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Bars and cafes Equipment The Songs

The Kingslander show

The Kingslander is generally known as a sports bar and even though the management ‘tries music’ occasionally, priority will always be given to any significant sports event. But lately they have taken a serious approach to the Thursday Open Mic night with the inclusion of a massive PA system, a row of monitors and a two person team, one to co-ordinate performers and the other to tech the sound. They still keep all the screens around the room live with Sky Sport on various channels, on mute, so the patrons can keep an eye on the latest Thursday night sporting events which happened to be Woman’s Boxing, Motorsport and Australian League.
There’s a very nice full drum kit on stage but Al was told, when taking to the stage, not to play too loud, as a result he played too soft and I could barely hear him. I played two songs using the looper which I realise now is not a good match with a live drummer because loops never loop perfectly and the groove can get a bit jumbled – but we rocked on. After two songs, Ramp It Up and Glow, Lydia, the host, asked us to wrap it up. I said we’d only played two songs and the slot is for three, admittedly both extended versions, and I insisted on finishing with a slow one, Centre Of The Groove, which I shortened down to a two minutes. It felt good to end on a more harmonic note but I came off stage feeling a bit rattled. I think the tech had put a heavy compressor on my guitar because it ducked in and out of volume. Al said, ‘I wish the sound on stage was like the practise room’. It’s true, it always sounds weird on stage and over the years I have never got totally used to it – I just rock on.

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Bars and cafes Equipment The Songs

The Grand Central in Auckland

Last night I played at Grand Central on Ponsonby Road and had a good night probably because my guitar was up nice and loud.
There’s no stage monitor but one of the front of house speakers is behind you to one side so it sort of works as a monitor. I practised with my looping pedal, a Boss RC30, earlier in the day and worked on two
funk numbers: basically two chord grooves with a turnaround whenever I feel the groove is running out of steam. It was a good night with all the regulars turning up; Nick the knowledgable finger-style player with his beautiful collectors’ Martin, Warren, Jono, Graeme and his group, and Eddie Gaiger who runs it so well. Ed never introduces anyone or thanks anyone, he leaves the performer to create their own space on stage, that’s the way it should be, a performer needs to ‘own’ the stage and create their moment themselves – I like that. Stage craft is a real thing and I’m still hopeless at it but I try. I think a short greeting is enough and then maybe a bit of chat after the first song about the next song. The funk numbers I played were my own, Glow and Floating In the Air. Each one lasted about 8 minutes. I let the looper go on endless overdud and created a blurring mass of sound, punched it off and sang the last verse clean. I thought two numbers was enough but Ed suggested one more and I de-tuned the B string down to A and played Hold Down Love – finally singing it the way I had been meaning to for ages, hitting that first note up an octave to give it a stronger opening – it worked, I think.
This week I’m playing The Portland at 8pm, The Clare on Wednesday and the Kingsland and 121 Ponsonby Road on Thursday, and intend to play a different set for each venue.

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Equipment

My modified Yamaha APX7 guitar

My Yamaha APX7 was bought from Elgin Music in Notting Hill, London W11 about 25 years ago. The sound from the double piezo pick ups was always too bright and thin to my taste so I had a luthier remove the original double piezo’s and replaced them with an LR Baggs i-beam transducer. Unfortunately, it always sounded too ‘quacky’ or mid-range-y to me so I have very recently fitted a magnetic Seymour Duncan Tube pick up to the sound hole which is good but perhaps a little too thin sounding. I run both pick ups at the same time, although matching a passive and an active pick up is not ideal; both have separate volumes dials but the Seymour Duncan needs to be fully up and the active i-beam just up a notch – it’s workable but I’m not happy yet. To compensate I use a Boss EQ stomp box with a ‘smiley face’ setting, (-: that is, low frequencies up, mids down and highs slightly up. That gives me plenty of fullness and presence without the quack, and I use a reverb stomp box and slap back delay to give it some fatness. The guitar only really starts to come alive when there’s plenty of level in the floor monitors with spill into my vocal mic – the bigger the sound the better it feels. The top surface has a psychedelic image of Jimi Hendrix attached as a vinyl layer, it can be peeled off – the vinyl dulls the resonance of the guitar acoustically but when plugged up, it’s fine. The things I really like about this guitar is the firstly the calibration, the fret and neck are perfectly accurate, the action is great, it’s tunes up easily and holds well. Secondly, the neck is small, so switching to an electric guitar is an easy transition for the hand, and finally, the body is narrow so it feels like a comfortable small guitar. One day I’ll buy a Gibson J 100 jumbo but until then, Jimi is my BFF.