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The Wine Cellar, Ogden, Utah


   Pretty Boy's Corner

August 10, 2010

Susan and I get up around 7 am and she goes for a walk while I go for a run. I get back to the hotel and meet Lisa and Karl at the van. She is loading her suitcase into Big Mama before they take off to see their mom and other family. Back in the breakfast room everyone is there except Donto. We all say our good mornings, talk about things, eat some breakfast, and make plans to meet at the van around noon. We only have to drive 45 minutes to Ogden to play at the Wine Cellar. Our plan is to check in the hotel about 3 pm in Ogden, load our equipment into the Wine Cellar, and then go over to Marc Ybaben's house for some dinner. Marc is a good friend and guitar player that I've played with for some time in the jazz quartet, the Marc Why Group. He and his family have just recently moved to the Salt Lake area.

We have a one o'clock appointment to visit the XP audio facility to check out some new equipment so, after we make a quick visit to Salt Lake City Center and the Mormon Temple, we head over to the XP facilities. We are greeted there warmly by Shane Smith, John Fisher, John Johnson, and other very friendly people who I cannot remember the names of. They have a showroom that is set up like a small night club stage complete with keyboards, drum set, bass rigs, and guitar amps. It is here where they develop and test out their equipment and demonstrate their product.

Laurie tries out the new Bolt amp that they have been marketing for the last year. It is a cool little amp with three separate channels that go from clean, distorted, and lead sounds all of which are fully adjustable and can be controlled by a foot switch. She also gets to try out one of their Surround Sound cabinets which acts like a Leslie cabinet. It all sounds pretty cool. I try out a bass rig they have not even started producing yet. It is called Forge and the idea is that all the speaker cabinets will be self-powered. The cabinet I try has an 18-inch speaker, a four 10-inch speaker array, and a two 5-inch speaker array. Each of these has a separate power amp which means that there are three power amps in each cabinet. I'm told that the weight of the cabinet is kept down by using amplifiers that use less mass, but I'm told that the weight of this cabinet is 130 pounds. They are planning to make smaller units that weigh less but they are still in the planning stages. I don't think I'll be using one of these backbreakers any time soon. I'll wait till they make smaller cabs or we can afford roadies. On top of this big cab is a pre amp that has parametric EQ, a compressor, two tube amp settings, an XLR direct out, and active/passive instrument inputs. It sounds pretty good but took some tweaking to find a suitable sound. I liked the way the bass was always present but it did not mask the high end articulations of my plucking hand. It has a lot of versatility and I look forward to seeing the finished product line. Tommy tries out their keyboard set up with the Surround Sound cabinets. These units either look like the traditional wood cabinets that we are all familiar with or they can look like a regular amp. He tells me that they have that good Leslie sound that we all know and like but the unit would not be able to replace his regular amp and speaker set up that he currently uses. This would mean using this in addition to the amp he currently uses, and being that we are limited on space in Big Mama it will have to wait. Besides, Tommy already gets a killer Leslie sound on his organ stops in his Nord keyboard.

The biggest highlight of the trip to XP Audio was the Morpheus pedals that they have developed that are their biggest sellers to date. One is called the Drop Tune pedal. It takes the input-signal of any instrument and lowers it from its original pitch by half steps. So you can learn any song in only one key then be able to play it in any key. It is also handy in letting a guitar player play in an open position even if the song is not in an open key on the guitar. For instance, you can play a song in the key of F and still use open E and A chords just by stomping on the box once. It also has a momentary switch that allows you to modulate and return to the original key. This would also be handy for guitarists who do not like to retune their guitars to practice along with musicians like Stevie Ray Vaughn who always played a half step down. The other key is called the Capo pedal. It allows the input of a guitar to modulate upward just like you would do if you were to put a capo on the guitar. The display on the pedal even shows a guitar neck with lights indicating what fret the capo is currently on. This will also be a big hit with a lot of guitar players as they will no longer have to wrestle with the capo to get the right pressure on all the strings. After hearing these pedals demonstrated with Laurie's guitar, I was really impressed. I might just have to order one or both of the pedals. Yes. I am a pedal junky.

Everyone at XP Audio was really nice and they let use jam for quite a while trying out their new gear. They even let us wander around back where they are building their products. It was a lot of fun checking in with a company that is on the cutting edge of what can be done in the world of performance electronics. We all thanked them for their valuable time and we get back on the road to make our short trip to Ogden.

In Ogden we check in at the Ben Lomand Hotel, which is on the Utah historic register, and it has been here since the early 1900s. Once checked in we go around the block to the Wine Cellar to set up. We are greeted by Mitch, the club owner who is a super nice guy. We have to use an elevator or go down a flight of steps to get the gear in, which is always a hassle, but once inside we see that the space is really cool and has a nice vibe about it. It is a long and narrow room with the stage at one end but instead of the stage being up against a wall there are pool tables behind the stage. The bar is on one of the side walls about two thirds of the way down from the stage. The stage is small but we manage to get everyone set up. We do a sound check and then head over to Marc Ybaben's house which is ten miles away. It is now after 5 pm and we play at 8 pm, so this means we need to eat and run at Marc's house. Needless to say, I think we were all a little stressed about this time constraint.

Once at Marc's we are greeted by Marc and his wife Rose, Stephanie and her daughter, Marc's two children, Conner and Karine, and the Australian shepherd, Kona. Everyone's eyes get real big when we see the delicious meal that has been prepared for us. There are tortillas, fajitas, carne asada, broiled fish, coleslaw, a summer vegetable salad, watermelon, beans, rice, cheese, salsa, guacamole, and chips. Whew. We ate ravenously and quickly as we wanted to be back at the hotel around 7 pm. to change and warm up for the show. We had this wonderful meal out on their patio deck which looks upon their backyard with a view of the Wasatch Mountains. To top all of this off we had a dessert of brownies, chocolate syrup, and ice cream. We all are quite sated and wish we could just hang around and visit but we say our good byes and head back to the hotel.
When we get back we find that there are parking spaces just in front of the Wine Cellar so we elect to park Big Mama here and walk over to the hotel which only few steps away. We all meet back at the club and a few people have shown up. This is a Tuesday night and Mitch usually only opens the club on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays however, he has done some advertising for this and we hope this pays off.

By the time we get into our first set Marc has arrived and so have some of Lisa's aunts, uncles, and cousins. Midway through the first set I believe I counted about 30 to 35 loyal blues fans. We play the first set which was a ninety minute set and then take a thirty minute break. The audience is having a good time and the sound in this room is really good. We even got some couples up dancing. We did not have a soundman and the P.A was one of the smallest ones we have used on this tour. Hmm. What do you think? Is a soundman sometimes a liability, as at times, they seem to want to put their own twist on things? At any rate, being that this was such a small room, it was easy to manage the sound ourselves. We meet a lot of nice blues fans including Winston and some real nice local musicians.

We play our second set which was sixty minutes long at which time we take a break around 11 pm. We are all really tired and we can't believe we still need to play a third set. We are to play until 12 am. At about 11:25m, just when we were going to play our final set, Mitch tells us to shut 'er down. He says that is enough and besides he wants to go home. Yippee. It is like getting a gift when you least expect it. We get packed up in record time and, even though we have to slug the gear upstairs, we get Big Mama loaded in short time. We park her back at the hotel and head off to our rooms around 12:30 for some sleep. We need to meet back at Big Mama in the morning around 10 am. Tomorrow is a twelve-hour plus drive to San Francisco. We play in San Francisco at Biscuits and Blues on Thursday, so tomorrow, which is Wednesday, will be a driving day. We will be staying at the same hotel for the next three nights while we perform our last two engagements of this tour. Sadness and Gladness. We are reaching the end of a fun tour; but gladness to be returning home to our familiar surroundings and friends

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