Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Nickel Creek at the Ryman (or...To There and Back Again)

This past weekend, I drove from Chicago to Nashville, TN to see Nickel Creek at the historic Ryman Auditorium (dodging tornados and severe thunderstorms all the way down). I am a huge fan of the band (and its individual members) and never cease to be amazed at how many people are completely unaware that this great band even exists. While I know that the group is not necessarily a "pop trio", probably doesn't get much Top 40 airplay, and is not part of MTV's video rotation, they are regularly nominated for Grammy awards and are some of the most talented and accomplished musicians and songwriters to come along in decades. They have managed to create a form and style of music that is uniquely their own, and they consistently put on the most unique, inspired, and downright FUN live performances of any band that I can think of. You are guaranteed great music, great fun, and great memories at a Nickel Creek concert...hands down, every time!

While I have thoroughly enjoyed myself at ever Chicagoland Nickel Creek show that I have attended over the course of the last five years or so, I just had a feeling that this particular show at the Ryman was going to be a special one. I had only been inside the building as a tourist (the Ryman Auditorium is the original home of the Grand Ole Opry), and had never seen a show there. I figured that there might be a special guest or two (Bela Fleck played banjo on a couple of tunes during the encore), and I was excited to see some of the new material from the group's latest album played live. Needless to say, it was an amazing evening, and that evening will probably go down as one of the more memorable concert performances that I have ever seen...and I've seen a LOT of great live performances.

So...what does this have to do with bass playing and Blueberry Hill Bass, right? First, I was a bit disappointed to find out after the show that the band will be taking a hiatus to pursue solo projects once their commitments to a spring tour in 2007 have been fulfilled. I bring this up because I want to encourage everyone who loves great songwriting, acoustic music, and outstanding musicianship to see Nickel Creek when they come to your town next year. It might be your last opportunity for quite a long while.

The second reason why I decide to write about THIS topic, of all topics, is to bring some deserving attention to Mark Schatz. Even though I am not an upright player, and even though Mark is not particularly known as an electric player (or as a user of the type of high-end, hand-crafted instruments that Blueberry Hill is known for), we bass players as a group are notorious for supporting one another. Bass players and bass enthusiasts all over the world have been extremely supportive of Blueberry Hill and my efforts to bring the best gear and the best service to my customers. I am a big fan of Mark's playing and his musicianship and wanted to shed some light on his musical endeavors. While playing around on the internet and gazing at photos of fancy, high-end basses can be a lot of fun (I do a lot of that myself), it's also important to remember to get out and support our bass-playing brethren. Listening to different players with different playing styles, different influences, and different approaches is a great way to broaden your musicial vocabulary, and it's a great way to find musician inspiration.

If you have a chance this spring, get out there and check out Mark with Nickel Creek. And even if you can't, or if you're already familiar with Mark's amazing upright skills, make an effort to check out another bass player with another band who you might not ordinarily listen to. Supporting each other, and the bass playing community as a whole, is what makes bass players so unique!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Blueberry Hill and the "New" Busch Stadium

In between discussions about wood, pickups, and preamps, many of you have discovered through the years that I am a big fan of N.L. baseball and, specifically, a die-hard St. Louis Cardinals fan. Over the holiday weekend, I finally had the opportunity to make my first visit to the new Busch Stadium. I was sufficiently impressed, and would recommend a visit to any baseball fan or to anyone spending time in St. Louis. A 1-0 loss to the Pirates was not as exciting as the bottom of the ninth, 2-out, game winning 3-run Tommy Herr home run that emortalized my first visit to the old Busch back in the summer of '85, it was still a pretty good time. While I still wish that "Old Busch" was still around, I'm certainly not one to stand in the way of progress. Besides...they would just concrete right over me and keep on going! The new stadium is here and the old one isn't coming back, so I might as well get used to it!

And now for the "bass" related part of this story. When the new stadium was under construction, I decided to participate in the "brick paver" program. Essentially, for a small fee, fans were given the opportunity to purchase a brick that they could then customize with their own message. These bricks would then be set in blocks surrounding the stadium walkways. I thought that it would be fun to immortalize Blueberry Hill Bass outside of the new stadium, so I combined BHB with Cardinal HOF announcer Jack Buck's famous sign-off at the end of each Cardinal victory: "That's a Winner!" I feel like Blueberry Hill has been a winner since it's inception, the enormously talented craftsmen that we work with are winners, and our customers are winners in the truest sense of the word.

The photo above is the view of the stadium where the Blueberry Hill brick paver resides (outside the stadium and down the first base line). If you ever find yourself outside the stadium, see if you can find the brick along the walkway. If you spot it, snap a photo, send it in, and I'll give you a free bass! Well...not really, but I'd be thrilled to hear from anyone who picks it out of the crowd. : )