The guy behind the counter said, ‘You might like to try this’, went out to the back room and came back with a 1943 Gibson priced at US$11,000. I have never played an acoustic worth that much but today I played quite a few of expensive guitars, and yes, they all do sound different and they feel different too. My absolute favourite was a 1971 Gibson Dove with an ebony neck at US$2,700. It rang out beautifully, had plenty of bass depth and the neck felt so natural in my hand – it was perfect. Next he gave me a new Gibson L65, the neck was flatter, made for a smaller hand or a learner, but so easy to play and it sounded big and full, a real modern acoustic guitar, and only US$1,000. I visited Old Town Music on Burnside Rd where I tried a few Martins, Guilds and Taylors from $1,500 to $3,000 but none really impressed. They had a 1976 Gibson L200 (pictured), the famous acoustic Pete Townsend of The Who plays, a big jumbo body with a great thumping sound that’s ideal for stage playing when there’s a band – but at US$2,700 there was something wrong with the neck – it was a bit twisted so the action was too high at the 12th fret. One of the best guitars in the shop, to my taste, was a vintage Yamaha F30 for just US$750. I didn’t buy a guitar but I did buy a mic I’ve always needed, too pricey in New Zealand, a SM58 with a switch for US$100, and they gave me a free T’shirt.
Next it was Centaur Guitars on NE Sandy Rd and some of the finest acoustics I’ve seen and played. There is no hard-sell in these shops, they don’t hover around you, they just let you play and play – but, there is one rule, whatever you do, and there are signs up – DO NOT SING.
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.