Everyone's a V.I.P. at the Guitar Center Village
On the grounds of the largest state fair in the United States, all ages and genres of guitar aficionados; international representatives from musical equipment, telecommunications, and entertainment sponsors; artists, their families, and crew; actor friends of musicians; and some 40 multimedia folk- converged in Fair Park for the Crossroads Guitar Festival. Whether you wore a credentialed pass or carried a vintage guitar for trade or autographing, the common bond was to be part of this historical event.
In the large warehouse-sized building that sometimes houses automobile shows, the Vintage Guitar Showcase was sponsored by The Dallas Guitar Show. One of the major event sponsors, Guitar Center, and other vendors displayed vintage, unique, and new instruments; hardware- like a Fender strat pickguard for autographs- equipment; and even some Texas-style attire. Before I arrived, a "sold" tag was attached to one of Pete Townshend's 1966 Gibson SGs. The owner encouraged me to pick it up and pose, creating a feeling that I was important- I chose to only imagine doing windmills and sliding across the floor on my knees.
There were guitars autographed by members of Metallica, George Lynch, and others- all with credentialed affidavits attesting to their authenticity. As I wandered by one stand of axes, I curiously felt as if time travel had placed me at a car show! I had seen that paint scheme on a sportscar. As I rubbed my eyes in disbelief, the vendor explained that the Cobra Shelby guitars were in fact exact replica paint schemes of the vintage automobiles.
Vintage Guitar Magazine had its Volume 18, #08, "Special Slowhand Issue" available for participants as a collectible. The front page photo of Eric playing "Blackie" is now a part of history since the prized guitar netted a record price at Christie's June 24th auction.
Across the Esplanade, which usually displays beautiful fountains surrounded by gardens and 50 foot stone sculptures, was Centennial Hall. For the "Main Stage" outdoor concert experience on Saturday and Sunday, the fountains were drained and the statues protected by scaffolding which encased them.
In one "gated" section of the building, everyone could be in awe of the famous guitars - caressed by Eric, Steve Vai, Pete Townshend, and others- in an international mini-museum of guitar gods. This one-time showing would culminate in the major, international auction by Christie's in New York City adding more funds to the Crossroads Centre Antigua. (This experience was reminiscent of the gallery of precious art brought in from around the world for the historical display at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.)
On Saturday afternoon, a videotape of each guitar's background was filmed "live and on site" while the museum was open to the "very important public." Chris Corbett, a blues guitar aficionado who had flown in all the way from Costa Mesa, politely became a reliable source for the gentleman from Christie's telling of BB King's signature Gibson, "Lucille." Or, is it an urban legend of a bar brawl over a woman, subsequent fire, and rescue of a treasured guitar?
The other two thirds of the Hall housed an awesome interactive indoor festival which required many visits to fully witness the experience. Ernie Ball, with a full sized bow of a pirate-type ship, and Cirius, with its fifty foot inflated and illuminated dog logo, sponsored two large stage areas for sometimes concurrent concerts and clinics. Fender Guitars, celebrating the golden anniversary of its Stratocaster, had a specially painted Jeep and an enormous guitar suspended from the ceiling (rivaling the blue whale in DC's Natural History Museum!) along with their other floor space.
The Hard Rock Cafe, celebrating its silver anniversary, had a fifty foot trailer decorated outside with two gorgeous murals and inside with Hard Rock memorabilia. The proceeds from the T-shirts commemorating Clapton's influence on the Hard Rock's heritage contributed to the Crossroads Foundation, also. Hard Rocks around the world each have their own logo on the front with the Clapton cursive, handwritten quote and signature on the back surrounding a blue and gold sunface. Of the caliber of another urban legend, is the story of Pete Townshend following Clapton's lead ....
Only one style each of the event's commemorative items: T-shirt, program, poster, ballcap, keychain, or flashing guitar pin - were for sale. These items were simply titled with no long list of artists.
Except for the restriction on cameras for anyone not possessing the coveted laminate passes, all participants were an integral part of the Crossroads Guitar Center VILLAGE. We stood shoulder to shoulder with artists, sponsors, fans, and musicians - those already noteworthy, those aspiring, and those content to air guitar- while witnessing Clapton's dream of collecting such a group being realized!
On the Cirius Stage with Paul Reed Smith Building a Perfect Pickup while John Cruz Rebuilds SRV's "Number One"
To the international music community, Paul Reed Smith is well-known for developing the perfect instrument for Carlos Santana. Those who attended Santana's June, 2003 concert at Nissan Pavilion were treated to Maryland-based Smith and Santana performing together on stage and could sense the bond between them.
Others who endorse PRS hand-crafted guitars include: Joe Walsh, Pete Loeffler of Chevelle, Todd Harrell and Chris Henderson of 3 Doors Down, Dan Donegan of Disturbed, Dave Navarro of Jane's Addiction, and Marcos Curiel of P.O.D. These ax-men each had a glossy, 11x15 poster available for the treasuring at the Paul Reed Smith Guitar's sponsor table. I believe that, in part due to the fact that there just a small percentage of metal and new rock guitar gods aficionados present at the festival, Joe Walsh's posters were scoffed up in just a short time.
Yet, now Paul Reed Smith has become part of history with his opening of the guitar clinics at the Crossroads Guitar Festival. Smith is a gregarious person and has a storyteller repertoire, none more enlightening than how Santana wound up with the "perfect" Paul Reed Smith guitar, with its pick-ups just right. Unlike most of the clinic presenters over the weekend, Smith did more speaking than playing.
This is logical, considering that it is his creation not his performance which is acclaimed. Several hundred people were mesmerized by Smith's words and afterwards, Smith's assistant's designated "last in line" kept squeezing in just one more person who wished to shake the hand of the master craftsman..
While Paul Reed Smith was speaking about his craft, John Cruz was hard at work, actually performing his craft- building a Stevie Ray Vaughan "Number One" guitar. He and fellow master guitar builder, Todd Krause, were part of Fender's exhibit area during the whole festival. Village goers were not allowed to touch the original SRV #1 on display, but at the asking, John reverently presented it and posed with the precious tool of the legendary Stevie Ray. With his tools and workshop set up along side John's, Todd Krause showed how Clapton's signature Fenders are created. This integral part of the festival added one more facet to the diversity and wide range of experiences for the participants.
At several stations spread around the hall's massive area, "wannabe" musicians were able to electrify their "air guitar" ambitions, plug bass notes into and out of speakers set at six, or alight sticks to cymbals and drums, not just dashboards, knees, tables, or desks. Many were talented and attracted an audience for their moments of fame; a few probably had never heard their talent live and will probably remain air players. However, they all were able to say that they were part of Eric Clapton's Crossroads Guitar Festival.
OHM: Chris Poland, Robbie Pagliari, and Kofi Baker - Rock the Opening Night
OHM is a fascinating and appropriate name for a band, kind of like Tesla is. And, this power trio certainly intrigues and rocks the house as well, sporting their moniker's definition of the measure of electrical and acoustical resistance.
Chris Poland was one of the first members of Megadeth in 1985 and is a talented lead guitarist who has continued to enhance his playing to earn a berth at Crossroads. Sporting a red ball cap worn hiphop style, he deftly maneuvered the maze of the fingerboards of his Yamaha guitars. He is the band's leader, conductor, and effectively lead us on a field trip through his original work. One can tell that he maintains his commitment to playing good music.
Also sporting a Yamaha, Robbie Pagliari confidently fulfills his role as bassist for OHM. His licks are smooth and passionate, as if he were playing lead, but flowing with Chris' guitar riffs in a fugue as opposed to a duet. Playing a fretless bass earns him even more kudos from this violinist/reviewer because I believe he is on his way to join the Jack Bruce school of talent.
Kofi Baker- did you know that you knew his dad? Yes, he's Ginger's son; yes, he plays drums, too. In his own right, Kofi is sturdy, talented, and tall (adjectives listed alphabetically for effect). His supporting role as the backbone of the group is shared by his solo roles which heighten OHM's rocking sound. He is well on his way to heralding his way in the annals of great musicians and their offspring. And, he's definitely not here simply because of his name; his talent will earn him a rank with the likes of Zack Starkey and Jason Bonham, to name a few.
As a scientist, I cannot help but allude once more to OHM's name and its significance as derived from Ohm's law- 1. the strength or intensity of an electrical current is directly proportional to the electromotive force... and, 2. in acoustics, the ear in perceiving a complex sound receives not a sensation of a single sound but sensations of the separate components of the complex wave. Set the volume to eleven and feel the band's three individual's synergistic effect, a power which is pleasing to our ears! Thank you for indulging me this teachable moment- I'm sure that Chris Poland considered it at his band's inception.
OHM's genre is versatile- I heard and felt metal, 60s rock, blues, and new rock. Their hour long performance from 5:45 until 6:45 p.m. was applauded by the hundreds of diverse folk who had swelled to the Cirius stage. At 7:15, after packing up their own equipment, they rested and warmly spoke with each and every of the over one hundred people at their Yamaha-sponsored meet and greet.
Laurence Juber, Doyle Dykes & Peter Huttlinger: Plugging Us into the Power of the Acoustic Guitar
On the Ernie Ball stage, Friday evening at 7, three amazing talents enabled many exclusively electric guitar aficionados to experience the power of an acoustic guitar. This is an awareness that most electric guitarists already know whether they began with classical training or had to control the volume of their axing in their rooms, basements, or garages. Sound reverberating through the acoustical heaven of a wooden container has flowed to the ears of humanity for millennia.
Laurence Juber was first to take the stage as yet another British guitarist I would meet in June that had been part of McCartney's Wings. Laurence plays a Martin guitar and has been honored with their signature model dubbed the "LJ". His website outlines his many accomplishments and I was equally impressed with his acoustic prowess. He sat on a stool on stage and played wonderfully, while offering ideas for the clinic style of which he was part. He encouraged questions from the audience and was a great speaker as well.
Doyle Dykes, sporting an "Artist" laminate, was the first "celebrity" I met. As he toured the Vintage Guitar Showcase with his son earlier Friday afternoon, he embodied the feeling that Eric Clapton dreamed of, one of artists, sponsors, and audience coming together. As a minister and guitarist, Doyle's performance embodied the spiritual aspect of guitar music.
There is an intense yet gentle calmness when witnessing his playing. The crowd was mesmerized and surprisingly quiet, the group in front sitting on the floor in front of the stage; the rest of us standing in clusters, making room as if in church pews for each newcomer who joined the congregation. For part of the performance, a beautifully voiced woman accompanied him.
Doyle endorses Kirk Taylor's creation of Sand Classical's Electric guitar just for him- the Doyle Dykes model, created out of mahogany with abalone trim. When I shared my impression of Doyle Dykes' performance with someone who had not heard him play yet, this person was initially concerned that he had missed Doyle Brumhall II, from Clapton's band. He has since added Doyle Dykes to his favorite guitarists named Doyle! After his Friday performance, I spoke with Pastor Dykes, and shared with him the quip about him becoming another Doyle to play with Clapton. He smiled humbly, responding that he wasn't worthy of that honor; to which I reply- maybe not this time.
Peter Huttlinger also impressed the audience with his acoustic virtuosity, especially when all three guitarists performed songs together. I was unable to witness firsthand Peter's solo set because of concurrent events taking place on the other side of the Hall. For Peter's, Laurence's, and Doyle's trio jam, they each were highlighted and shared the spotlight favorably in what was probably a first time occurrence of them playing together. But, as is the case with most grassroots guitarists, they are familiar with the traditional riffs for joint playing and defer to each others talents for solos, gracefully. This jam session was the first of many over the weekend.
Living Legends Duke Robillard, Robert Lockwood Jr. & Honeyboy Edwards Share the Stage and the Roots of the Blues
Our first clue to being in the presence of legends was the much larger crowd of V.I.P.s at the stage left area, which relocated the media folk to join the audience. The second clue was the large crowd which had gathered at the Cirius stage awaiting the blues clinic. Already possessing their status as legends, Duke Robillard, Robert Lockwood Jr., and Honeyboy Edwards transported us to the roots of Delta blues and their mentors with songs and anecdotes of Big Joe Williams, Robert Johnson, and Muddy Waters, to name a few.
Each guitarist spoke to the audience, with Duke acting as an emcee of sorts. Duke's presentation included many stories which would help to provide the younger members of the audience with a background of the blues, from which many of our past and present day stars found their roots and then were able to sprout on their own. This is such an important factor in educating today's youth about the background of their pop icons.
Honeyboy Edwards was assisted to the stage setting, but demonstrated no ailing when it was time for playing and singing. He happily shared his stories of the blues, enlightening all of us with a reverence for the times in which he grew up and the musicians with whom he traveled. He truly enjoys singing the blues, as oxymoronic as that sounds! Robert Lockwood's excellent website and his performance definitely demonstrated his eagerness to keep the roots of the blues alive and vibrant.
The clinic turned concert jam session lasted longer than scheduled, to no one's regrets. I'm sure all three gentleman would have played hours more, judging by the obvious fun they were having on stage. The audience begged for more and slowly disbanded, having reverently witnessed an historical event.
It would be awesome to be able to recreate not only this performance's value but the whole festival's clinics and jams into a classroom setting for K-12 music classes. The young folk who were provided with the awesome lifetime experience of being part of the Crossroads "Village" will be forever enlightened, just as I was growing up with parents and teachers who instilled in me an appreciation of the diversity of music and the arts.
As I rode in the airport shuttle bus to the rental car hub at Dallas/Fort Worth International, I sat across from a ten-year old boy and his mom. He wore a Santana shirt which prompted me to ask if they were headed to the festival. He proudly said, "Yes, my mom's taking me. I've already been to several concerts." His mom then shared her fondest, but bittersweet memory- watching Stevie Ray Vaughan board the helicopter in August of 1990 after her first and only SRV concert.
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Gods & guitar worshipers mingle
The Crossroads Guitar Festival is the place to be the first weekend in June
by Susan Bardenhagen