Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Craaaack! - The Sequel...

January 26th, 2009
Maverick Night at The Zebra Bar- Maidstone, Kent England...

I had just finished singing a solo tune on the banjo, and was waiting for Ike and Nate to come back to the stage. Betse came up the stairs and sheepishly said, "Uh, I guess I'm going to do a solo now..."

I looked over at Ike, who was now peering at me from the backstage door behind the bar . "Hey dude, we need you back here- and bring that roll of gaff tape". Then he whispered loudly, "I broke my guitar...again." I quickly fished into my banjo case for the tape and hurried backstage to find Ike, Nate and Gerald (our UK driver/roadie extraordinaire) hovering over Ike's guitar like field medics hovering over a soldier who has fallen on the battlefield. Turns out that Ike had inadvertently run into the corner of the bar while he rushed offstage to change a broken string. Unfortunately, his guitar had been between him and the bar at the moment of impact. Now, I know what everybody will immediatly think, "what was he drinking and how much?", but I swear to you folks, this particular bar charged us for water, so alcohol absolutely did not play a part in the breakage. And we weren't screwing around this time either (see "Hark the Herald Angels Craaaack! September, 2006) Link

This time, the guitar was broke and you had to chalk it up to simple dumb luck.

I looked over the situation. The bottom side of his guitar was split from just below where the neck joins the body, almost all they way around to the strap button. At the point of impact, there were shards of wood missing- which Ike had pulled from the guitar, and was now carefully placing inside a small Ziploc bag. I grabbed the gaff tape (the very-expensive theatrical equivalent of duct tape, but with a much less-damaging adhesive side), and started pulling off strips. It was slow and calculating work, as I tried to tape the guitar so that the seams met as cleanly as possible. Gerald, who had our, now-stalled show, and Betse's soon-to-be-finished solo foremost on his mind, grabbed the tape out of my hand, and went to work at 3 times my speed. We heard the applause for Betse, and knew it was time to get back. Gerald finished. It wasn't pretty, but we all agreed that it was officially "fixed", and Ike gave it a strum...the old boy was still perfectly in tune- although it was a little quieter, due mostly to the dampening effect of the tape. We moved back on stage and made it through the rest of the show without a hitch. In fact, we toured almost another three weeks before I heard anything about his guitar again.

Fast forward to The Haus Der Kultur in Waldkraiburg, Germany. I was changing my mandolin strings in one of the empty audience chairs before our sound check. I heard Ike call to me from the stage, "Hey dude, do you have any more of that gaff tape? I broke my guitar...again." This time he explained that he had caught the toe of his boot on a stair while climbing to the stage. As he fell, the guitar, which he had been carrying by the neck, caught his full body weight right on the strap button as he stumbled up the stairs. The previous UK crack now continued around the rest of the waist of his guitar. I believe that if it weren't for the tape and the neck joint, we could have actually lifted the top of the guitar off to have a look inside. The only problem was that the remainder of my gaff was now in short supply. We only had about a yard or so left to fix the whole top side of the guitar. We were in serious trouble. Ike held the seams together, while I carefully ran a single strip along the crack to complete a temporary suture. We finished off the roll of tape by applying some additional structural reinforcements, and then Ike picked it up and gave it a strum... It was about half again as quiet, but still almost perfectly in tune.

A lot of people ask why we care so much about this damned old fragile guitar from Sears and Roebuck. I guess its just that our whole sound was founded on this particular "snare drum with strings". But we are starting to think that maybe, (once the old boy is glued back together that is), it might be time to have a little retirement party. Anybody out there have an archtop with no low-end tone? Does it have absolutely no sustain whatsoever? Want to sell it? We're interested! We can't guarantee that we will always give it much in the way of tender loving care, but it WILL get played... Fast and Loud and Hard, man. And we'd gladly pay as much as $80.00 if its the right one...

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Tarmac Photos are the Best.

Nothing is cooler to me than seeing a photo taken from the tarmac of an airport. I remember watching newsreel footage of The Beatles touching back down in London after their triumphant first US tour. There were throngs of fans waving at John, Paul, George and Ringo. They all look a little freaked out by the commotion, but wave to the crowd before they are whisked away in their waiting limosine.

Here Ike is stepping off the plane into the cold German night. There's precious little in the way of a single fan, much less a throng. I guess the guy standing next to the plane counts for something...

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Random Photo from Germany

Ike in Illerberg, Germany.

Style is difficult to achieve on the road. Most of the time, you look like warmed-over dog shit. If you want to look good, you need accessories. The moth-eaten orange and black scarf was later seriously fouled at Nate's birthday party in Switzerland, then it went missing for about a week, and then returned via German Post at the end of our tour in a tidy ziplock bag. Sadly, the stylish white glasses broke a few minutes after this photo was taken. But at least Ike will always have this photo to remind himself how cool they were.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Fleeting Friends of the Road: A Tribute to Walker Wilder

Sometimes the miles we travel bore us into silliness of epic proportions. We were somewhere in the Scottish highlands, sleepy but restless, when I looked at the pile of blankets, kindly loaned to us by our booking agent, Loudon's wife. To make space in the overloaded van, Ike had hung the blankets from a headrest facing us. In our haze, the pile sort of looked like a friendly frog staring back at us. I took Ike's hat and set it atop the blankets. Ike took off his sunglasses and then the stage was set. We worked for a few more minutes, Ike adding a stray guitar string for a mouth, me wrapping Ike's jacket around his backpack for the body, then Ike's gloves became his hands. Then, as a final detail, a pack of Walkers potato crisps gave our new friend his namesake, "Walker", good old Walker Wilder.

Oh Walker, how we miss you. You were our quiet friend for a few days. We grew to love you, then you were gone. Your crisps were eaten right from your hand, your body was removed due to pressing need for the warmth and clean clothes they contained. God speed you dear Walker, in your celestial travels...