|The Rob Mabry Memorial Jam
November 22, 2008
Make sure you check out all of the videos. There is some great music. Special thanks to Dave Boils for having the foresight to video the show, and the motivation to post it all on YouTube!
Overall it was pretty killer…even if I was playing guitar. For the "emo guys" out there, be advised that we didn’t stand there and stare at our shoes. We were moving around and rocking because we believe that a performance art like loud rock is also about visual impact. What we really found is that we all really miss Rob.
2. James Crawford, who played in Sons of Oedipus, thought that it was cool that three of the guitar players playing – Chad, James, and me – lived on the same street when we were kids. It is incredible, and it shows the goodness of small towns. All of us have had connections through the years, and it is a shame that we don’t get together more. We did share one thing – love of guitar and music. One of my friends said that if he were a teenager today, he wouldn’t be a guitar player….he would play video games. I hope that is not true.
3. I recently bought sort of my dream guitar – a tobacco sunburst mid-70s Les Paul Standard with Dimarzio pickups. Why? That one is easy: Ace Frehley of KISS was playing one at the first concert I ever saw when I was in ninth grade. I always wanted one (familiar?), and I finally found the rig I was looking for by accident. It is ten pounds of rock and roll and is in excellent shape and has a great set of ancient Dimarzio PAFs installed. I also brought along one of my custom alder “GS” guitars and my old SG. My amp, an old 50-watt Marshall, is in storage and I couldn’t get it out and have it serviced before the jam. Chad told me not to worry about it and that he would bring an amp for me.
Here is the "Dude!" story on the amplifier. To review, "Dude!" is kind of like serendipity. It is the effect by which one accidentally discovers something fortunate and the only possible response is "Dude!". Anyway, on the way to the jam I stopped and saw my friend Ken at KK’s Music in Manchester, Tennessee. While showing him my Les Paul Standard, we looked at some of the amps in his shop. We had a discussion about Marshalls and a used PowerBrake attenuator he had. The PowerBrake is a “master volume” that connects between an amp and the speaker cabinet. It allows you to crank a tube amp for the tone benefits and control the volume. After Ken and I talked guitars and amps we went to lunch at Jiffy Burger. After a great cheeseburger I headed toward Cookeville.
Dude!, Part 1: I was about three minutes out of Manchester and I phoned Chad. He said, “Man, I’ve got the amp, but I don’t have a PowerBrake for it. I think it will be OK, but it is really going to be loud.” I told him that I could get a PowerBrake. I hung-up and immediately called Ken. He said I could borrow the PowerBrake and a couple of cables. I turned around and returned to the store. A life-saver!
Dude!, Part 2: I have an Army .50 cal ammo can that I carry with me when I play. My Dad, a retired Army officer, got it for me back when I was in junior high school. It is one of those green, heavy-duty boxes with a hinged top and a flip latch. I have all kinds of guitar-related stuff in that box ranging from screw-drivers to a soldering iron. It is also covered with vintage Dimarzio and Morley stickers, and even an old WLAC sticker from back when AM stations played music! When I arrived at the club on Saturday, I looked over the 100-watt Marshall sitting proudly on stage. I walked behind it and found that there was no impedance plug. This is a plug which allows the user to set output at 4, 8, or 16-ohms, and the amp won’t work without it. I asked Chad for the plug, and he said he didn’t know what I was talking about – he is a young guy! I remembered that I had carried an extra plug for my ’73 Marshall 50-watt head in my ammo can when I was playing actively from 1979 to 1984, and I immediately started digging. Unbelievably, the plug was still in there, and it worked perfectly with the old Marshall.
Once I got the Marshall fired-up, I plugged in my Les Paul Standard and hit a huge “A” chord. All I can say is that it sounded like….Victory! I used almost no effects during the night. I rolled down the volume on the Les Paul, and went to 10 on solos. It sounded so good I didn’t miss all of those pedals. As I’ve been known to say, “Show me a guitarist with a lot of pedals, and I’ll show you a player who is dissatisfied with the way his amp sounds.” It is incredible how great a Marshall sounds in a bigger room. They are so much more open than when they are cramped. I also invite you to check out the "Brown Sound" of the alder GS with an AttackBucker installed in the bridge on "You Really Got Me". It really sounded excellent (IMHO) on the Van Halen tunes.
At this point I decided to relax, continue to honor Rob, get my guitars in tune, and prepare to rock.
I contacted Ronnie Reels concerning the "Brown Sound" here is part of his response:
Thanks for the kind words. I love doing sound probably as much as you love playing guitars. I wouldn't have missed this night for anything. I was just glad I could be part of it. I sure thought a lot of Rob and was great to see all of you once again. The tone......that was all you! I just amplify was is given to me. It makes me sad when I do shows with all these younger bands of today. Rarely does anyone have a good tone. They don't care and they don't even seem to know equipment or how to extract it from their equipment. It was funny to hear that Marshall up there hissing and growling all night. It was soooo noisy. You can hear it well even on the videos. I had to turn off the mic in between each song it was so noisy. I had used a simple Sennheiser E609 mic pointed about an inch away and halfway out from center of cone to edge of speaker. No processing. Best I remember channel eq was even flat with maybe a -2db cut at 4K hz.
4. I forgot about how long it takes to sit up and tear down all of that gear. We met at the club at 3 pm and Ronnie Reels, the PA Guru, had the PA set and was preparing to set mics. Chad Selby had amps setup, and Craig Deloach had his drums set. We still had a lot of amps to setup and check. The reality of the situation presented itself at about 12:30am when we finished playing and had to pack all of the gear. This was the part I had forgotten about in my romantic musings of “wanting to go back on the road.”
5. Email is not a particularly good collaboration tool, but it worked out for us “digital immigrants”. I work Knowledge Management (KM) in my day job, and it is incredible how email has taken over our lives in so many ways. Most companies launched email systems with no business rules or concept of how it would be used, and it just developed in a bizarre, organic way. We are suffering now because it has taken over for personal contact (telephone, face to face) and it tends to be stovepiped – point-to-point. We in Shadowfaxx determined our initial setlist by a number of email trails. Interestingly, we didn’t get it straight until we met up at the club, and that only took a few minutes. The initial email work set the groundwork, but it did take the ftf to finalize it. I probably should have used a wiki.
6. I was tired but I went anyway. I don’t like excuses. I drove my ten hours in a day in a half, and it was well worth it. I hope that somebody does it for me. We’ll have plenty of time to sleep one of these days.
In the final analysis, I am sure that Rob would have loved this memorial. We all sure did. Take some time to play some music with your friends.
Here is my goal – do this annually…kind of like the 1st Infantry Division WWI vets who met annually at the Waldorf Astoria. They met and invited young Soldiers to participate to see the traditions and camaraderie. Hopefully we can pass our love of music on to a new generation. Let's plan it for Veteran's Day!
ROCK ON, ROB!