Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Surfing With The Alien at Sweetwater

2 weeks ago, during my kids' Spring Break, I had the opportunity to take my eldest to see Joe Satriani give a workshop/show at Sweetwater Sound. And it was awesome.

First, comments about the venue: As a walk-in music store, the floor space Sweetwater has is about the size of a decent-to-good local store with high-end gear, but when you work in the on-site recording studios, the cafeteria, and the absolutely huge warehouse in back, it gets to the "awesome" point. Then, there's the Performance Theater. I have never seen a performance space nearly as nice.

I started checking the registration page as soon as I heard about the event, and by the time it showed up, they were into overflow seeting. This is great, too — I was in the overflow to see Victor Wooten — and while the seats are not as comfortable, they use the state-of-the-art video production capabilities in the main room to stream to the overflow, and they make sure that the artist does some Q&A in the other room, too.

But, as it turned out, there were enough empty seats in the main room that my son and I were able to get upgraded. Yay!

I did not take notes this time, unlike the Wooten and John 5 events. For this I am sorry. I'm trying to give the notes as they come to my head.

Joe performed several songs to tracks on a laptop, and he mentioned how strange and refreshing it was to hear all the music that well, which he normally can't when playing with a band. This was an off night between Experience Hendrix shows, so he was playing with humbuckers with standard-tuned .009s instead of .010s tuned down a half-step on the Strat-style single-coils he used to play the Hendrix material. (OK, bladed humbuckers.) He said that his normal setup is noticably brighter. He detailed how, in the studio, he often has several guitars in different tunings or string gauges, set up for the specific use he wants, but on tour he needs to keep it down to just a few with similar setups.

He was using Marshalls instead of his signature Peavey. I'm fairly sure this was in part because this was an off-night thing — I'm sure everything he played was Sweetwater stock — but that was also his Experience and Chickenfoot gear. Because of the song variation, he generally sets his amp clean and sets his gain via his foot pedals, but with Chickenfoot he used amp gain.

Another comment about the gear being Sweetwater's: at the end, they gave away several Chickenfoot CDs, several signed DVDs (including his new Live in Paris release), a signed Ibanez guitar (not the JSBDG in the picture – they're not crazy) and the pedals. The guy who sat next to me won a signed DVD. Well, he would've, had he not left early and dropped his ticket. Thanks guy, the DVD is incredible.

He played five songs, I think. Maybe six. "Satch Boogie" , "Surfing with the Alien" , "Flying In A Blue Dream" , "Always With Me, Always With You" , and a blues track, at least. He talked about each, detailing how he approached the high-theory compositions and still made them rock songs. 3 of the tracks ("Surfing", "Blue Dream" and "Always With Me") are on Sweetwater's Facebook page and will likely end up on their Youtube page, too. The specific example I can give is that, with "Flying In A Blue Dream", he decided that he'd have play in the Lydian mode over each chord. I know that I'm very reliant on just a few scales and modes, wondering how to use the modes I'm inching toward learning in a practical sense. If there was one thing I needed Joe to say when I walked in, it was that.


Stratoblogster said...


Satch's Hendrix gig guitar has double coil pups. They're single sized but humbuckers just the same. I suspect DiMarzio Cruisers, but not confirmed. This isn't a production guitar... yet. The Ibanez AT100 Andy Timmons uses Cruisers in mid and neck pos. Look very similar.

You're not the only one out and about who didn't catch that.

Otherwise, nice write-up and thanks for lettin' me know!

We're pluggin' this!



Dave Jacoby said...

Yeah, he mentioned it was a prototype, leading to what became the JS2400. It was a bit of a joke, he worked on X, X came out, and for what Joe was working on now, he's onto guitar Y.

The JS2400 has a ProTrack in the neck, which gave him what he needed in the neck without being so big that the 24-fret neck kicked it out of position, he said. Would not be surprised if the Experience guitar also had ProTracks. His term was "single coil", and he did not have the Experience guitar at Sweetwater, but once I saw the picture from the tour, I knew it had Barden-style pups. I don't know if the Joe Strat-riani guitar will ever see production.

Thanks for the plug!