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.