Friday, February 3, 2017

Gig Survival: MONO Cases, Airports, & Norman's Rare Guitars

Fresh off the plane and already typing... I'd say it's good to be home, but honestly, nah. Four days in LA wasn't quite enough, although I packed about as much into that time frame as I fit in my Mono Dual M80 for this excursion...

Not pictured: eyeglasses, sunglasses, phone charger, iPad.
Otherwise, all I needed for 4 days.

First off, it does not get any better than these Mono cases for travel gigging; the perfect amount of protection and convenience for two Fender-style guitars, as well as a Pedaltrain Nano and cables. It could get a little heavy on a long TSA line, but really not terrible at all. Speaking of TSA, no major issues whatsoever at either airport, LAX or Newark... Newark took it off to the side of the scanner, which immediately concerned me, but all the agent did was open up the Tick and swab my pedals, then handed everything back with a smile and zero questions. In LAX, they sent me down a different line for a larger scanner, which the case passed thru with no issues.

As for the United Airlines staff, no problems at all with carrying on; I suppose they've received enough negative press in the past for a few infamous incidents, but a phone call to customer service the day before my flight reassured me there would be no problems as long as space was not an issue (also printed out the FAA Regulations regarding musical instruments, just in case). The Dual M80 fit perfectly into the overhead compartment with the Tick removed and placed alongside, and thanks to priority boarding, had an entire bin to itself. I'd definitely advise upgrading to a priority group if your airline of choice offers it strictly for this reason. Most planes have closets, but they're not very wide at all, possibly not wide enough for the dual case (A thin hardshell case or single-guitar Mono might fit, though).

Upon arrival, it was time to pick up my white Mustang convertible (yes, really!) and cruise up to Shadow Hills for a rehearsal with the incredibly talented Ms. Helen Rose and the rest of her band, consisting of guitarist/songwriter extraordinaire Jonah Tolchin, the man with the tastiest fills since Bonham, Kevin Clifford on the boom-booms, and bassist/hypeman/guitar builder Don Moser (who has one of his beautiful Katrina-inspired Voodoo guitars on display at the Smithsonian Institute. Jonah also played a brand new custom Telecaster by Don). After working out the set and running the tunes, we headed down to The Mint for a soundcheck and some dinner before the show.

Don's original Katrina-relic Voodoo Guitar (left), and Jonah's new custom Gratitude Tele (right).
More on Voodoo Guitars here in the future!

For the guitar nerds out there (basically all of you), I used one of The Mint's house amps, a Rivera Fifty Five Twelve EL34 1x12" combo (since evolved into the current Chubster model), which had an incredible clean tone with lots of depth, detail, and character. For dirt, I chose a Fulltone Plimsoul overdrive pedal, which is my go-to safety blanket for unfamiliar situations, along with an Ibanez AD-9 Keeley-modded analog delay and Strymon Flint for spring reverb and tremolo, my usual tone candy of choice.

My girls with their Rivera 5512 date for the evening.

The monitor & FOH sound was handled superbly by Steven, an employee of the venue, who was extremely accommodating to us as well the headliners, Grant Farm. By the way, if you're not familiar with these guys, check them out; self-described as "Cosmic Americana", and if I must label them, it would be something along the lines of the Allmans meet the Dead with some phenomenal chicken pickin' by guitarist Tyler Grant. Four-part vocal harmony, to boot!

All in all, the gig was great, and we'll be back on March 24th to open for British blues guitar phenom Davy Knowles... come say hi!

Helen Rose & the gang at The Mint

In other guitar-related news, a trip to Los Angeles would not be complete without visiting Norman's Rare Guitars in Tarzana, most notable for providing Nigel Tufnel's Spinal Tap collection (including the Les Paul you can still hear sustaining if you listen very closely), as well as Marty McFly's cherry red '59 Gibson ES-345. Joe Bonamassa drops by almost weekly when in town, and store manager Mark Agnesi posts his Guitar of the Day videos on Instagram to make me drool regularly.

Norman's Rare Guitars & me (on couch, with 1940 Martin). Photo courtesy of the lovely Lauren Hans.

Mark happened to notice me checking out an all-mahogany 1937 Martin, similar to the '39 model that Helen's father, Alexander Wright has (that I spent the night before playing), and handed me two others to check out: an Adirondack spruce-top 0-18 from 1940, and a refinished '48 model. There was something very special about the 1940, likely due to it's pre-war vintage (when Martin's craftsmanship was supposedly at it's absolute peak), and after comparing it with the other Martins and a few similar Gibsons, I knew it had to happen; Mark made me a great deal including shipping to New Jersey, and it's on it's way as I type.

So that just about wraps up an incredibly fun, productive, and exhausting trip, complete with a lunch at Duke's in Malibu, a dinner at James Beach in Venice, and a ridiculously fun night out at Jumbo's Clown Room on Hollywood Boulevard. Until we meet again, La-La Land!


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