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Clapton Summons the Gods (2004-06-06 - 7:57 a.m.)



Exhausted, but...Wow!

This weekend, of course, is the Crossroads Guitar Festival, but on by none other than Eric Clapton, to benefit a treatment center that he has opened in someplace called Antigua. I don't know where that is, but it sounds like a good thing.

Plus, all of us guitar lovers are benefiting, because Clapton chose Dallas, Texas to host this mega-event.

We didn't go Friday night, but we got tickets for the all day Saturday event and the all day Sunday concert blow-out. Rachel went with me yesterday and actually still wants to go today.

Here's what we saw yesterday. We arrived at a bit after noon, making us too late to catch the Styx concert (not that I really wanted to see Styx, but it would have been cool). We went down to the "Esplanade" (that's the big courtyard between the two exhibit buildings) where the main stage was. Tony Franklin, bass player for The Firm (remember the short-lived group with Jimmy Page and the lead singer from Bad Company) was playing with some lead guitar player who was pretty good. Then this guy named George Lynch came out. Honestly, I never heard of him and he wasn't on the program, but he wailed. Speed metal. Yngwie Malmsteem type stuff. He played with tracks. We listened to a couple of songs and went inside.

Inside were exhibits by every kind of guitar maker you can imagine, plus accessories, and even some other things, like Apple Logic Pro setups. It was fun to walk around and look at everything, plus everyone was giving away free stuff like picks and stickers. We entered several drawings, one raffle for a Martin guitar, a drawing at the KZPS table for a SRV replica Stratocaster (that stands for "Stevie Ray Vaughan" kiddies, one of the greatest blues players EVER, may God rest his soul). Oh, yeah...Rachel won a KZPS t-shirt on their spinny thing.

There was some guy playing speed sitar on the Ernie Ball stage. Found out that Ernie Ball is releasing two new sets of strings, "Beefy Slinky" and "Not Even Slinky." Frankly, I'm thinking about raising the guage of my electric strings, anyway, so I might be interested in those strings. I hear that SRV used like .13's on his guitar. That's like huge for electric guitar strings.

Anyway...we meandered over to another string display. On the way, I wound up getting a free set of Elixir Electric strings. Probably because I told them how much I liked their acoustic strings. The lady asked if I had tried the electric ones, I said no, so she handed me a set of them, free gratis. Cool.

We wound up at the D'Addario table. I like their acoustic strings, too. Their was a line. I said, "What are you guys in line for?" Somebody said, "Neal Schon." We got in line, quick. For you boys and girls who don't know, Schon was the lead guitar player for one of the greatest rock groups of the 80's, Journey. My wife still swoons over Steve Perry's vocals. Schon is a great guitar player, who actually never got to truly shine on any Journey recordings. He has a new solo album coming out soon. Got to shake his hand and get his autograph. That was an unexpected blessing.

By this time, we were a bit hungry, so we stopped at the snack bar and paid $15.00 for a burger, sausage on a stick, two fries and a drink. Then we went outside to hear Jonny Lang. We caught the tail end of the "Guitarmageddon" contest finale. The last guy was this cool guy who played only acoustic guitar. But, oh, how he played it. He won the competition, too, so we got to see the winner.

Jonny Lang is a young guy who has been playing the blues for quite a few years. He is quite good, and I truly believe that he has the potential to follow in the footsteps of Stevie. Except for the dying too young part. He's a bit dramatic, though. Lots of facial expression while he plays.

We went back inside for a bit, then, because...HOT!! We visited the Vintage Guitar Showcase, and the first thing we saw (?)


Oh, well.

Actually, this exhibit looked like they never took it down from the Dallas Guitar Show last year. Pretty much row after row of guitars, some really old, most really expensive. There were a lot of really pretty ones, though.

Then we saw this kid. This little kid. He was standing by a man who could have been his father, but also might have been his grandfather, I never found out. He had a strat strapped on, and was playing it through a Line 6 POD into some headphones, so I really couldn't hear what was going on. Rachel and I both watched. He really looked like he was playing this thing. I mean ripping it up. I mean shredding it. He looked like he knew what he was doing. He took off the stuff, handed the guitar to the man and we heard him say something about "that one part's hard." We looked at each other and said, "Was that kid really playing??" I got goose bumps.

Well, we went on our way from there. Back outside, for the duration of the evening. The next person that we (mostly I) wanted to see was Texas boy Eric Johnson. He was AMAZING! I remembered him being good, and hadn't heard him in several years, but he was truly amazing. He doesn't play blues, but more of a melodic lead style. He sings a little bit (did a cover of Hendrix's "The Wind Cries Mary" and did it very well), but mostly plays. In contrast to Lang, he is very stoic while he plays. Hardly ever changed his facial expression at all.

After him were these two guys who play with Allison Krauss. I can't remember their names. They played bluegrass. They were good, but not our favorite style, you know. They did do the song from "O Brother Where Art Thou?" though. "Constant Sorrows" I think, or something like that. If you've seen the movie, you know what I mean.

After them, was Doyle Bramhall III. He was relatively unimpressive. Not bad, but not really great, either. However, he was being backed up by Billy Preston on organ, and Robert Randolph came out and played with him on his last song.

Next up was J. J. Cale. He's a pretty old blues guy. He was okay, but the thing that made his performance was the fact that Clapton played with him. That was cool. So I did get to see Clapton play last night.

Finally, at about 8:30 (they were running a bit behind), John Mayer came on. Rachel was really looking forward to this. I must say that I was extremely impressed. That boy can play guitar. You don't hear it on his pop songs, but he actually cranked up his strat and played some blues. Very well. So that was a really good part of the show.

We left after that, missing Robert Randolph's part, and the "All Star Blues Jam" afterwards, mostly because they were running behind, and it would have probably been "After Midnight" before they were finished, and we have, you know, church this morning. Can't miss that.

So today, right after church, we hightail it right back over to Fair Park and the Cotton Bowl for the biggest guitar concert in the history of the world. Here's the lineup (we will miss probably the first three or four because it starts before noon...oh, well)...

Neal Schon with Jonathan Cain (Journey)

Steve Vai

Sonny Landreth

Larry Carlton

Pat Metheny Trio

John McLaughlin

Robert Cray Band

Jimmie Vaughan (Stevie's brother)

Hubert Sumlin

Booker T and the MGs

Bo Diddley (!!!)

David Hidalgo (Los Lobos)

Joe Walsh

Vince Gill (??)

James Taylor

B. B. King (!!!)

Buddy Guy

Carlos Santana (!!!!)

Eric Clapton (!!!)

Jeff Beck (!!)

ZZ Top (Woohoo)

Finale with ZZ Top, Eric Clapton & Jeff Beck (!!!!!!!)

So there it is.

Oh, man...I almost forgot. Remember the kid? Saw him later, too. I had to ask. I went up to the man and said, "Excuse me, sir. Is he really playing??" The man smiled and nodded. Yeah. He knows how to play. He has everything that Stevie Ray Vaughan did memorized. He knows all the lyrics. He has the rhythm. I almost cried. The kid is 6 years old. Just turned six. I said, "Can he write?" The man started answering that he had tried to write a couple of songs. I said, "No, I mean can he write his NAME? I want an autograph." So the kid wrote his name for me. Cade Maas. Good name. Look for him in a few years.

And I stole the title from the Fort Worth Star Telegram's Star Time supplement.

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