Tag Archives: Gary Clark

Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Guitar Festival 2013 is Coming to NYC

27 Nov

In Middle/High school, my friend Josh and I were firmly in the musical minority. While the musical tastes of others impulsively changed with the charts, we were staunch in our love for classic Blues. That love was engendered by Eric Clapton. As teens, we created a “Clapton is God” AOL blog page expressing our adoration for the guitar legend. It was crudely done, but the purpose was clear. While others looked up to Eminem, we looked up to Eric Clapton.

Clapton has always represented a prodigious musical skill that transcends music itself. Not many musicians can transform from musician to icon, and those that do are often outspoken and flashy. With the power of a remarkably proficient playing style and a granular, experienced voice, Clapton has shaped and transformed the Blues. He has carried the torch of his inspirations to a new generation of music lovers and players. Heck, when Josh first learned guitar he immediately explored hammer-ons and pull-offs because of the seminal opening riff of “Layla.”

Thus, when Josh and I have the opportunity to see Eric Clapton, we do. We are only in our early 20s, though, so we have seen Clapton three times (we are lucky that we are located in a concert hub like New York). Soon we will add a fourth concert to the list, and, wow, what a concert it will be.

I will say I am not sure any concert can trump the Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood show at the Izod Center (6/10/09). That concert also sparked my first review for the Music Court (can be accessed there).

The Crossroads Guitar Festival 2013 is coming to Madison Square Garden in April of 2013. Oddly enough, the first night of the two-night event falls on April 12, my friend Josh’s birthday. Quite a present, indeed. The Crossroads Guitar Festival is a triennial musical festival and benefit concert that features a hand-picked line-up of guitarists at Clapton’s discretion – so you can be assured it will be epic. The line-up has transformed since the first show in 2004. In 2010, the Festival was held in Chicago (also held in Illinois in 2007), and many of the artists that appeared in the 2010 show will perform at MSG in April.

The full list of performers (brace yourself) is:

  • Jeff Beck
  • Dave Biller
  • Booker T
  • Doyle Bramhall II
  • Allman Brothers Band
  • Gary Clark Jr.
  • Eric Clapton
  • Citizen Cope
  • Robert Cray
  • Andy Fairweather Low
  • Vince Gill
  • John Mayer
  • Blake Mills
  • Keb Mo
  • Brad Paisley
  • Robert Randolph
  • Kurt Rosenwinkel
  • Robbie Robertson
  • John Scofield
  • Keith Urban
  • Jimmy Vaughan
  • Buddy Guy
  • Allan Holdsworth
  • BB King
  • Earl Klugh
  • Sonny Landreth
  • Jonny Lang
  • Albert Lee
  • Los Lobos
  • Taj Mahal

Where do I begin? Seriously, it is like Thanksgiving dinner. There is turkey, stuffing, and sweet potato, and you just don’t know where to start. Luckily, the MSG stage will serve as a large plate and the audience will be able to feast their eyes AND ears on the music of these great musicians. Some artists serve obvious excitement. B.B. King, Buddy Guy, Jeff Beck, and Albert Lee are legends. The Allman Brothers Band will make their first appearance at the Festival, and that has serious blow-your-socks off potential. Can I please ask for a rendition of “Layla” with Derek Trucks reprising Duane Allman’s role on slide guitar? I am also excited to see rising star Gary Clark Jr. play upon his Jimi Hendrix influence. I can just keep on saying I am also because I am excited about all acts.

It should be noted that all acts will NOT appear on both nights. With the amount of talent present, though, you will listen to something great! You will also be supporting a worthy cause. The Crossroads Centre, Antigua, was founded in 1998 to provide treatment to addicted individuals. As Clapton was once afflicted with addiction, this is a personal cause.

For those with tickets to the show, there will be free admission to a “Guitar Center Road to Crossroads Exhibition” which will feature a diverse display of guitar-related memorabilia including the “Legends Guitar Walk,” which will display some of the most expensive guitars in history. It’s like a mini Rock n’ Roll Hall-of-Fame exhibit on the Terrace Level of MSG. The exhibit opens at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, April 12 and 6 p.m. on Saturday, April 13.

Like the Guitar Fest on Facebook and follow it on Twitter.

TICKET INFORMATION: Tickets go on sale to the public this Friday (11/30) at Noon EST. They can be purchased at www.ticketmaster.com. I will be on Ticketmaster frantically refreshing the page for tickets at 11:55 a.m.! See you there.

A Prodigious Talent – The Blues of Gary Clark Jr.

7 May

I first heard of Gary Clark Jr. when he released his second EP Bright Lights back in the summer of 2011. It caught my ears and I immediately picked it up and shoved it onto my iPod as quickly as possible. He was a musical force to be reckoned with and it wasn’t difficult to recognize that. Since then, Gary Clark Jr. has done exactly what you would expect a blues wunderkind to do – tour festivals extensively and play with some of the greatest blues performers ever. Not a bad idea at all.

Gary Clark Jr. fits into a small grouping of modern-day blues guitar prodigies. Let’s add Derek Trucks, Doyle Bramhall II, Joe Bonamassa to this list as well. If we wanted to forget about age barriers let’s add Warren Haynes to that, for, while he is not young (well, I mean, neither is Bramhall), he still tirelessly performs today (and he is incredible and he was a prodigy). Interestingly, Gary Clark Jr. reminds me a little of Warren Haynes. Why? Well, the man is a triple threat. He can play rhythm and lead, sing wonderfully, and knows how to take a backseat to other performers on stage (an important trait to possess).

But do you know who Gary Clark Jr. reminds me of the most? His guitar tone is saturated with rich distortion and hooky riffs and rhythms much in the manner of Jimi Hendrix, another guitar prodigy, who just understood how to make the guitar sing. Now, please, in no way am I saying that he is equitable to one of the greatest guitar players to ever pick up the instrument. I am just saying that his style reminds me of Hendrix. And, actually, if Hendrix stayed alive, I think he would have moved into a realm that Gary Clark Jr. is beginning to explore – sticky, humid blues with creative distortion and grunty vocals.

“Bright Lights,” the song that represents this exploration, was featured by the NFL for the 2012 draft. It was a good choice because the song does talk of “Bright Lights” and since the draft was at Radio City Music Hall in NYC the selection was intelligent. It also reminded me of Gary Clark Jr. and I went on a bit of a listening binge – mostly live performances though because he just doesn’t have enough songs yet.

The next few years are going to be crucial. “Bright Lights” seems to suggest that Gary Clark Jr. may be able to do something that not many have been able to accomplish in the last 40 years, bring blues music into the tempting arms of popular pop music while maintaining the gritty roots of the song. “Bright Lights” does this perfectly. Check out this performance of the song from the Crossroads Festival in 2010. By the way, that is Bramhall II in the yellow shirt providing some extra lead depth.

The song is, as Steven Tyler would say, “crazy good.” The hard-hitting rhythm, heavy on the downbeat, mixes with Gary Clark Jr.’s soulful vocal that, if it wasn’t for his guitar skill, would be his strongest attribute. The song levels out for a while with this pounding riff and the bluesy vocals, but, it doesn’t last that way for long. The guitar of Gary Clark Jr. cannot be contained for long. His lead work is insane! The skill he expresses in his ability to command the guitar like it his voice and not his instrument is extraordinary. It is extraordinary in every sense of that word. Not many guitarists can even smell that talent. The tone is scary. When I first heard this song I dropped everything I was doing and stared, just stared. Check out the echo of his guitar around 3:30 – 4:00 into the song. Like, seriously! You actually feel the guitar may explode, he is so proficient.

Can he do traditional electric blues?

Check. Did you think he would have any problems with this? The wa-wa solo around 1:45 is a thing of beauty. It is eccentric, even alien, but that is what he can do. He takes what you expect from blues and manipulates it with his quick playing and distortion effects.

He is super talented and well-known right now. Wait a year or two and a widely-released LP and he will be known across America like Derek Trucks.

%d bloggers like this: