Monday, February 15, 2010

Lost in the House of Shred

I went to see a fantastic guitar player tonight. His name is not important here. He's one of those guys you've heard, but probably never heard of, unless you're an inveterate reader of album liner notes. I have seen many such players, often as their opening act. They have an unquestionable command of their StratTeleLes Paul or whatever, and the kind of tone it takes a lifetime of obsession to attain. Most of the set will consist of modal one-chord vamps where the idea is to get to the guitar solo as quickly as possible. They almost always work in a power trio format with bass and drums. There will be no singing. There will be no other soloists. There will be a Hendrix cover for an encore. Musically, they may lean in a rock or a jazz or a blues direction, but the point of the thing is always loud and extremely proficient electric guitar.

But no matter the style, the crowd is always the same: an audience made up entirely of other guys who play guitar. There's usually no more than four or five women in attendance; always the wife or girlfriend of a guy who plays guitar. Alone with her drink...annoyed and bored out of her tits. This cult is specific only to guitar players. Only the guitar is so widely played that one can have a successful career catering only to other players of the instrument, utterly free of the obligation to provide any musical content that will make the proceedings palatable to a non-musician. Or a non-guitarist.

So I sat there tonight, a piano player in a strange land. And while, as a fellow musician, I sincerely admired the guitarist's mastery of his instrument, dedication to his craft, and unwillingness to pander to the masses, I have to admit that there was one more bored chick in the audience. And it was me.

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