Jonny Lang & openers Moreland & Arbuckle
June 28, 2011 @ BB King’s Blues Club
This was an odd show for me for two reasons.
- I didn’t know any of Lang’s material
- I got stuck near the most disrespectful audience members I’ve ever encountered
Why’d I go to the show?
I know Jonny Lang from his collaboration with other artists. I’ve heard him play, and he’s always been good. Plus, any guitarist who has earned the respect of Buddy Guy, Eric Clapton & Carlos Santana is a guitarist worth watching.
The Opener - Moreland & Arbuckle
Every so often an opening act takes you by surprise. Moreland & Arbuckle almost knocked me on my ass.
They’re a stripped down, hard rocking, heavy blues band. These guys all clearly live and breathe rootsy blues music. They were all excellent, but what stood out to me was the band’s synergy, passion & guitarist Aaron Moreland.
Moreland played most of the show on a four string cigar box guitar. It sounded like he had a bass string on it, and three guitar strings (I could be wrong). He played the hell out of that thing with a metal slide, and damn near melted my face off. It was fun to see.
The M&R guys successfully sold me a few albums, and I hope I get to see them again soon.
Their new album Just Had a Dream is due on August 23.
Moreland & Arbuckle set the bar really high. Fortunately Jonny Lang & Co. put on one of the finest shows I’ve seen.
Jonny is a psychotic guitarist, and man is his voice soulful.
Then there was his band. I can’t get over how much talent he packed on that stage. These guys were total monsters, and when they got to jamming, they made the music soar. When they took solos they each displayed a terrifying amount of technical skill, class and soul. It’s hard to find the balance, and they all did.
Finally, there was Barry Alexander, Jonny’s drummer. He combines raw power and total control in unspeakable ways. No one as big as Alexander should be that nimble and quick.
(Watch the whole thing to get an idea of his range, watch the second half if you just want to be impressed)
Alexander’s solo made my week.
I see a lot of live music, and I’ve dealt with my fair share of obnoxious drunks, but last night I met the most disruptive concert attendees I’ve ever encountered.
We had a pair of couples next to us who wouldn’t stop talking. The music got loud, they got louder. The music got quiet, they stayed loud. If you’ve never listened to Lang, he pretty much plays as much quiet music as he does loud.
My girlfriend and I took turns politely asking them to keep it down. After all, it wasn’t a cheap show to see. Each request worked for about a minute before they returned to conversing at the top of their lungs.
After about four polite requests, they were yelling over a beautiful acoustic piece and in desperation I yelled, “WOULD YOU PLEASE JUST SHUT UP!”
They yelled back, “We’re in church.” Which was true, but besides the point.
Then, the cherry on this insane sundae came a minute or so later when one of the guys approached me and expressed his desire to assault me. Now most people don’t know this, but I don’t take kindly to threats of physical violence, and years of being a scrawny geek taught me that backing down from people like this usually makes matters worse.
I hate fighting, but I’m not a pacifist. I’ve learned that most fights can be avoided by scaring the shit out of the aggressor. I turned on the crazy eyes and explained to him with some rather colorful language what would happen should he choose to throw a punch. It worked again, and he backed off.
But seriously, who the hell tries to start a fight during a quiet emo-bluesey acoustic song at a Jonny Lang concert?
Bunch of savages in this town.
The show was great in spite of the disruptions. I didn’t know Lang’s music, and I still loved the show. He made a fan out of me.
I’d love to see Moreland & Arbuckle and Jonny Lang again soon. Hopefully next time I won’t have to deal with nasty, self-important drunks.
Playing guitar is one of those skills where there is no special secret, no key to your own greatness. It pretty much takes a combination of practice, and just feeling the music.
Psychedelic rocker, and favorite of rock snobs the world-over, Captain Beefheart rattled off his “10 Commandments of Guitar Playing.” One of his commandments really hit home for me because it took me so long to realize, and I continue to struggle with it:
5. If you’re guilty of thinking, you’re out
If your brain is part of the process, you’re missing it. You should play like a drowning man, struggling to reach shore. If you can trap that feeling, then you have something that is fur bearing.
It takes a lot for me to switch off my brain and just feel, but I’m starting to do it.
I find it easier to stop thinking when I play with other people, and/or jam on the same song for a long time. Grateful Dead tunes are amazing for this.
On a much lighter note, I also liked the Captain’s 10th commandment:
10. You gotta have a hood for your engine
Keep that hat on. A hat is a pressure cooker. If you have a roof on your house, the hot air can’t escape. Even a lima bean has to have a piece of wet paper around it to make it grow.
I think it’s time to pick up the guitar for a while before bed.
Over the last six months, I’ve become more serious about playing guitar. As a result, I’m working on creating a more structured practice regimen for myself.
At the moment it’s kind of a trial and error system while I determine what works, but I did find a series of tips from legendary guitarists John Petrucci (Dream Theater), Joe Satriani (Chickenfoot), and Dimebag Darrell (Pantera). While all three men are known for their shredding, the tips apple to any style of play.
Some of my favorites are:
John Petrucci – Use a metronome
I don’t use one often enough.
Dimebag Darrell – Play from the heart
If you aren’t feeling it, you’re doing it wrong.
Joe Satriani – Run through every chord you know
I have a feeling that this will help immensely.
John Petrucci – Record yourself
I’ve been messing around with recording, and it’s a pretty scary experience to hear your mistakes played back. It’s like listening to yourself on an answering machine.
Joe Satriani -Stay in tune
If the notes don’t sound right, it won’t feel right.
Have a look at their full list of tips.
Regardless of your opinion of Prince’s musical stylings, you can’t argue with fact that the guy is a killer guitarist. He manages to shred with soul, a feat that is accomplished by a rare few.
This performance of the Beatles’ While My Guitar Gently Weeps from the 2004 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction of George Harrison features Tom Petty, Dhani Harrison, Jeff Lynne, Stevie Ferrone, and Prince.
If you’re impatient, Prince’s solo kicks in at 3:30, and continues throughout the song.
The Old Crow Medicine Show is an old-time sting band that I’m told is reminiscent of early 20th Century, pre-recording music (I claim no expertise on the subject).
Their most popular song (according to iTunes & YouTube) is Wagon Wheel. It’s a folksy, twangy number that OCMS created from an unfinished Bob Dylan song. Enjoy.
Wagon Wheel grew on me while jamming with the NJ Acoustic Music in the Park Meetup Group.
It’s a fun song to jam on, and if you live near Central Jersey, the Meetup Group is a wonderful, judgement free place to play.
Check us out at http://www.meetup.com/NJ-Acoustic-Music-in-the-Park/