Three Days of, it's not Bonnaroo

Or, drink plenty of water and prepare for a guitar barrage!

One of the challenges of living in the Nashville, Tennessee area is something that I call “Music Fatigue”. Music Fatigue is a condition that comes from being surrounded by so much music that it becomes difficult to figure out who to go see play at any given moment. Walk down Broadway during the day and you’ll see what I mean. About ten bars with live music going, every day and night! Throw in the bars and rooms around town with live music every night, and top it off with the big touring acts at Bridgestone Arena, and you find yourself having to pick and choose what you really want to hear. Pick up the weekly Nashville Scene and magazine; it is incredible the diversity and quantity of the music available in the Nashville area. Bottom Line: You just can’t take it all in.

The last weekend in April 2012 wound up providing me a case of fatigue from listening to and playing music! This is how it went down, and some lessons learned.

Thursday, 26 April 2012:  Big Jam in Manchester, Tennessee

My friend Ken, proprietor of KK’s Loans, Music, and Jewelry in Manchester and Tullahoma, Tennessee, decided to get his monthly jam going again. His stores, located about halfway between Nashville and Chattanooga, Tennessee on Interstate 24, have been going strong for 25 years and have been longtime hangouts for local musicians.

After work on Thursday I drove to Manchester and met up with Ken as they were prepping to load-in at the 41 South Sports Bar on Hillsboro Boulevard in Manchester. We grabbed lunch with Ken’s dad, KK at a local restaurant and talked about the old days, politics, the future of guitar, future of music, and Middle Eastern food. A great meal and lots of tall tales and laughing. KK is a World War II vet and is full of stories and good advice. I hope Facebook doesn’t prevent us from simply “talking” in the future!

After several truck changes, “what are we going to take” conversations, and some general laziness, we got to the club and started setup. Ken and Danny, his main man with sound systems, quickly got the PA going and everything setup. It is interesting to watch them work – all business.

I was fortunate to have a Mesa Boogie Dual Rectifier Road King combo to play through. A few warnings on this rig. First, if you wear glasses or your vision is not 20/20, make sure you have your glasses when you get this rig ready to play. The huge number of switch positions on the back make magnification mandatory! Second, you have four tone presets on the amp – take some time to get four different tones, and again, make sure you have your glasses. Third, don’t take this amp to a gig without having time to play with it at home first. Fourth, if you play through one, you will want one. Don’t even try to claim you don’t. It is awesome, and it will suck you in. You cannot resist.

We played through a couple of songs, got the drum levels set, and headed to Ken’s to get ready for the big show. There was a big discussion about the size, quality, and “loudness” of the guitar amps available. I told the dudes that if someone needed more volume than that available with the Mesa Boogie, they probably were not welcome at the jam!

We arrived at the bar around 7 PM and it was already pretty full. Lots of folks in there, and there were a ton of musicians milling around, both young and old. The music ranged from a young, Taylor Swift-singing teenaged girl to some full-on, 80s hair metal. We were there until after midnight, and there was tons of great music. Yes, we had a great time.  Thanks to Ken, Danny, and the KKs team for keeping the music alive.

Lessons Learned: 1) Go out and enjoy playing live music; 2) Don’t get too hung up on the gear you are playing through – wring everything you can out of what you’ve got; 3) There are tons of great musicians out there, but you have to do something to flush them out; and 4) Loading equipment at 2 am is tough no matter how old you are..

The next morning I got up, had a cup of coffee with Ken, and headed home to prepare for the next musical engagement.

Friday, 27 April 2012: Van Halen, Bridgestone Arena, Nashville, Tennessee

On Friday, the GuitarAttack Crew rolled into Nashville and saw Van Halen on their “Different Kind of Truth” Tour at Bridgestone Arena.

We had seen Van Halen before and there was concern about whether or not this show would be worth the incredible amount of money we had to spend for the seats. The first show was July 27th, 1982, with After the Fire in Municipal Auditorium. Nashville, TN on the Diver Down tour. The second show was ten years later on April 6th, 1992 with Hardline (Neil Schon) at Bramlage Coliseum, Manhattan, KS. The third show was September 29th, 2007 at Greensboro, NC on the First Reunion Tour – the second show with the current lineup. We also saw Dave Lee on the “Eat ‘Em and Smile” Tour August 23, 1986 at Municipal Auditorium in Nashville. Yes, Steve Vai and Billy Sheehan were killer. Our frame of reference was clear: one show with David Lee Roth and the original band; one show with DLR, Steve Vai and Billy Sheehan; one show with Sammy Hagar; and one show with DLR, Eddie, Alex, and Wolfie.


Kool and the Gang came out first, and they were really great. We had forgotten how many hits they had back in the 70s and 80s. Standouts were “Hollywood Swinging” and “Jungle Boogie”. Those guys could really play, and, oddly, they were a good match for Van Halen.

The stage was pretty standard, except for the huge video screen behind the band. Eddies amps – six stacks of 5150 III EVH amps -- were on stage right (viewed from the front), and Wolfie’s amps (looked like Ampeg SVTs) were on stage left. In front of the drum riser/platform in the center of the stage was an approximately 20x40 foot square of hardwood which looked like part of an old-time stage. Before the lights went down, four guys with Swiffers came out and cleaned the wooden stage very thoroughly. What we didn’t know at the time is that this patch of wood is where Dave Lee slid and danced around during the show. This occurred again during the actual show. Dave got very agitated about the stage not being clean near the end of the show and a guy came out twice to clean it with a Swiffer.

Eddie, Dave, and Wolfie were all smiles during this killer two-hour plus set at the Bridgestone Coliseum. The sound was just great and the guitar tone was unbelievable. Eddie's sobriety seems to be agreeing with him and his playing was fantastic. He really looked healthy. Like 2007, having seen the original Van Halen with Michael Anthony, it was strange to see Wolfgang on stage, but it is pretty clear that there had to be a change in the band for Eddie and Dave to be able to make it through a tour together.

Note:  Eddie's main guitar for the night was the flat black EVH Stealth with the ebony fretboard.

Here is the 2012 Nashville set list with some performance/guitar comments comments:

1. Unchained

2. Runnin’ with the Devil

3. She’s the Woman

4. Romeo Delight - Supposedly Eddie's favorite song to play live. I read that somewhere....

5. Tatoo – Bumblebee Charvel

6. Eveybody wants some (Stelath)

7. Somebody get me a doctor

8. China Town

9. Talk about it later

10. Pretty Woman

11. Drum Solo

12. You Really Got Me

13. The Trouble With Never

14. Dance the Night Away

15. I’ll Wait - Probably the least welcomed song in the set. Red/White/Black Strat

16. Hot for Teacher

17. Women in Love

18. Girl Gone Bad

19. Beautiful Girls

20. Ice Cream Man - Dave Lee came out with an acoustic and played a little song. There was a video of him handling dogs on the video screen - they were Border Collies. He had a "sheep dog" and a "cow dog" he competes with. He said herding cows is a lot like herding cheerleaders – you have to sneak up on them.

21. Panama

22. Eruption/Cathedral

23. Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love


24. 1984/Jump

Dave kind of wore us out with his vaudeville/jazz hands dance routines, and the videos of him in those overalls and the “Bowery Hat” were kind of disturbing. However, it is clear that David Lee Roth is somehow irreplaceable in the band known as Van Halen. He can really work a crowd, and he may be the last rock star.

Here are a couple of guitar related notes:

1. All of the guitars sounded particularly good. There was not a huge tone difference between guitars like there was the last time we saw them. That EVH Stealth sounded killer and the flat black paint looked great.

2. Eddie used his wah pedal a great deal but was much more tasteful than the last time we saw them.

3. The D-Tuna equipped Stealth Wolfgang was Eddie’s main guitar for the night and used it on all but two songs. As stated before, we were really big fans of the Peavey Wolfgang guitars. We profiled them on this site and we were really excited when they made their debut. However, when Peavey started making the "Specials" in Korea, we believe it really cheapened the brand. It was difficult to tell the USA-made and Korean-made Wolfgangs apart, and it was probably a difficult decision to drop the extra cash on the American Wolfgang when it looked almost exactly the same as its cheaper copy. Companies do this all the time. Maybe Peavey was just trying to chase volume with the guitars before Eddie got mad and quit them! WARNING – it appears that EVH is doing the same thing with their Stealth guitars.

I guess the good part is that we really are getting old, but we can still play guitar, attend concerts, and talk about the good old days. While seeing a 57-year-old Eddie and the 58-year-old Roth rocking the stage brings back fond memories of youth, it is kind of sad to think that Eddie may be the last Guitar Hero. Check out Van Halen before it is too late (Note: Looks like this was pretty prophetic!)  After the show we escaped from downtown Nashville even though part of Interstate 24 was shut down for construction. We got home and started preparing for Saturday night with some country music legends.

Saturday, 28 April 2012, Franklin, Tennessee. Marty Stuart and the Fabulous Superlatives

I became aware of Marty Stuart years ago when he played with Johnny Cash. Known in Nashville as a true musicians’ musician, Marty Stuart became part of our TV ritual with his show on RFD-TV. We always TiVo his shows and the musicianship displayed is really superior to anything on TV. The cadence of the show is much like the old “Knob Hill”-era WSM “Porter Wagoner Shows”

I happened to be at the historic Franklin Theater in March 2012, and saw that Marty Stuart would be hosting a CD-release concert at the Theater in April. This was the first I had heard of this concert, and I immediately went home and ordered four tickets.

We headed for Franklin on Saturday afternoon and found ourselves in the middle of a street fair/festival on the streets downtown. After a great meal, we headed for the theater. At promptly 7 PM, the Tennessee Mafia Jug Band, featuring singer/banjo player Leroy Troy and Mike and Lester Armistead, came out and did a killer set. This is some great old-time music and they did a wonderful job.  They are keeping old-time music alive, and I remember listening to this when I was a kid. 

Marty Stuart and his Fabulous Superlatives came out next and absolutely put on a clinic of a) what a band should sound like, and b) how professional musicians conduct themselves. If you are not a Marty Stuart fan, you should be. This was probably one of the finest exhibitions of live music I’ve ever seen, and their sound was killer. I won’t go through the set list – it was two and a half hours of everything from his collaboration with Travis Tritt, to a song by Connie Smith (recent Country Music Hall of Fame inductee), to bluegrass to blues. It was extremely well done, and this show is highly recommended. Find them in a venue near you.

I also congratulate Marty Stuart for bringing out all of those historic instruments he plays. From Hank Williams’ Martin D-45 to Clarence White’s “doublewide” Tele, Marty should be hailed for letting us see those guitars and mandolins on stage, making music, rather than sitting in a case in some vault somewhere. It makes me want to play some of my old guitars!


In conclusion, we should always strive to play live music and seeing some great acts is good inspiration for those stuck in a rut. We are glad that Sunday is a day of rest. There is not much more to say and thanks for listening!

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