Friday, September 29, 2006

Guns Into Guitars

Promoting peace, Colombian crafts guns into guitars
Thu Sep 14, 2006 1:07pm ET
By Patrick Markey

BOGOTA, Colombia (Reuters) - Polished rosewood and an artist's deft touch are all Colombian craftsman Luis Alberto Paredes needs to turn tools of death into symbols of hope.

One of Colombia's top musical instrument makers, Paredes has branched out from traditional methods to fashion electric guitars from shotguns and AK47 rifles once used by fighters caught up in the country's lingering guerilla conflict.

"This used to hit a target at 800 meters (yards)," Paredes said holding up one of the guitars which still has a Kalashnikov rifle's distinctive, banana-shaped magazine. "Now the target will just depend on the concert stage."

In a workshop above his modest family home in Bogota, Paredes has created the "escopetarras" -- shotgun guitars in Spanish -- since he was approached by local musician Cesar Lopez with the idea about three years ago.

After stripping the soldering and gutting the trigger mechanism, he crafts a polished wooden handle over the barrel and his son installs microphones in the stock. The process takes a week to ten days.

(for full story, see )

Friday, September 01, 2006

Blues in Trinidad, CO

I had an interesting weekend. A grueling, fascinating, sleep-deprived, wonderful weekend. Heaven Davis called Thursday needing me to fly out the next morning to Colorado with her to play the Trinidaddio Blues Fest VIII. There was to be a pre-party Friday night, then Saturday morning I'd rehearse our band (borrowed from Erica Brown of Denver). The band would then hustle out to the festival and play around 2, and we'd go on at 4.

As planned, we rented a car in Denver and got to Trinidad (about 3 hours from Denver, just inside the border from New Mexico) about 5PM. Our limo was to pick us up at 6. (Yes, there really was a limo, they took us back and forth as necessary all weekend) They did, and took us down to the Lucky Monkey, which seemed to be a century-old community hall with maybe 8-foot stamped-tin ceilings, packed with merrymakers. We were given a fistfull of drink coupons and directed to the buffet in back. From there, I saw that the back parking lot had also been roped into a party area, with lots of tables, a couple bars, and speakers fed from the stage inside.

Shortly after we arrived, a one-man-band act (I think he was John-Alex Mason) kicked in, playing a variety of guitars while singing and stomping out rhythms barefooted on a cluster of pedals linked to drums, tambourines, etc. One of his instruments was made from a cigar box, a couple broomsticks forming two parallel necks an inch apart, and two strings on each neck (one of them a bass string), with some odd black circular magnetic pickups about the size of a quarter each. Sounded good! He kept up this very physical act for two hours! Then Bernard Allison (son & student of the late Luther Allison) brought his band on, and things really heated up. I rocked along as long as I could, but it had been a long day, I was still on Atlanta time, and I had to go back to the hotel.

The next morning saw the band arrive on time for rehearsal. We rehearsed for maybe an hour in Heaven's room, and it was apparent we'd have no trouble on stage with this crew. They scurried out to prepare for their show, and we did the same. We didn't arrive in time to catch their (Erica Brown Band's) set, but we did get to hear part of Albuquerque Blues Connection's smokin' set, and they & the crowd showed their appreciation for Erica so she must've been good. Then it was our turn.

Due to my well-earned distrust of airlines, and the well-meaning silliness of the Fatherland Security people, it didn't seem smart to try and bring any equipment. After all, three times in my life I've checked my baggage, and two of those times the airlines lost it. So, arrangements were made for me to have a guitar & amplifier waiting there; I literally arrived with nothing but one guitar pick. The backline crew set me up with a nice maple-neck Strat that seemed identical to my own, except for being cream-white and having .009-gauge strings instead of the .010 I'm used to. The amp was a Fender Deluxe. No effects except a wah pedal that I used for maybe 10 seconds - simple, elegant, effective. I may consider going that route again at some point, rather than the all-digital command center I currently run. It was all rockin' along great.

Then the storm came.

Weather happens quickly at high altitude. While we were onstage, a lightning storm came in. The people didn't mind the rain, they had clear tarps and umbrellas and there wasn't really that much rain, but the lightning was worthy of respect and we had to get offstage a couple songs early. Within 30 minutes it was all gone, and the next band was on time. There were 3 more quickie storms that evening, but they didn't pack so much lightning and didn't interfere with the shows. Elsewhere in the area, Pueblo picked up a whopping 3.5" of rain, and I think there was a tornado somewhere. Remember, this is practically Road Runner country, and somewhere around 5,000 feet high, and to have anything over an inch of rain is really something. Trinidad fortunately got very little of all that.

Anyway, the festival grooved on. The artist's area behind the stage offered us all we could eat and drink, which I and the other artists happily did, as the evening went along. Some of the very best BBQ that I have ever tasted! The final act was Little Charlie & The Nightcats. They put on a really good show, with Charlie Baty showing some serious swing guitar chops worthy of Brian Setzer. While they were wrapping up, Heaven & Erica & I rode back to the hotel with Bernard and his crew to change for the afterparty. Charlie and his harp player Rick Estrin caught up with us there, and we all piled into the limo to ride back to town (about 5 minutes, gotta love a small town) to the old saloon that was hosting the final jam. Charlie got his hands on a borrowed guitar and played a couple cool songs with the band, then I did, along with Heaven and Erica. Finally it was time to fall over again, and I got myself out to the limo to find the rest of the crew had already done just that and I was barely in time to ride back with them. (Wouldn't matter much, the limo would've been right back to wait for me)

Nothing much happened after that - packed my bag and slept a couple hours before we had to drive out at 3AM to catch the morning flight from Denver. Not much sleep for me that weekend, but I loved every second of being awake. I highly recommend the Trinidaddio festival to anyone looking for a good time, the best I've been to.