Malkmus tour Omaha

Coffee is a mandatory fuel for everyone on this trip, so much so that the TM carries an aeropress and the band stops by our room before we leave the hotels– with the first stop usually being a coffee shop. We follow a similar routine and roll into Omaha in time for a decent breakfast before loading in at the Slowdown. Someone tells me Connor Oberst invested heavily in building up a good venue in Omaha, and the place is nice– intimate and spacious at the same time, with a small, high quality line array for FOH and a friendly, professional crew.

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I’m trying to improve the band’s experience little by little, and in Omaha I spend time taking setup specs on Stephen’s guitars. His jazzmaster is an early 60’s with a few changes, and a lot of quirks. Continue reading

Malkmus tour day 5

Data speeds have been spotty out here in the middle of the country’s open spaces, but things are going nicely. The pacing of the days is nice, with later load-ins, generally brief sound checks, and the long drives broken up into multiple days to keep fatigue down. The SLC show was a great tour kickoff, and I’m getting the hang of the tunings and changes. The band are all great performers and low maintenance. You can tell they’ve been doing this for years and there’s a good chemistry.

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Malkmus tour day one: SLC

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Salt Lake is at its best with a little snow on the peaks, beautiful as soon as I hit the ground. The downtown grid is one of the most confusing I’ve ever traveled, with almost every street named something like “east 200 st south”, so even the GPS on the way back to the venue seemed mixed up. Flying in day of show and jumping into a totally unfamiliar situation is a little nerve wracking and I wasn’t fully sure what to expect, despite having talked to the band and TM ahead of time about their needs and preferences.

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The urban lounge is a good old fashioned rock club, graffiti covering the bathrooms, small, loud, and gritty, but the back stage area is relatively clean and the staff are all nice and helpful.

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I’ve tried to anticipate problems despite being told all gear is in good shape. When I arrive everything is already set onstage, so I use the opportunity to take some pictures and note settings, pedal placement, signal routing, etc. There’s nowhere near enough time to assess everything, but I start with some immediate basics, adding Velcro cable keepers to separate cables, checking batteries, adding power supplies to pedals without them, dressing cords down with gaff tape do they’re not a tripping hazard… Before I know it the band is on stage and I shift gears to watching their stage presence, asking everyone what they’ll want throughout the night, and getting a feel for the performance.

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Everyone is pretty self sufficient on stage and laid back off, so I get a good feeling about how it will all go. My biggest challenge will be learning which tunings are for which songs. With around ten different tunings and a song repertoire of 50 songs, it’s a lot to keep straight, and with only two guitars going through all those wild tunings, there’s not much margin for error. The band changes the set every night, will be hand writing the set list, and Steven will denote which guitars he wants to use for which song. Hopefully I’ll have time to note tunings as well and not screw anything up during the gig…

Below are just a few snaps of various spots on stage. Hopefully the settings and everything sink in; they’re straight forward, but I’ve had hardly any time to go through the gear. Cross your fingers for me tonight and I’ll try to update later…

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Setting up an SG for drop C tuning with no buzzing

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Here we have a newer Gibson SG standard belonging to Sam, guitarist for hard-punching local band Manrock. Everything feels and sounds pretty good on the guitar, but the bass strings have no sustain above the 13th fret.

Here we see why: Continue reading

Sick String on the road 2/13-2/28: follow here and on Facebook

Hello all–

I’ll be out of the shop for a couple of weeks starting the 13th working as backline tech for Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks (see dates and stops here). This should be a really fun trip and I’m looking forward to getting back on the road.

In the past I’ve really enjoyed writing some tour blogs, giving readers a look behind the scenes at the triumphs and tragedies of a stage tech, and I hope to have time to do a bit of that on this trip. You can check for updates here on the website, subscribe to our RSS feed, or follow along on Facebook. If I can figure out how to cross post to myspace I’ll try to revive that site for us too, especially if anyone comes forward and says they still use it :) If you haven’t already, become a fan of sick string at:
Facebook/sickstringguitar

I’m going to try to travel light and post from my phone. Hopefully this will mean more streamlined, but more frequent posts. Let me know if you have questions, tips, suggestions, or requests. Definitely be in touch if you know where I can play pinball in the cities I’m visiting!

Right now I am on track to have most projects wrapped up before I leave, and I’ll be straight back in the shop in march, so feel free to drop new work off for me while I’m gone and I’ll turn it around quickly. Lastly, if you’ve had a good experience with us, please leave a review on google, yelp, or what have you. Positive word of mouth is always appreciated.

More to come soon!

Brian Watson