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Reverb_Logo_OrangeIf you've read my archives, then you know I love guitar shops. I worked in a small full line shop for years and when I was not in that shop, I was in every other guitar shop in town. The older I get the more I appreciate a small shop with a knowledgeable staff and a nice varied selection. I do shop online for some gear, but most gear sites are lacking in personality. The only site I shop that is more than just a digital catalog is Sweetwater. Sweetwater has always done its best to be more and they never disappoint. But how cool would it be to to find boutique shops, small scale builders and and cool used gear all in one place?

Thanks to such a place now exists. Reverb is the brainchild of David Kalt, the owner of Chicago Music Exchange. He purchased Chicago Music Exchange more out of necessity at first. After a successful run as a computer programmer (and I mean crazy successful, he wrote a program for options trading that was bought by Charles Schwab), he sold his company and wanted to get back into music. After buying, he realized that is was very difficult to get all the dealerships he wanted and that led to the purchase of Chicago Music Exchange.

I read about David a couple years back in the Music trades (where I learned all this) and did not give the “’ site a second thought. Then one day I saw an add for it. On the surface it seemed like another eBay copy or a commercialized “Craig’s List”. But after spending some time on the site I realized he did what no other “auction” site had been able to do. He created a cool online community where musicians can hang out, learn about gear, and easily peddle their own hand built gear.

One of the things that struck me when I read the article in Music trades is that David was not trying to start a chain and compete with the big box guys. Instead he wanted to create a “destination” store. A cool place to hang out with the best selection of the coolest gear. Well, he took that same philosophy and applied it to It’s not like other sale and auction sites. Individuals and shops can set up their own “shops” which users can then follow in their feed. He managed to take the cool parts of twitter, Facebook, eBay and Craig’s list, and eliminated the stuff about those site that annoy me.

If I may suggest try starting on the “Handmade Gear” Section. I love the interesting things I have found there. In fact my next post will feature a recent purchase from that section.


Vintage Perspective

I have been obsessed with Gibson SG’s for a couple years now. A while back I got an Epiphone SG that I love and that kind of set me on a quest to find an actual Gibson Signal To Noise that played and look the way I wanted it to. So the other day I happened across a 1965 Gibson SG junior. It was the color I wanted, and for the age even a reasonable price. So I sat down with the guitar, marveling at my find and started to play. AsI played it a realization washed over me. It was no better than my Epiphone.

I was shocked at how much it felt like my Epiphone. In fact, if I were to buy that guitar I would need to get it refinished (which I know is a cardinal sin on a vintage guitar) to make it play as smooth as I want it to. Right now there is just too much drag due to the all the finish cracks. I know that Epiphone has come a long since the 90's, but I have to really hand it to them on the quality of the guitars they are putting out, especially for the price point they are doing it at. I've always tried to go for feel and sound first and looks second. That's why my SG is blonde instead of the color I wanted. Still, I really want a red SG, with Gibson on the headstock. It's what I've wanted since I was a young kid. There's just something iconic about it. But if I cannot find one that plays as good as my Epiphone, why bother?

It's amazing how marketing has changed so many industries. When the solid body electric was just starting out, no one cared about brands. They were looking for a solution to a problem. Now we are 60 years plus past the success of the first commercial solid body electric guitars, and looking back, not much has changed. Why? How did a collective group (guitarists) go from being innovators to being stuck in the past? Has the guitar already evolved to be as good as it gets? Playing that '65 really gave me perspective on “vintage” instruments. I think the allure to them is what they symbolize. A magical period in history when guitar based music was still finding it's way. Who would not want to have a piece of that history? More than ever though, playing the '65 made me realize the magic was never in the instruments. It's in the players.


Record Store Day 2015

I've been trying unsuccessfully to attend record store day for the last couple years. Before I moved the closest indie record store was about an hour to 90 minutes away, so it was a bit of a deterrent. This year was different. I now live 20 minutes from an indie record shop and it's on my way to work. So this year I got up early, grabbed some breakfast on my way and stood in line for an 8am opening. I had a little added incentive this year too. Metallica released the “No Life Til Leather” demo tape that got them their deal back in 1982. And when I say “tape”, I mean tape. It's a cassette.

It was fun to stand in line. In my last post I mentioned my difficulty finding people with similar tastes in guitars and music since I have been here. Record store day made that a little easier. There were maybe a dozen of us waiting in line, and it was great to have conversations with new people who were looking for similar stuff. Then the doors open…and it happens. I felt like a kid again. I walked in, found the Metallica cassette, and I was 14 again. I was ridiculously excited to find that cassette. It was a limited pressing and only being distributed to indie record shops. The shop I went to only got 12 copies and I got one. Ridiculously excited.

I combed that shop up and down and I bought a few more things while I was there. A couple RSD exclusives, a CD copy of “The Boxed Life”, and a Willie Dixon CD. It was really a great time and I cannot wait until RSD next year!


Becoming a local

For the majority of my life I lived north of Pittsburgh, PA. Pittsburgh is the city where I got my first guitar, saw my first concert, and played my first show. It will always be “home”. Now I am in a new city, finding my way around and trying to become the “local” I once was in Pittsburgh. I’ve been here almost a year now, and I am still discovering things. Other than work and the beach, I don’t get out much. The last couple weeks I have been able to finally explore more and things are starting to click.

There are not a lot of guitar shops in the area. There is one good locally owned shop, with a few other smaller shops with some interesting pieces, but none like what I was accustomed to. The pedal selection in general in this area is pretty thin and boring. Other than the local shops, my next best option for guitar shops is the local Guitar Center.

Guitar Center in general is not my first choice because as the years have passed on they have become more and more homogenized with lots of product, but not a lot of choices. They have 72 strats in 37 colors, but maybe one jaguar, and no unusual guitars like an Iceman or a Flying V. Just standard stuff. Since moving here I have visited the local Guitar Center several times and each time I like the store more

For whatever reason, there is not the market here for the kind of music I like. Pittsburgh had been dwindling for years, but was recently starting to come back. Having now moved, I am realizing quite a correlation between the local music scene, the touring acts that come through, and what those things mean to the guitar market in a given city. More and more I am thankful for the guitar center in this town because that seems to be where other musicians who like the kind of stuff I like and can talk about tone and amps and pickups from experience. Today I had a great conversation with a guy who worked at guitar center who like me was very aware of Gruhn guitars in Nashville, had been to the downtown shop before it moved, and simply marveled at the collection of guitars they have. Finally, a kindred spirit.

It’s tough not being local. You know nothing. You don’t know what’s a good neighborhood or a bad one. You have no idea where to get your oil changed, heck even wal mart is different (scarier). The one thing I can count on is finding other guitarists who can relate. The one plus side to having a slim market locally is a drive from me to travel and hour or two to check out other shops. Who knows what I may find.


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