Category Archives: Live Music

Dwarfcraft Devices and Pedalboards

We were fortunate enough to have a great guest at Fat Tone Guitars recently. Benjamin Hinz (known to the pedal crowd as Aen) of Dwarfcraft Devices ventured below the cheddar curtain to wow us with an array of fantastic Dwarfcraft pedals. We got to hear the maker talk about his work and demo some great sounds.

If you weren’t in attendance, you can view it below…

How Mark Knopfler Got His Groove

You know the sound. Smooth but with just the right kick of distortion to let you know you are dealing with some real rock n’ roll. You know what I’m talking about. That perfectly even tone that has you walking with a bit of a strut because you just heard “Sultans of Swing” on the radio and can’t get the guitar lines out of your head.

Mark Knopfler and his Strat

Mark Knopfler and his Strat

Mark Knopfler possesses one of the most distinct tones in all of rock. With Dire Straits and beyond, Knopfler has been combining fluid solos and chord passages that walk the line between understated and flat-out jaw dropping. Although the beautiful music comes from his head and fingers (he plays without a pick), Knopfler did have a bit of help in developing such a persuasive and sexy tone. The atmosphere and shadings he creates on such tunes as the aforementioned “Sultans of Swing”, “Down to the Waterline” and “Lady Writer” was created with the help of the Dan Armstrong Orange Squeezer Compressor pedal.

The Orange Squeezer is a basically a compressor pedal. A compressor is a circuit that compresses the signal so if it exceeds a level, the compressor limits, or puts a cap on, the signal. What this means is that the soft tones are lifted and the loud tones are limited resulting in an even sound. A listen to early Dire Straits recordings is a perfect example of the benefits of using a compressor. The Orange Squeezer enabled Knopfler to keep a flush sound, not too loud and not too soft, which has played a huge role in the guitarist’s unmistakable tone.

Of course, there is the Strat that Knopfler played that helped create such a signature sound. Strats often possess a biting tone that is great for cutting through a thick rhythm section. Combined with the Orange Compressor pedal, Knopfler was able to use the Strat to create the perfect timbre that set his playing style apart from everyone else. Knopfler’s style is so distinct that Fender has issued a Mark Knopfler Stratocaster which features three Texas Special single coil pickups in inside of a Hot Rod Red ’57 ash body with a ’62 c-shaped maple neck. This guitar along with the Orange Compressor is the perfect recipe for creating smooth lines and chords that pop with an even controlled resonance that will have you rolling with the Sultans of Swing in your basement or at the gig.

Analog Man Mini-Bi-Comp Compressor Pedal

Analog Man Mini Bi-Comp. Orange Squeezer on the right.

blog written by E. M. Kaplan

You Weren’t There

A guy I know who plays in The Debauchers, a lo-fi, post punk band in Chicago turned me onto this very cool independent film, You Weren’t There. This film is a history of Chicago punk rock, circa 1977-1984.

What’s funny and ironic is that in 1977, I was a hard-rock and heavy metal fan and didn’t understand punk rock music.  At the time, my playlist consisted of Blue Oyster Cult, Black Sabbath, Nazareth, UFO and Pink Floyd.  The ironic part is that some of the people in this film talk about Chicago suburbanites–the people that hated the punkers–and I’d put myself in that category.  The thing is, I was a 90 lb weakling heavy metal fan and not a cigarettes smoking, IROC driving heavy metal fan.

Anyways, I recommend this movie for both its entertainment value as well as its historical relevance.

You Weren't There Movie Poster

Some of these punkers were playing some inexpensive electric guitars back in the 70s.    There weren’t a ton of guitar effect pedals back then but I do hear some cool fuzz or distortion tones coming from those records.

In-Store Events

Spring is in the air and with it comes the warm weather live music season.  And Fat Tone Guitars is fully participating in the jamming festivities.  Here’s our live music schedule for the spring and early summer of 2010

Saturday May 1 — Circus Bear, a Chicago rock band that is fronted by some local Fat Tone Guitars customers.  Original rock and covers.

Saturday May 22 — Jan King and Medicine Ball.  Jan King has been kicking around the Chicago and Los Angeles rock scene for awhile and now has settled in to what looks to be her forte.  Heavy bluesy rock that you can roll to.  Joined by longtime partner Tami Peden on drums and Keith Wakefield on bass.

Saturday June 5 — Pop Dollys. Mike Cohen is another Chicago based guitarist that’s been cutting his teeth in various musical outlets brings this brand new power pop three piece to the Fat Tone showroom.  Mike sings and plays bass here.

Friday June 25 — Harbingers of Happiness is an acoustic duo from Texas that are coming through Chicago for the first time.  Big fans of the Bottle Rockets, Samuel Burke and Huke Green will bring the wit and chops.  You bring the beer.

After Hours at Fat Tone Guitars

Roger & The Wraybands appearing at Fat Tone Guitars, 2009

There you have it–free music for the masses.

Live Rock and Roll

The record business is in serious disarray which means that many acts are on perma-tour status.  In my opinion there are few things better than live music.

This past weekend, Fat Tone Guitars had the pleasure of hosting a hard touring Chicago band, The Steepwater Band, in our showroom.  Playing close to 150 shows a year, The Steepwater Band is made up of Jeff Massey on guitar and vocals, Tod Bowers on bass and Joe Winters on drums.  Taking their cue from both classic British bands like The Faces and Humble Pie and American bands like The Band and Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Steepwater boys play heartfelt roots based heavy music. While their music has the feel of classic rock, it’s performed with total feeling in the here and now.

The Steepwater Band at Fat Tone Guitars

The Steepwater Band at Fat Tone Guitars

I’m a big fan of their tunes and their sound and they really rocked the house at Fat Tone Guitars.

You can visit their website here.

You can buy their latest album, Grace and Melody, here.

Jeff Massey's Pedalboard

Jeff Massey's Pedalboard

As you can see from Jeff’s pedalboard, he’s a connoisseur of great tone.  Great pedals on this board include Analog Man, BMF Effects, Electro-Harmonix, Klon, Dunlop and more.

After-Hours At Fat Tone

Fat Tone Guitars hosts events in the showroom from time to time.  Many of the artists that perform on our small stage are local musicians who are simply looking to play for an audience and have a good time.

Past performances include:

Rebeltone at Fat Tone Guitars

Rebeltone at Fat Tone Guitars

and

Super Mini Trio at Fat Tone Guitars

Super Mini Trio at Fat Tone Guitars

and

Bob Corritore, Patrick Rynn and Chris James at Fat Tone

Bob Corritore, Patrick Rynn and Chris James at Fat Tone

and

Chickenbone at Fat Tone Guitars

Chickenbone at Fat Tone Guitars

and

Roger and The Wraybands at Fat Tone Guitars

Roger and The Wraybands at Fat Tone Guitars

and

The Debauchers at Fat Tone Guitars

The Debauchers at Fat Tone Guitars

and my favorites….

The Bottle Rockets at Fat Tone Guitars

The Bottle Rockets at Fat Tone Guitars

Cool huh?  Will you be next?

Guitar Solo’s The List Part 1

A few days ago, I blogged about my favorite rock guitar solos.  As I said, Fat Tone Guitars ran a promotion and entry into the promotion involved telling us your five favorite guitar solos.  Now that our promotion has ended, I’m left with some extremely interesting data regarding people’s taste in guitar music.

What’s truly interesting is that guitar players still love Pink Floyd.  I was in high school when The Wall was released, and it was a great album and all, but I never truly got into it, never even memorized the order of the songs.  I did spend a fair amount of time listening to Dark Side of The Moon, but Pink Floyd never impressed on me more than as great purveyors of post psychedelic, dreamscape type music as well as chart toppers.

However….Pink Floyd remains way up there in the world of guitar lovers.

Here are some cool findings from the Fat Tone Guitars giveaway entries, including top songs and artists.  Top artists in order were:

  1. Pink Floyd
  2. Jimi Hendrix
  3. Led Zeppelin
  4. Stevie Ray Vaughan
  5. Van Halen
  6. Eric Clapton/Cream
  7. Neil Young
  8. Eric Johnson
  9. Duane Allman
  10. Slash/GnR

Top individual songs with guitar solos are:

  1. Comfortably Numb by Pink Floyd (by a wide margin)
  2. Stairway To Heaven
  3. Eruption by Van Halen
  4. Voodoo Child by Jimi Hendrix
  5. Sultans of Swing by Dire Straits

It’s amazing to me that Pink Floyd was mentioned in about 40% of the entries followed by Jimi Hendrix in about 30%.  The Pink Floyd songs mentioned were primarily Comfortably Numb followed by Time and Money from Dark Side.  The Jimi Hendrix songs mentioned were spread out pretty evenly amongst Voodoo Child, Foxey Lady, LIttle Wing, Machine Gun and others.

The most interesting finding to me was that guitar gods like Joe Satriani (4 mentions) and Yngwe Malmsteen (1 mention) were almost no-shows.

I’ll post more interesting tidbits next week.