Consumerism

Is Guitar Acquisition Syndrome (GAS) really the quest for better tone or is it just consumerism run a muck? Are we, as guitarists, constantly buying equipment to play better and to make better music or are we just wanting to a mass more and more guitar stuff because it is cool? Do I buy stuff because I want it or because I use it?

Unfortunately I must admit that my GAS is probably more about the stuff than it is about the playing. Too often I research and pine and obsess about something I’ve found for cheap. I’m focused completely on the thing. Sure, I’ve got ideas of what it will do for my sound or for my playing, but if I’m honest with myself (scary, I know) it is usually just a pipe dream.

Right now I have just about everything necessary for a five piece band. Guitar, vocals, keys, bass, and drums. This has been a goal of mine for a long time. The free Behringer Ultracoustic was the final piece of the puzzle. I would prefer PA speakers to go with my mixer, but right now I have the basics for it all to work. I have to constantly remind myself that I have sufficient for my needs. But when I let my greed and consumerism go wild, I start thinking about the PA speakers, speaker stands, acoustic-electric guitar, mic stands, miscellaneous cables, etc. that I still think I need. I mean, what if we get asked to DJ a dance or wedding, we need those PA speakers… just in case.

Right now I have a hand wired guitar amp head that sounds great. I will be building or buying a speaker cabinet for it, but for now I can use the Behringer Ultracoustic. And yet I still have to remind myself of this when I start looking at speakers and woods and adding an effects loop and
Am I simply addicted to the consumption of stuff? Am I just happy during the purchase?  Just hopping from purchase to purchase and not focusing on playing?  We all must consume.  We eat, we use, we build, we explore, we buy.  But is that all we have become?  Are we just consuming for the sake of consuming?

This morning, I feel like a buyer.  I would much rather be a “user.”  Someone who uses what they have.  I want to be a builder.  That is one reason I get free amps and cheap guitars.  I want to try to build them into something better.  But I am also a massing this equipment.  And I seem to be hoping from purchase to purchase for the sake of buying, not using.

Yesterday I ran into the coworker who offered his Mesa Boogie Mark IV to me.  I agonized over not getting that amp.  I didn’t get it.  Yet he hasn’t sold it either.  In fact, he had an outdoor gig with his band and figured he could slave the Mark IV to his Mark V.  He could play stereo effects.  He could get more volume.  He could have an amp on either side of the stage.  He could have a back up amp in case one breaks or malfunctions.

He had a list of reasons to keep his old amp.  All of them were uses.  Yes, he has a great guitar and amp collection.  Yes, he is a consumer.  But he is also a user.  More of a user than I am.

So what does this early Saturday morning rant mean.  Now that I’ve gotten it out of my system is my conscience clear and I can go back to buying/consuming?  It shouldn’t be.  I will focus my efforts.  I will use what I’ve got.  I will play the guitar.  I will continue to tinker and build, but in an effort to use. I will be a user.  I will not let GAS control me.  I will not consume for the sake of consuming.

At least that’s my goal.  I guess now I’m a wanna be guitar user.  Oh boy.

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Song About Boy

I spent a good chunk of the evening in a lawn chair while the kids played on the swing set.  The really nice thing was strumming the kids’ 3/4 size acoustic while they played.  As they would run past, they would yell out a song topic.

“Grass”

“Girl”

“Boy”

“Chairs”

“Slides”

“Trees”

And the list went on and on, while I tried to come up with little riffs and chord progressions to play, as well as silly lyrics that would make them laugh.  I ended the evening on a successful tune about Boy climbing the rock wall at the young age of two (it really was amazing to watch him climb a wall three times his height).

I’m not sure the neighbors enjoyed it, but we had fun!

Knobs

I have added a new step to plugging in my guitar.  I must first check to see if my two year old has reset all the knobs.  It’s like I’m playing an amp in a guitar store every time.  I think I may need to add a little notebook to each amp to write down what knob settings get the sounds I like.  Or maybe this new approach will help me learn how to more efficiently and effectively dial in “my” sound on any amp I plug into.  Or maybe not.  Wishful thinking?  What do you think?

Jury Rig

Woo Hoo!  I have a guitar rig… and it is a total jury rig.  I hooked my Frenzel head into my free Behringer acoustic amp.  Crazy, but it will work while I figure out how to build a speaker cabinet.

I go from the Frenzel line out to the instrument channel return on the Behringer’s send/return effects loop.  I wish I could tell you how good it sounds, but I don’t know.  I left the four button effects controller pedal plugged into the Behringer while I tried out the Frenzel running through it.  My two year old kept coming over and stepping on an effects pedal button every 30 seconds.  I just kept playing through it as he stepped on the pedal switching between the different effects.  At one point he stood on the pedal with one foot on each button and kept switching back and forth.  He was laughing.  I was laughing.  It was pretty entertaining.

Of course next time I try to seriously play the guitar, it won’t be so funny. .

Or maybe I’ll just not plug in the foot pedal.  Genius.  Pure genius.

Freebies continued

I went back to my local guitar shop and asked if they, by chance, had the FS114 foot pedal that originally came with the Behringer Ultracoustic ACX1000 I had gotten free at their parking lot sale.  They looked around and found one, which they proceeded to give me…for free!

I plugged it in this afternoon and it works great!  It basically allows the user to switch between the four presets in the on board effects.  There is a silent pause between effects switching.  So if you are on preset 1 and select preset 2, then it kills the sound for a half a second.  Not a great tool when playing live and wanting to switch effects mid-song, but if you decide to have one effect in one song and another effect in another song, it is pretty convenient.  Better than not having anything at all.  There is  also a plug for a midi controller.  I’m curious if it would also have the delay between presets.

Not that I’m complaining.

I’m still waiting for the amp to blow up, but I’ll continue to enjoy it until then!  Awesome!

The Scene

We drove around this evening looking for live music to attend.  We drove by local bars, coffee houses, and other venues.  Nothing really drew us in.  We also drove by a house that has been turned into an art space.  The performances were free (although suggested donations for the traveling bands were made).  This house was in the middle of a neighborhood and modern day hipsters filled the front yard to smoke and chat.  They were dressed fairly uniformly in their unique thrift store finds and the music was not focused on commercial success.  When asked what style of music would be played that night, one person described it as “some country, some dance, and some noise.”

We did not stay long.  But as we drove around, we talked for a long time about why we left.  One person in the car left because of knee problems and there was no where to sit.  The other left because the quality of music didn’t seem to be worth the exhaustion that would ensue tomorrow.  I left because I hopped to find something better. We didn’t, unless you consider The Unusuals better.  Which I did last night.

So what music scene are you a part of?  Do you have to be young to be part of a scene that is exploring art and music?  Do such scene’s ever really find something new?  We commented that everyone in that scene was in their late teens early twenties and we recognized many of the elements that made up their scene as being the things that made up past scenes we had witnessed, read about, or idolized (hello 70’s punk, 30’s blues, 80’s new wave, 90’s brit pop, grunge, and 60’s british blues).

Everyone wants to be hip.  And every scene has people who are in and who are out.  The new cool is the anti-cool.  Are you bad as in bad or bad as in good?  Examples of the quest for being cool.  Even us jaded, post-hipster aged people who aren’t cool anymore, but aren’t out of it, are still trying to be cool.  The difference, we hope, is that we are cool in our own minds.  Meaning we have reached a state of maturity in which we do not need those around us to think we are cool.  We merely need to think we ourselves are cool.

Hopefully this pseudo zen state of internal acceptance is achievable.  Hopefully we can get past the “junior high” attitudes and fears that seem to continue through high school, college, work, family, retirement, and the all other parts of life.

My wife commented that she doesn’t need to create a scene.  She likes certain music and can easily find more music that satisfies and fulfills her without having to attend a hipster scene.  I wonder where I’m at.  I would love to be part of a scene, but more to be a part of the creative process than the attendance/viewing process.  Did I miss out in my youth?  Did I start the guitar too late and not get my hipster fill of being in a band with bad gigs and stinky vans?  Am I not cool in my own mind?  Am I seeking fulfillment and acceptance from outside rather than inside?  Probably.

Am I fated to be the eternal wanna be?  Probably.

Do I have a lot of growing up and maturing to do?  Yes.

While looking for a stereotypical picture of hipsters, I found this picture on this blog.

I guess there are worse things that people could do besides trying to be hip.

Wife’s Guitar?

My wife had a favorite guitar.  Well, she doesn’t own one, but everytime we see one for sale she is tempted.  We walked by one of our local guitar shops today and saw this:

She stopped and swooned over it.  She almost said we should buy it, then stopped herself and simply commented on how much she loves that look of this guitar.

We didn’t get it.

Benefit Fund Raiser

After taking the day off work to attend a wedding, my good friend since junior high and I attended a benefit concert!  The two headlining bands were Bangs and the Need.  C Average also played. We missed the opening band, so I don’t know who they were or what they did.

The guitarist in C Average played a Gibson Firebird and I have to admit, seeing it up there on stage just reminded me how cool I think that headstock looks.  I am so glad I put it on my Warmoth project guitar.  So that convinced me I just may be somewhat cool.

Next came the Bangs.  This was a reunion gig since they broke up in 2004.  They were awesome!  Sarah Utter played a white Gibson SG with the tiny pick guard I think looks great (and implies the neck joins the body at the 21st fret instead of the 19th on the SG Standard)!  She was plugged into a Marshall JCM 800 and I couldn’t tell what pedals she used other than the Fender tuner.  She also broke four strings during her set.  FOUR STRINGS!  And not just the high E string.  She broker her A string first, then her G, then the low E.  I’ve never seen anyone break their low E string.   I don’t know which one went after that, but wow.  She ended up just playing the last song without all her strings.

Maggie Vail played bass and looked so unassuming up there with her Jazz/Mustang style bass…until she started singing and playing.  She was awe inspiring!  I think Peter or Chris was the name of the drummer.  His drum rolls were perfect in each song.  Click here to hear songs and watch videos.  I recommend “Train Wreck”!

My junior high buddy and I both purchased the Bangs’ EP and 7 inch they had for sale.  When we listened to them this morning, it really was as good as we remembered.  Not bad!

The Need were an incredible show too, but not something I will be purchasing or listening to again (unless they do another show with Bangs).  The guitarist played a white Gibson SG Custom (with the three pick ups) and alternated between an Orange full stack and apparently her grandfather’s Magnavox amp with the stereo vibrato.  She sounded so metal, but also did some great effects stuff that blew my mind.

A great show to see and a good cause to support.  I pat myself on the back.