After a great day exploring Hollywood it was time to get back to 'work' 😂.
In order to get to JFK as cheaply as possible I flew out earlier than Tom, Gabor and Csaba. I left Burbank at noon on the Wednesday in the smallest tin can of a plane I've ever flown in. The overhead bins were way too small for my guitar, but luckily (channelling my inner Tony Martinez) I managed to charm the attendant, and the Erotic got its own seat next to me rather than suffer the indignity of being checked 😁🎸🤘🏻.
Connecting in Phoenix I was back onto a regular sized plane, and landed in NY at 11pm. The downside to this thrifty coastal traversal was that the other guys were not due to get in until 5:30am the next morning. So that meant snaking my mono bag strap around my leg and falling asleep on my suitcase slumped in a corner of arrivals.
We got to the hotel around 7am and after a few hours sleep had the remainder of Thursday to chill, take some gear to Rudy's in advance of the clinic the next day, and most importantly hit the jazz clubs in the evening! I got my mortal mind blown by Wayne Krantz, Matt Garrison and Cliff Almond at the 55 Bar. I'd pretend and say this was bucket list stuff, but I will definitely be back again at some point.
I had visited NY in 2006 for a week, very much as a tourist and loved it. I had forgotten in the intervening years just what a cool place it is. I know London is a bit love it or hate it, so maybe this analogy is not so good, but I see NY as a vertically sprawling London. Places like this are fascinating, the seem to have the highest concentration of humanity doing its thing in the extreme shades of good and bad. It made me really want to come back again with Sarah and do the tourist stuff with her.
The clinic was to take place on the Friday evening, as the shop was closing for the day, and so much of the time before hand was spent in the hotel chatting over the format and warming up my fingers.
The shop (and the guests that had expressed interest via Facebook) were made aware of Tom's accident, and so because of the perculiar nature that the clinic was now going to have, there was some concern that nobody would turn up. Thankfully that turned out not to be the case, there were30 people or so not counting ourselves, staff and other shop customers milling around.
Tom introduced Fibenare the company, talked about the guitars and I essentially noodled on each guitar in the Fibenare range, demonstrating the various tones with a variety of techniques and styles. Afterwards we fielded questions, mingled and drank Palinka while the audience got some hands on time with the guitars. Again, turned out to have a few TGH viewers in the audience which still blows me away that I get to be a part of that.
I really want to talk about how I felt prior, during and post, but it's hard to do so without giving at least a little back story.
As I have alluded to a couple of times on the blog, I have suffered with severe depression and anxiety for several years, in no small part tied up with my complicated relationship to music and the guitar. I will save the details of this for a more focussed series of posts in the future, but for me to be in this situation; demoing for a guitar company who's instruments I love and now play; filling in for not only a good friend, but also one of my guitar heroes; in New York at Rudy's; should have been more than a little overwhelming and laced with a good deal of pressure.
Surprisingly, whilst nervous, I was also fairly optimistic and managed to not let the apprehension stop me from saying yes to it in the first place. This is really encouraging to feel how far things have come, and how I'm working on changing the negative behaviours and thought patterns that have marred my musical development, creativity, social skills and career to this point.
In fact what I actually felt in the moment was an excitement and a peace on the instrument that I haven't felt whilst performing since..well for as long as I can remember. Was my playing perfect? Of course not. Was it as good as it could be in my room with the lights off and no-one watching? Nope. But I wasn't freaking out about it, in fact I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of playing these world class instrumtents in a beautiful environment to interested people.
I remember plugging into the semi-hollow Rahan model towards the end (I hadn't played this particular guitar on the NAMM booth prior) and feeling an utterly childlike joy at the sound emanating from the 2x12 Magnatone. The warm, bell-like jazz tones gave way to a woody barking sustain as I kicked in the overdrive. This couldn't help but produce a stupid grin across my face and elicit some relaxed, half decent playing.
I told myself that although Tom, Gabor and Csaba were in a pickle, they wouldn't have asked me, or trusted me to do the clinic if they thought I couldn't or that I would screw it up. And the great part is that I believed myself, which must have been why the nerves were of the healthy kind, and not the sort that induces the instant playing paralysis.
Needless to say I do feel somewhat conflicted about doing the clinic. On the one hand I was concerned for Tom's arm, but also being in the right place at the right time of his misfortune gave me the chance to do all this.
I want to say a huge thank you to Gabor and Csaba for giving me this opportunity and trusting me to do it. I can't put into words how warm and generous they have been to me throughout the whole experience, and it has been one of the most exciting and amazing things I've done to date with my musical life, in addition to helping with the performance anxieties and depression a great deal.
MORE NEW YORK HIGHLIGHTS
- Wayne Krantz at the 55 Bar. Wayne Krantz has been one of those players that I've yet to dig deep into, although I have listened to Signals and Two Drink Minimum for a long time.
- B&H Photo. OMG. Tech nerd heaven! We have nothing like this in the UK, or at least that I'm aware. Cameras, audio, pro tech, computer shit, obscure accessories, everything a media nerd could dream of!
- Food court at the bottom of Columbus. Om nom.
- Meeting more TGH viewers and awesome players.
- Sight seeing with Gabor. On the Saturday after the clinic Tom needed to rest the arm and Csaba was also feeling unwell, so Gabor headed out to see the sights and take the usual landmark selfies etc. Great fun.
- Ben Eunson playing at Bar Next Door. This guy is the next level, in every sense. Young player that is gonna be huge I'm sure. Terrifying technique and line creativity. Joyous to listen to in every way.