a wife I have. Those of you who are as of yet unmarried, should you happen to meet a girl who, when accidentally overhearing of a big boy crush you may or may not have on a certain band…should she actually be okay with that…marry her now. My wife not only bought the tickets for my birthday, but she is also traipsing around Hollywood with me tomorrow as I try to spot Edge (you thought that one was a joke, but oh…it is not), and got us a hotel room by the Rose Bowl so that we can get in line early enough to be in the inner circle during the concert. Either she really, really loves me, or she’s planning on getting a really, really nice anniversary getaway from me later on this year. :) I’m going with both. (I love you, Sweetheart.)

u2 360 1

And to add to the gloriousness, they are filming this concert for a dvd, and broadcasting it live over youtube Sunday night. Now, as much as I joke about it, I do understand that there are people (inexplicably) who do not dig U2. However, go ahead and watch the broadcast, and look for me. I promise I will make it worth your while. Granted, it will still be more worthwhile to U2 fans, but hey. Here’s how to spot me:

  • I’ll be in the inner circle, Edge’s side (of course), and sweet-mercy-I-hope-so, in the very front.
  • Look for the cluster of security guards.
  • Listen for probably the only expressions of love and adoration coming from a male voice.
  • Watch for blue Herdim picks being thrown at the Edge, in hopes that he will actually use one that has touched my guitar.
  • Look for the glistening tears reflecting the ‘City of Blinding Lights.’
  • If you hear someone yelling, ‘Edge! Face-melting solo!’ , it is definitely not me.
  • Oh, and I do plan on leading the crowd in chants of ‘Please! Get up off your knees! Now please…’ right before the first encore. And I fully expect them to just burst into it. ‘So you never knew love…’ Oh. I am getting excited.

U2 360 Edge

I will try to post updates throughout the weekend here on the blog as much as I can (and maybe actually use that cursed little thing called ‘twitter’…which I vowed never to use), but for the most part, I’m just going to enjoy myself, and my time with Jamianne. But ya…if Edge actually does walk into True Tone, and we go have frozen yogurt and talk shop, you’ll definitely hear about it. (Kind of sad that in my wildest fantasy, I’m having frozen yogurt with another guitarist.) U2 is another type of experience altogether. And I plan on being close enough to catch some stage volume from the Vox’s.

Splendid.
Karl.

P.S. Ambient pad and loop, free downloads will be up soon, as will a Diamond Memory Lane demo, and a Tim/Fulldrive/Liquid Blues shootout. I understand that the last few days have been some probably fairly useless and perhaps slightly annoying posts. So my apologies. I’ve been trying to keep the blog going, while playing a full schedule of churches the last two weeks, recording pads, and getting ready to see U2. Oh, and keeping my normal job going, and watching my little sis get married. I try not to go into too much personal stuff here, but just so it’s clear that it’s not that I’m losing interest, it’s that life itself has just been extremely interesting lately. :) As always, thanks for reading, and I truly hope that in some small way, this blog has been able to help at least a little bit with finding new and passionate ways to glorify our Creator through two of His greatest creations…music and life. Cheers.

I Been Thinkin' About My Doorbell…

I don’t have a doorbell. I live in an apartment. I chose gear instead of a house. I figure, I have plenty of time to get a house. But that original version Damage Control Timeline (I’m pretty sure there’s only one version, but if you say ‘original version’, you’re technically not wrong, and it sounds way cooler); now the auction for that was ending in like, two days. You do the math. Gear. So then, why is this post called something about a doorbell? Well, my wife was just listening to that White Stripes song, and it’s like the catchiest ever, and this is a post about what I’ve been thinking lately. It is very difficult to sift through my head sometimes. And as difficulty tends to not be easy, and I tend to like easy things, I just don’t sift. But then I had the problem of having no title for this post. So then I listened to the appalling catchiness coming from my wife’s computer speakers, and hence, ‘I Been Thinkin’ About My Doorbell.’ Not much sense to be had, I get it. But then again, let’s be honest; do you actually come to this blog because I ever make sense? Ya. Guessing no on that one. So here’s what I’ve been thinking:

  • Strymon is coming out with a new delay. I do not need another delay. I want it.
  • Edge is about six hours away from me at this very moment. Mmmmm. (I apologize if the ‘mmmmm’ frightens you, but, it’s kind of the only sound the human body is capable of making when lathered in the lovely droves of delay, Edge’s melodic mind, and about 7 amps, including 2 1960′s AC30′s. So, my apologies, but……mmmmmmmm.)
  • Jack White is really good!
  • The other night I was old. Some kids wanted to sell me something at the ‘insane’ hour of about 8:30 PM (I know), and I wished I had a doorbell, because they were pounding on our apartment door. I griped for a while. And then another while (what in the world is a ‘while’?). And then I realized that at 25, I have become old. What happens when I’m 85?
  • Meg White? Ya…not so much. (That’s probably horrible to say, and I’m sure you’re a lovely person…but those drums…)
  • I went outside tonight to see if I could hear Edge’s guitar from Phoenix. I have this theory that his tone is so real, integral, and uncompromised, that it will actually be able to travel from Phoenix to here, because the sound waves are so steady, and ringing at the exact right frequency, so as to cut through the ‘mix of life.’ (I’ve put my whole theory on this into documentation, complete with the mathematical equations, algorithms, and of course accounting for the amount of delay on his guitar; except without the equations, algorithms, or documentation. But I did account for the delay!) I am almost positive that I could hear his tone. It was a little hard to tell, though, if it was his tone from Phoenix, or his tone from my ipod dock playing U2. (Hey, ‘Breathe’ was playing, and I couldn’t turn it off right before the solo! Psshh. Come on! ……Hmmm, ‘psshh’ doesn’t seem to work right when written. Or maybe even said.)
  • I wish I was John Williams.
  • Fedex is the worst.
  • I’ve fallen into the habit of subtly ‘promoting myself’ in general conversation. You know, steering the conversation towards things I’ve done, and towards my self-inflated and quite actually non-existent pedigree. Nasty and gross habit.
  • I love bass players. I’ve said it before, but us electric guitar players cannot do anything without you guys anchoring the harmonic structure.
  • Okay, this is not a joke. As I’m writing this, my wife is watching a youtube clip of Judy Garland as a little girl in some movie, singing to a picture of her ‘hero’, Clark Gable, ‘You Made Me Love You.’ And my wife just leaned over to me and said, ‘Is that how you sing to your picture of Edge, when I’m not around? ‘You made me love you!” This happened about 19 seconds ago. That is not made up.
  • There is a lot to do in this world. And I waste a lot of time.
  • Change your tubes.
  • Is it bad when you find yourself not paying attention to the message, because you’re gazing past the pastor, lovingly at the lights on your amp on stage, and then you can’t remember for how long that’s been going on?
  • I used to sing a song in Sunday School that just said, ‘Read your Bible, pray every day.’ And for all the ‘deep spiritual concepts’ and ‘contextual-Biblical-armenian-free-will-determinism-leadership-what-not’ that I feel I’ve learned about, it’s almost always the simple stuff I learned in Sunday school that makes the most real world difference.
  • I can’t imagine life without music.
  • When people comment on how big my pedalboard is, I usually pass it off with some joke about how most of the pedals are not even plugged in, but I just keep them on the board to look cool. I just looked at my pedalboard while typing this (and yes…there was all the tenderness in that look that you’re afraid there was), and realized that I actually do have a pedal on my board that has not been plugged in for about a month. But it does look really, really cool right there!

Splendid.
Karl.

The Antithesis of Gear

I love gear. Very much so. More than many other things in life towards which my love would be more rational. But there are times…precious few times, but there are times…when gear can be left behind, and beautiful music still happens. This is one of those instances. Full band, huge sound, no sound reinforcement. No amps, no sound system, just them. This is the best thing you’ve ever seen. (I thought about not saying that, but then I decided to.) The whole thing is good, but skip to about 2:20 for the start of the splendor:

Fantastic. And I was going to put all my gear up for sale after watching this, but then I realized that they were using natural echo as a form of delay. And all was once again right with the world.

Splendid.
Karl.

Music is Melody

Johann Sebastian Bach said this in the 1700′s. And I didn’t want to believe it for a long time. I wanted music to be technicality, style, and harmony (and of course that means, dueling guitar harmonies). But years later, I have to submit to the fact that music is, in fact, melody. Without melody, you have nothing but structure. But with melody, and countering melodies……that’s where the beauty comes from.

And with great melody, comes the transcendence of style. I believe that truly great melody shines through, no matter what style is being played. And to back up that belief, I have youtube videos. (By the way, you can back up any belief you have using the internet. Any belief. It’s wondrous.) But I’m curious if others feel the same. To me, the music is what I hear in each of these videos. The melody is transcending each of their different styles. It’s almost the same feeling from each song, just supported with a different style.

And there’s a lot of videos here. Sorry about that. But I really like music.

So first up (and guess what? It’s not U2!), is just a melody. I suppose, the purest form of music. Haunting song:

And then we’ll follow that right up with something with much more sound and many more instruments, but still keeping the melody out front where it should be:

From there, to a timeless tune. I was in an Irish pub one time (I have to put that in because those of you who know me, know I don’t drink…not for religious reasons, but for love of friends reasons…yet still, I go into every Irish pub I can for dinner, because Irish makes everything better…it’s like delay…and if you add Irish to delay, then the rejoicing is unsurpassed……wait, adding Irish to delay, that’s Edge! It’s all adding up now…), and this song came on. And literally, not even exaggerating here, 10 people from different tables, including myself, sang the first 5 words without even thinking about it. And then we all kind of laughed, and looked around at each other. Powerful melodies in this one. Not just the main melody, but the intertwining, supporting, and contrapuntal melodies as well (and it’s a little known fact, but I guess Richard Simmons indeed did play guitar for these guys):

Now let’s completely jump styles, but staying with the theme of intertwining melodies. This is one of those songs that you know, but have no idea why. Totally different style, but bringing out the same emotions and passions:

And to what, to my soul, sounds and feels like almost the exact same song. I could probably die to this:

Now this one…I could not die to this. I can usually not stand this style. But the melody is so incredibly catchy, for me this song truly does transcend its style:

So let’s bring that into something totally un-produced. And yet the melody still brings out the feelings and emotions, that really seem to support the life in the lyrics. I just love to raw nature of this:

And another one that transcends its style completely. There is a cheesy keyboard, and that guitar tone is definitely not the best (could be the VHS quality though, hehe…natural tremolo). But the melody he brings out is just from another world. Not to mention, this guy probably has some of the best sounding hands to ever touch a guitar:

So let’s add an electronica style to that. But again, the feelings are almost exactly the same. This is Michael Brook. I don’t even know what to call this style, but the melodies are just beautiful:

And then, not to leave worship music out of it. If every worship song was written with these types of feelings about the Lord in mind, not just in the lyrics, but in the music, too…I think the church could do a lot more with its music. Doesn’t matter the style, this melody is superb:

Alright, back to catchiness. As you’re listening to this, try to imagine writing the guitar part. If I had written that, I would have thrown it away without a second thought. But somehow, it became one of the catchiest melodies ever written. This song defies you to not keep the pulse with some part of your body:

A side note about that last tune; I think Jagger and Bono are long lost brothers or something. The uni-gender body stylings as they sing are ominously alike. But maybe that’s just to balance out the ‘ecstatic-ness’ of Charlie Watts. hehe But remember as you watch this next video, that the last one was the Rolling Stones. Okay? Because I’m about to throw in a bit of uni-gender speculation onto myself by showing this next one. But how do you not just dig this melody (and note the orange Divided by 13 the guitarist is using):

And since we’ve opened this box of metro-ness, let’s keep it open a little while longer, with a melody that seems almost as if it’s just existed since the beginning of time. Gotta mention this, because no one knows it, and they deserve some credit for this gorgeousness; composers are Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman. Arranged by Andy Beck:

Beautiful. Actual tears. Which means that the whole male thing is slipping further and further away. So I just have to show this. This is a complete divergence for me; but I love this band. They’re like, the U2 of metal. Haunting melodies that seem to come straight from a heart on a sleeve, and tons of beautiful, intricate, yet simplistic, ambient orchestration. I’m a man. (And if you get that reference, and you’re not my awesome wife, then wow!) Oh, and just ignore the ultra-cheese slow motion fire blasts:

And then to a song that brings out some of the same feelings as the last, ultra heavy one, in a completely different style. I would go to very great lengths to hear this done live. If your soul doesn’t ache after hearing this, then I hereby ban you from all Irishness. That may sound like an odd threat, but without Irish, you have no flutes, Braveheart, shepherd’s pie, Brad Pitt saying ‘Ya like diigs’, rain, or U2. Not much reason left to live now, is there. And the beautiful ache:

And to bring it back round to Bach here at the end, here’s the same feelings, different song. One of the most gorgeous and perfect melodies ever written (and yes, he is sitting on a picture of the ocean…sorry):

And of course, lastly, some of the most haunting and acheful (nope, not a word) intertwining melodies ever put into a piece of music. And yes, that does mean U2 ( ;) ):

I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that music like this doesn’t need any commentary from me. And of course, I’m going to go ahead and give it commentary anyway. Music is melody. Not style, not technicality. Melody and supporting melodies. And those melodies can be rhythmic, too. Anything with a beautiful, and soulful through line that conjures emotions. And I truly believe that melodies like that transcend all musical boundaries. I mean, if they can transcend Journey’s sense of style, Kelly Clarkson’s MTV-hormone-induced-I’m-embarrassed-for-the-American-culture, In Flames’ metal fire, and the guy riding the picture, then they should have no trouble transcending anything else.

Splendid.
Karl.

I Hate it When I'm Wrong

This is the cheesiest, most pretentious song ever written. Simplicity is great; but a boring, over-produced orchestration does nothing to help a melody, lyrics, and theme that I’ve literally heard note for note and word for word about six gazillion (yep, that’s right) times. Or maybe it’s just the trailer that this song is in, that I’ve seen about seven gazillion times now (no, seriously, I’ve been counting these things) of the worst actor ever (that means Eric Bana) trying desperately to internalize the deeply relatable emotion of time travel with the oh so powerful line, ‘I can’t stay’, that makes me hate this song so. But either way, this is the saddest thing you’ve ever heard (and if you don’t believe that, just look at his face as he sings…oh yes…project that sadness):

However (and some of you who are about to bite my head off with your sarcastic comments about my lack of record sales compared to Lifehouse, and how my guitar playing on youtube doesn’t sound much better {actually, I did get a comment to that effect the other day…it was awesome}, because you adore this song so much and he’s of course singing right to you, are going right now, ‘Ya, there better be a ‘However’!), according to youtube views of the official video for this song, 2,653,768 people are telling me that I am wrong. Now, my knee-jerk response is, ‘Well, it’s just the result of our post-art, elect-him-for-office-because-he-has-eyes-I-can-trust, ooh!-something-shiny, society.’ But 2,653,768 people? I mean, each one of us thinks we’re special, and there’s definitely a place for the lone idealists who take on the masses; but at what point do you look at yourself and go, ‘Hmm. One versus 2 million. Maybe there’s a slight, just a slight possibility, that I could be the one who’s wrong.’

Now I’m not saying I am. Oh no. Admit I’m wrong? Please. I’m the worship leader! I tell people what they like and don’t like. And if their styles don’t agree with mine……well, then, I guess we just haven’t taught them enough what worship truly is. Ya. Sounds really bad when it’s written down, huh. But you’d be surprised how many times I’ve heard that. Okay. Yikes. You’d be surprised how many times I’ve said that.

But here…for the sake of argument, let’s not say that we’re wrong, because I know that’s hard. It’s hard for me, too. Let’s say that we are right (or, that ‘I’ am right…those of you whose lives have been forever turned upside down by the majesty of the emotionality in this song, I don’t want to lump you in with myself in hating this song by using the word ‘we’), and that the 2,653,768 (probably more by now) are wrong. Let’s just ignore the fact that even though cookie-cutter songs that have been recycled for 15 years are totally boring, somehow they are obviously reaching people. And I’ll go ahead and ignore too, the fact that for years now, that pseudo-country/southern rock/rockabilly/backhome America storytellin’ thing has consistently driven people to tears, and absorbed their lives. And I’ll ignore the fact that maybe my style preferences aren’t actually listed in the Bible. (Believe me, I’ve looked. No U2, no Fleet Foxes, no Mum…I did find some Peter Gabriel, but I kinda had to cut and paste a couple different parts together out of context, and believe it or not, that kind of thing is still looked down upon in some churches.) And after ignoring all these things, let’s just say that we’re right. But even then…even if we are right, and the rest of the world is wrong. Shouldn’t we be serving them? Shouldn’t we be using everything at our disposal to try to reach them? Now I’m not talking about the words of Jesus here. Yes, teach people those. Don’t change those. I’m talking about matters of preference! Styles of music! If 75% of the people at your church are listening to Lifehouse, maybe we should do a worship song in that style every once in a while.

gospel axe
(Or maybe it’s just that when we think of ‘Christian’ and ‘country’, we get images like this in our mind. I know I’ve used this picture before, but it never gets old. Because the guy in the helmet really has an axe.)

Should we change who we are? Should we dread leading worship because we hate the music? No. But maybe…just maybe…we should take a look at what is reaching people, and step outside our own selfishness for just a bit. Myself included. Play tons of Lifehouse? Nope. Not gonna happen. I still can’t stand that song. But I’m open to the possibility that I could be wrong about it, and that a style or a program or a way of doing church, might not be my personal preference. But believe it or not, there’s a difference sometimes between our preferences, and between what it right and wrong. Shocker, I know. But leading worship has never really been about us. Playing a style every once in a while that we don’t like, because the congregation can just totally (for whatever reason, hehe) connect with God because of it? Ya. I think that’s okay. I think that’s truly loving people, and love is the ultimate ideal. I can go back to being an idealist the next morning, when I turn on the radio and hear the latest Nickelback/Three Days Grace/Jeremy Camp/Foo Fighters/Seether/Lifehouse/Pearl Jam/Kutless/3 Doors Down single (there’s a crazy conspiracy out there that those are all actually in fact the same band), and I can make fun of it to my heart’s content, and pacify my feelings of jealousy that they’re on the radio and I’m not, with numbing thoughts of the culture-less lemmings of society, and how their minds are now just too dumbed down to appreciate my more ‘enlightened’ forms of art. Like Spinal Tap.

And perhaps? Taking it a step further and considering the fact that I just might be wrong, maybe like the 2,653,768-versus-1 numbers seem to imply? Eh……no. To quote Al Pacino (and just a little life tip here…any time you have the chance to quote Al Pacino, do it……it never disappoints……well, maybe the people you quote him to, but certainly not yourself), too big a leap right now. I’ll save admitting that I’m wrong for another day. A dark day. ;)

Oh, and just for the record, no…our pastor did not ask us to do this song this weekend, and I did not write this post just to try to justify having to play the cheesiest (remember, I admitted that I could be wrong! Stop throwing things!) song ever.

Splendid.
Karl.

P.S. Apologies for the lack of practical posts lately. Lots of musings instead. hehe I’m taking a slight break from gear demos and shootouts while I re-record all the ambient pads I use, and try to make them available as mp3 downloads for you guys. Hopefully soon!

Perspective

Every once in a while I like to run sound. And every once in a while, I like to run tech. And every lots of times in a while, I like to play guitar in worship, without leading. It just lends such perfect (although at times, unfortunate) perspective. ‘What do you mean there’s no sheet music?’ Oh. Wait. Did that this morning. ‘You mean I spent two hours learning this entire ‘epic’ (can we please not use that word anymore) 15 minute Hillsong live version, and now we’re cutting it because you don’t have ‘a peace’ about it? (Isn’t it interesting how many times a worship leader ‘not having a peace’ about a song, is directly related to their also ‘not having taken the time to learn the lyrics’ of a song, too? Right…I got ya…there’s a trembling in the spirit, no peace in your heart, a disturbance in the force, the pontificate of music…that’s Edge…oops…letting fantasies creep in here again…came to you in a dream and told you not to play it, ya we get it. You forgot the lyrics.) Oh. Right. I did that last Sunday to my team, too. Perspective is important.

Although to quote (not entirely) Spinal Tap at Elvis’ grave, sometimes you can have too much perspective. And usually that comes from running sound and tech. I like to do this every six months or so at special events at my church, with just the title of, ‘Hi. I’ll be taking care of you this morning.’ Perspective. Whoa. Tech people? Sound guys? You have all my love. Not sure if you wanted all my love, but you got it anyway. How do you guys deal every day with missing a slide change, because eleventy people have been coming back from the audience to the tech room, each with their own unique and not so subtle perspective on your ear for sound and your eye for lighting, and then having the speaker make a joke at your expense (and usually a pretty funny one, too…guest speakers at these special events are usually best-selling authors, and they have a way with words, I’ll give them that :) ), and then the whole audience laughs…meanwhile, you’re still trying to explain to a member of the audience (as they’re laughing at the missed slide joke, by the way), that wouldn’t it perhaps be a little bit distracting to bring the scissor lift in behind the speaker to change the one blue bulb that’s burnt out?

Tech teams, sound guys, and especially my tech teams, and my sound guys, I salute you. And not just in a, ‘Okay, I conceded that your job is difficult too, now…will you route more reverb into the keyboardist’s monitor…ya…just on my voice…no, I don’t care if he doesn’t want it, it creates a nice ambience to my ears as I sing and it wofts over to my side of the stage.’ Not just in that way. Many times, our sound techs and tech teams are the most talented and level-headed ones out there, with the best ears. So then we stick you behind the sound board and abuse you. Wait…is the level of abuse directly related to why my monitor seems to get quieter and quieter as the service goes on and I keep giving you high signs on how to change the front of house sound from my perfect sonic position behind the house speakers? Oh. I get it.

Splendid.
Karl.

Electric Guitar Rig Tone

We’ve come to the end. The tone series is over. There have been 2 effects articles, 6 amp articles, and 4 guitar articles. That’s 12 articles on tone. (Not sure why I had to add them up like that…maybe just in case the math was giving you trouble.) So if you can’t get good tone after all that, then the only thing left to do is to buy more gear. Better gear! Which, incidentally, happens to be very fun.

But if you just can’t bring yourself to buy more gear…if you just know that there’s good tone hiding somewhere in your rig…and you know that not even the purchase of a 3 Monkeys amp with a BJFe Honey Bee hitting the front end is going to give you tone that you dig any better (and I was almost going to say a Digitech Bad Monkey hitting the front end of a 3 Monkeys amp, so that then I could make fun of a movie with a lot of monkeys, like Congo…but then I realized that I don’t really like the Digitech Bad Monkey…which made me sad, because Congo is a horrible movie, and just begging to be made fun of…hey, if they weren’t begging to be made fun of, they wouldn’t have put Tim Curry in it…but then I also realized, ‘Hey! It’s my blog! I can make fun of Congo even without mentioning the Digitech Bad Monkey……and I’m so gonna………and all that was just in case you were curious as to the origins of some of these interminably bad movie references in my posts…which I realize you weren’t…but I really, really want to make fun of Congo!), then…well, first off, if you don’t want to buy any more gear, you’re in the state of mind that we ‘true’ musicians like to call…uh…’wrong.’ Tone comes from ebay, not from practice. But if you’re one of those ‘wrong’ and weird musicians who think that you can have good tone for less than a $50,000 Dumble ( ;) ), that’s going to be where the following tips come in. These are the ones that didn’t really fit in any of the other 12 articles on rig tone. But they can really, really help you get some good tone without having to spend a ton more money.

congo1
(Yes, these are the special effects in Congo. And yes, that’s a guy in a suit. And no, it was actually made in 1995, not 1938. I know.)

Rig Tone Secret #1: Get your amp off of the ground.

Here’s the thing. We guitarists always seem to eq our amps while standing right above them. I know, that’s the path of least resistance from our hands to the knobs. However, treble frequencies focus, and bass frequencies roll. So, standing directly above your amp, things are going to sound much more bassy, middy, and muddy. So we guitarists are famous for then cranking our treble to where it sounds balanced from our vantage point of being right above our rig. And then we walk to our pedalboard about 2 feet away, and play the whole set with our ears about 4 feet above, and 2 feet away from our rig, sending out what to our ears is tumbling waves of aural lusciousness. The problem is, of course, that one, our audience is much farther away from the amp than we are; and two, we’re not mic’ing the amp where our ear is when we eq it. We’re mic’ing it right on the speaker cone. Ya. Not so much lusciousness. This is probably the main reason why, when we hear a recording of our guitar live, it sounds so thin and weak. Or why the audience or congregation says the electric guitar hurts their ears. Because it does! We’re off in our rolled off treble bliss high above the amp, while the mic and the audience is getting the true harmonic spectrum from the speaker…which amounts usually to getting punched in the eye socket with treble.

So one of the huge factors in getting a good live tone, is to actually bend over (I know…that means more work) and put your ear to the speaker as you’re eq’ing your amp. However, when you play, now in order for you tone to sound good to everyone else, it has to sound terrible and muddy to you, as you stand over it. There are two things you can do here. One, is to stand at least 8 feet from the amp. That’s the distance at which you start to get almost the full spectrum of the speaker’s harmonics. But sometimes on small stages that’s impossible. So you can also raise the amp us closer to your ears, or tilt it up towards your ears. Personally, I have a two foot high rack case that I bring with me everywhere I go to set my amp on top of. I cannot tell you how much of a difference this has made in my live sound.

Honestly, this is huge. Next time you play, eq your amp while standing over it. Then bend down and put your ear to the amp. You’ll be amazed how different it sounds. Another fun experiment is to walk around while you’re playing. Totally different sounds depending on where you’re standing. So, it might sound kind of stupid, but stacking your amp on something, making sure you stand a few feet away from it, and making sure you stand close to the ‘beam’ of the speaker’s path, is crucial in eq’ing your sound for what the audience and mic will hear.

congo2
(Yep. More special effects. Yes, the good guys have lasers. No, this is not set in the future. Sadness. Obviously, they tried to fill a lack of plot with searing the flesh off of monkeys…with lasers. You’ll never guess what they came up with to fill the lack of special effects budget, though.)

congo-795290
(Yep. Heart. When the movie’s not grilling guys in monkey suits with lasers that have yet to be invented, it’s tugging on your heart strings with another guy in a monkey suit…who maybe…just maybe, is filling the hole in this guy’s broken life that his failing marriage can’t. This is the same movie as the other pictures. I’m not even kidding.)

Rig Tone Secret #2: Power.

As I mentioned in the last post, electric guitars tend to sound better with…ya, electricity. I know, I know. Don’t skip this one yet, there’s more. I’m not expecting anyone to go, ‘Oh! That’s why my tone’s been sucking. I gotta plug the amp in!’ But that’s the concept. These pieces of electronic equipment need electricity…and they need enough electricity. You ever have those times when it’s like, your rig sounded great yesterday, but not today? Of course that can be strings getting older, or ear fatigue, or what have you; but a good portion of the time, that can be from your rig not getting enough power. So you’ve set your whole rig to sound great in your house where it’s drawing a steady 120 volts. But then you go to a gig, ad the place is only supplying you with 105 volts. Now your sound is browner and saggier. So you re-eq everything. But then the club owner turns on the cappuccino machine. Now you’ve got 102 volts. All that to say that in order for your rig to sound consistent, you’ve got to supply it with consistent power. Getting a power conditioner in your rig is crucial. This was one of the biggest changes I heard in my day to day live sound. Plus, it also gives you cleaner power, for less noise.

Also, make sure that your power supplies are rated properly. I used to constantly have this huge sag in my tone. No punch. So then to fix it, I’d buy another amp or a louder amp. But the problem was, I was running everything off of a 3 dollar 99 Cent Store power strip rated for like, 5.3 amps. So adding amps or getting higher powered stuff, was just causing everything to get even less power. So check your extension cords, power supplies, surge protectors, all that stuff. Read the amps they’re rated for, and add them up. A new Two Rock isn’t gonna do you much good if it wants 3 amps, and your power supply can only spare it 1.5.

congocurry
(This is Tim Curry’s plotting face.)

Rig Tone Secret #3: Don’t freak out if there’s another guitarist.

I definitely didn’t write that correctly. But here’s the thing. A ton of times I’ve freaked out because my tone sounds horrible. And I’ve gone through and changed everything. But if there’s another guitarist playing live with you, make sure you listen to your tone when he’s not playing, before you freak out and change everything. So many times it’s the mix of the two electrics that doesn’t sound the way you want it…not your tone. And 9 times out of 10, that is best fixed with figuring out what his base tone sounds like, whether or not you like it, and figuring out what tones, frequencies, and octaves compliment what he is playing. A Tele through an Orange and a 335 through a Marshall can sound great together. But not in the same register. Sweet mercy, please not in the same register.

Rig Tone Secret #4: Tubes and delay. And that is all you ever need know.

So that just about wraps up this 13 part series on rig tone. And in the spirit of consolidation (wow, that phrase just sounds boring!), here are the links to each part of this series:

But this is not the end. The moment we stop experiencing life and learning new things about it (and remember, the most correct definition of life is ‘music’), is the moment that I’d probably care to stop living. So I’m hoping to learn more things about tone that’ll add on to this series. And more than likely, those ‘learnings’ will come from mistakes. And for some reason, in my case, they always seem to be huge mistakes. Like when I tried to run an amp as auxiliary power from the speaker jack of another amp. And now I know.

Splendid.
Karl.