Good evening all. Sorry I was of the grid for a little while last week. If you can imagine a guy standing on a train station platform and a bullet train going by and and grabbing hold of it and it whisking him away over the horizon in a fraction of a moment….that almost sums up my week and in it’s own sweet way…I am that guy on the platform and hurried off into the distance.
What started out as a simple Twitter message amongst two artists took hold and blossomed into something incredible that I was able to share with friends and fans, and forge new ones from the opportunity to do something good for the live looping community here in Las Vegas. Mike Why, a vocal loop artist based out of Pittsburgh, PA and I connected over Twitter and messages lead to phone calls, phone calls lead to him rolling through my neon soaked city and the idea for a shared night of music came into consideration. It took about 24 hours, for the time, place and venue to be secured with an individual here in town who has championed my music for over ten years.
Within a few days the line up came into focus: Daniel Park, a fixture of the live looping community who plays regularly up and down the Las Vegas Strip. Rein Garcia, whose organic grooves were much approved by a packed Hard Rock. Eric Ita, who is very much in the Ray LaMontagne vein of music. Mike Why, who is a gentleman and a excellent performer, Donzo’s Cosmos, a multi instrumentalist who makes live looping and compostion look easy and effortless.…and myself.
So how can you get six artists into a three-hour spot with varying degrees of equipment, rig size, PA needs, and backline requirements and keep the night running smoothly? Well……that was the best part of the night.
Each artist had their own friends and fans there, many of which were mutually shared between different artists, but everybody worked together in helping each other load in and out and everybody stuck around to listen to each other! Quick sidenote: We all have been there before, maybe an event, or an open mic where you are late on the bill and by the time you get up to play there is bartender, the sound engineer and a bored waitress standing in the corner. I’ve had nights like that, more than I want to admit to on my own website!
The transitions were seamless, and a streamlined sound-check between each performer, insured that each of us could sound the best we could that night. At the eye of this storm was Frequency Entertainment’s very own Rick Duarte. The Gibson Acoustic Asylum Showcase has been going on for a number of years with Rick at the wheel. The event is a reflection of Rick himself: multi-faceted, positive, supportive, talented and a level of professionalism that can be admired from any leading figure in any profession.
I can recount my own experiences on and off stage that night and even go play by play and quarterback my own performance, but that will be only one small facet of the night. Instead, I am moved to write about the level of camaraderie between not only the artists, but their own fans they brought out. No clicks, no groups, no dividing lines. One collective positive whole of humanity who for one night came together to cheer on their friend, boyfriends, cousin, fellow artist or looping teacher(!).
Nights like this are the nights that you remember when you might have a bad day at work, or a night in the studio when it is hard to find the intimate familiarity in your own music. It is nights like this that are hard to translate into social media…outside of “Wish you were here.” I have my own hopes that the fans and friends that came out knowing that they were part of something special that night. That only half of the magic came from the stage, the other half was culled in the audience and presented in cheers, applause and ready hugs and handshakes when the show was over.
With closer associations with the looping community here in Vegas and around the country, my own hope is to pay this forward in other avenues. Not only as a performer, but also helping other loop artists find a spot to perform here in Vegas. With any luck, there is just enough of the magic left over from last Monday, where they can use that to make their own night of whimsy and music…..and reflect on the magic *they* left behind.
I have been fortunate enough in my music career to be a part of some very incredible events. Be it on stage in front of hundreds of music educators, to competing in loop competitions with many of my looping inspirations all the way to discovering a new and exciting sound in the confines of my own home. Each has excited me and inspired me in it’s own way, and each has left a mark and provided a waypoint from which I have changed my musical heading. As unique as each of these events has been, are the serendipitous circumstances in which they presented themselves to me.
My initial foray into looping had me piecing together my first rig out of the same components of my leading musical heroes. As I progressed in my skill set, street performing gave way to clubs and corporate shows. Conversations on music in dimly lit backstreet bars lead to dialogues on music pedagogy to leading music educators in the public school setting and finally articulating my musical equipment with my feet lead to my having more control and a lighter touch with my hands than my feet inside the familiar confines of a set of Chuck Taylors ever did.
With this growth and a bit of experimentation, I noticed that my rig I had built for me was getting heavier and heavier and wasn’t condusive to the events and tours I was now part of, but also didn’t allow the ease of movement and set-up necessary to my needs. The time had come: I needed a new pedal board.
So the question remained: How do I keep all of my equipment but keep it in a smaller footprint? I was looking at smaller pedals, lighter materials, consolidating my rig into a laptop and other avenues that were brining me farther away from the organic approach I have subscribed to since my inception as Just Alliance, Loop Artist. After discussing it with a close friend of mine, he came up with the solution.
“Let’s make two smaller pedalboards.”
The answer, albeit elusive, was staring me in the face the entire time. Two boards allows me to carry the same amount of gear, but with each case being just big enough, it would increase the mobility and short set up time I was looking for. Gone are the days of wheeling a 5-foot tall, 60-pound pedalboard through the table games of Caesar’s Palace. Now it was easy in…easy out. The time had come: construction of my new pedalboards.
After a small redesign of my signal path and placing my pedals in a footprint in which my pedalboard and case would be constructed around, a quick trip to the hardware store, the same close friend I mentioned earlier and I were in his woodshop with the following materials:
2 lengths of 10-ply plywood
2 lengths of Birch
1 length of Black laminate
2 lengths of Aluminum Extrusion
The design had each pedalboard fitting into a space that was:
(36in x 15in x 5in)
Or quick metric conversion:
(914mm X 381mm X 127mm)
Boards were cut, corners sanded down, contact cement laid down, black laminate cut to size, aluminum extrusion cut and sanded and after number of hours, the new boards were ready to accept the pedals for which they were built for. I heard of numerous ways to keep pedals attached to a pedalboard. Musicians dismantling their pedals and screwing the chasse into the board or even heard of another guy using glue (!) to attach his pedals to his board. Both of these sounded like bad ideas, so my inner 10-year-old came out. Velcro.
You don’t need to attach your pedals to your board like it is protecting state secrets or hiding the crown jewels, but they do need to stand up to the rough rigors of the road. I cut enough smaller pieces of industrial strength Velcro to cover key points of the underside of my various components and soon stuck them to the newly minted boards.
I was done!
After purchasing the Planet Waves Pedal Board Cable Kit and having Bronson Garza, a guitar and pedalboard guru at the Las Vegas Strip Guitar Center instructed me on how to cut cables to size, my board was starting to look respectable and much cleaner than the one before. My next step was to figure my power needs and establish the correct power supply that would allow me to forgo the wallworts and power supplies that had long made a tangled, yet managed mess on the back side of my rig. The how-it-happened regarding the power management will be saved for a later blog however.
Finally the first stage was completed. I now have two smaller boards that have the same gear as my former pedalboard, but allow it sit in a smaller, lighter footprint! (See below)
The final length as a whole is 72in. As you can see in the pics below the final dimensions for each board fall into the (36in X 15in X 5in) footprint that was the goal from the beginning.
Of course any new gear can’t be properly tested until it is taken for a test drive…in this case, last week’s Summerlin Artist Showcase on the west end of Las Vegas. (Fortunately, the sun had gone down and the mid summer head gave way to…..well…. mid summer-not-as-much-heat)
In the next couple of weeks, I will be getting my new cases and will address the how and why I bought them. If you want to get in touch with the company I enlisted to help me construct the boards then feel free to contact me and I will be happy to connect you.Tonight's blog is the first of a series of blogs that will talk about my new set up. (Cases, power supply, etc) Oh…and if you can keep it a secret….I have new photos coming up soon. Stay tuned!!
Las Vegas, NV
July 7th, 2014
Just Alliance's Blog
Thoughts, ideas and musical musings from this Silver State Loop Artist.