The Andy Timmons Band is Honored to Be Here

     This sentiment was shared by many people at the Crossroads Guitar Festival. From a member of the Andy Timmons Band to B.B. King and Santana, artists were humbled to be included; as Eric Clapton was humbled and honored that we came.

     The Andy Timmons Band's gig is scheduled concurrently with Luther Tatum's Clinic on the Ernie Ball stage and the Metal Shredders Clinic on the outdoor mainstage. In an effort to report on as much as possible, I plotted my schedule like a college course itinerary and scouted out Andy's band before they went on stage.

     I met the bass player who was wearing a Ramones T-shirt. He is eagerly looking forward to taking the stage and honored to not only be playing with Andy Timmons, but also to be part of the festival. His Fender jazz bass is slung low, ready for serious bass-playing. Next, the drummer gets set up within his kit, powered by DW drums and Zildjian cymbals.

     It is not a surprise, but a pleasure, to see Andy Timmons round out his power trio with an Ibanez Andy Timmons signature guitar. According to a 1/15/04 press release, this guitar had its debut at the 2004 N.A.M.M. Show. Its claim to fame is its versatility- "gutbucket Texas blues one day.... commercial studio sessions the next" - perfect for Andy's needs.

     The performance was excellent- jazz fused with rock. The trio was tight and at the same time, the three musicians were making every one of their allotted minutes count. Andy Timmons entry into the music scene was in 1988 with his own trio.

     Timmons' choice for the lineup of his new band's playing validates Steve Vai's Favored Nations label's support of Andy. It is an honor to have witnessed Andy's talent and the Andy Timmons band. I look forward to another opportunity.


Rusty Cooley Encourages a Young Hopeful; Nathan East Encourages Hopefulness

     Ibanez Guitars has a great location for their area in Centennial Hall. Their good neighbor is Yamaha Guitars. Both sponsors have cordial representatives and both welcome public access to their artists through meet & greets.

     Rusty Cooley is set up with an Ibanez guitar- plugged in and ready for individual mini-clinics for his second session of the afternoon. As I observed Rusty talking with interested fans and signing autographs, I witness a teacher in action. He is giving quality time to a young hopeful guitarist. After interacting, Rusty presents the grateful young man with the guitar and offers him his chair.

     For a brief interlude, he plays as if he is on stage making his debut. Folks around pause and thereby acknowledge his playing; he sighs, returns the guitar and seat to Rusty, and Rusty initiates positive reinforcement and the small crowd applauds, too. Wow, what an important moment to treasure! I witness a few more anxious and eager folks and then, take my place in line. I preface my comments as "teacher to teacher" and he responds that such an episode is why he's here.

     Nathan East is scheduled to be on stage in Eric Clapton's band tomorrow in the Cotton Bowl, playing bass. Today, he is the final celebrity artist to appear at Yamaha's widely received meet & greets. Over a half hour into his appearance, the line of at least 50-60 folks still snakes around the computer software booth. And, Nathan remains, congenial and interested in each person's request.

     When Phil Collins produced Clapton's "August" album in 1986, Phil introduced Nathan East to Clapton's rhythm section. As they say, the rest is history for Nathan but, for this festival's attendees, Nathan is available to encourage hopefulness and honor is his role.

     Twenty-six hours later, we will all see him playing his Yamaha bass on stage while jamming with Clapton and Jeff Beck. For those attending both events, they will remember having their picture taken with Nathan East and his warm reception, and be honored.


With just 20 minutes, Jonny Lang triples the number of Blues Notes for an hour's worth
of value

     Simply put, Jonny Lang is a phenomenon. The Main Stage's schedule says 4:10-4:35, which allows about 20 minutes for Jonny Lang and his band to perform. Those of us who have witnessed his talent, know he's up to the challenge.

     After all, starting guitar at 13 and having your first solo album released on the eve of your sweet sixteenth birthday is no small feat. I heard him open for Aerosmith in '97 and figured the rumor that he was just 16, was just that. At 18, he toured with Jeff Beck, played with B.B. King for a President, and now headlines his own tour.

     Having seen him again last fall at the 9:30 Club in Washington, DC, I expected the gentle, calm Jonny that I observed from afar in the balcony to appear center stage in Dallas. Now, in the photographers' pit I could see close up and personal. Jonny was so serious, intense, with an added edge to his movements. Perhaps, it's the sheer humbleness felt by so many of the performers at the festival. Maybe, it's the stress of the time constraint.

     Jonny eases into his jammin' stance and fires into his first piece. All armed with Fender guitars, the three guitarists are awesome and the crowd is mesmerized. As Jonny assumes his microphone position, singing the blues as if he's lived them exudes from every muscle. Simply put, he's phenomenal on guitar and blues singing.

     His version of "A Quitter Never Wins," brings out the gentle strength of an artist who can "do" the blues. Soon, the whole esplanade will "get on board" and Jonny gives us our twenty minutes' worth with triple the amount of notes. It was almost a crime that he had to stop playing, but we let him go with much applause and thanks.


Fender Presents: Roscoe Beck, Greg Koch, John Calarco, & Gentleman Mike Cross

     The main stage is just the right size for these four veteran musicians to intertwine their talents, jam some blues, and get the audience groovin'. An obviously keyboardist who is well-versed in ticklin' the ivories of a B-3 through a Leslie gave them ample support. The Delta blues with a jazz edge is just the thing to get us through dinner time.

     Roscoe Beck donned a black NYPD ballcap for the evening, dressed in cool black from head to toe, and chose his very own Fender Signature 4-string bass for this performance. (At his clinic tomorrow running against the Cotton Bowl schedule of Jimmie Vaughan and Robert Cray, it's likely he'll do live what he does bimonthly for Bass Player Magazine- give lessons on his Signature 5-string.) Tonight, he played the red Fender jazz bass like a lead guitar. His pulsating rhythms blended and shone at the same time.

     Greg Koch provided metallic rocking guitar licks with his Fender earlier today, dressed in black. For this evening's performance he is wearing a unique, bright orange, white, gold, and black shirt with his signature beret. (Yes, there's a reason for the fashion statements. Stay tuned.) Almost halfway to seven foot tall, he is an awesome presence, and he plays awesome guitar, too! He and Roscoe clearly give cues to each other as they jam on their axes to the audience's delight.

     John Calarco is an internationally recognized bassist, keyboardist, singer/songwriter- but tonight, tonight (he's worked with Phil Collins) he fills the drum riser with great percussion, which is likely his prominent instrument.

     John's website intro-page greets you with him seeming quite at home immersed in his drumkit. His quality drumming fully supports this performance and is an integral part of our listening pleasure. Yet, he is only partly visible through all of the cymbal stands, wearing black.

     Gentleman (having met the man, I can say that) Michael Cross donned a signature orange and black shirt and was sighted mingling with many in Centennial Hall, sporting the artist's laminate. When he took the microphone on stage, his blues vocals identifies him as just the ticket to fill the bill for this great performance. He involves the audience; coordinates Roscoe, Greg, John, and the keyboardist as a conductor; and performs the storytelling blues ritual.

     The color scheme is as pleasing to the eye as the timbres of their playing is to our ears. I am sure their wardrobe wasn't planned, it just happened- similar to the way they jammed was a unique event. This was a delightful, fun show!


"The Only Rule is There is No Rules" - Guitar Playing Gospel according to Jeff Baxter

     Approaching the Cirius Stage inside, there seems to be as many eager fans for Jeff "Skunk" Baxter's clinic as there are outside at the Main Stage. I consider this a testament to Jeff, as a multifaceted human being. For the first half of his clinic hour, he played his Fender guitars, resting them in between songs on an iridescent, translucent, lime green guitar stand. It is obvious that he enjoys sharing ideas, stories, and hints of his political views.

     Naturally, Jeff is asked about his nickname. Staunchly defending his past reticence to share the anecdote, he only tells us about the security folks spending money that, in his words, "should've gone to education" to try to find out about this unusual candidate for a military defense consultant.

     Saturday, he wore the hat of an educator, also. He describes the analogous relationship between geometry and physics to music and the guitar; how chords are patterns.

     He is praised for all of his legendary guitar work- beginning with Ultimate Spinach to the famous riffs for the Doobie Brothers and Steely Dan by one fan who then asks, "Who is your favorite guitarist?" Jeff responds that Eric Johnson is his favorite electric guitarist and proceeds to relay the rallying he did with record labels and sponsors for over a year to get support for Eric's talent.

     Ironically, he is uttering this compliment while Eric has just performed on stage outside, just yards away. When I remind Jeff of this after his clinic, he is wistfully musing on how cool it would have been could the two have performed together here.

     Jeff continues the answer to the question with acoustic guitarists that are his favorites. He lists Charlie Christian who has a gypsy tonal feeling to his playing. He then warns us that we might be surprised to know another of his favorites, Slash, former Guns and Roses metal shredder, has wonderful acoustic guitar talent. Having recently seen Slash perform with his new band, Velvet Revolver, I would love to hear the velvet side, since the metal, electric side is phenomenal.

     A song and then another question that queries, are there some rules of thumb for folks who would like to become great guitarists? Jeff answers, "The only rule is that there are no rules....." With that, he already has gone over his time allotment and bows to the appreciate applause of the crowd. When someone reaches up with an album for an autograph, Jeff sits down on the edge of the stage and takes precious time to meet with each and every fan.

     Jeff's talent bore witness at a special collaborative celebration sponsored in part by the Hard Rock Cafe in Washington, DC and the Classic Rock Radio Station 94.7 the Arrow to honor our nation, in May of 2003. Addressing the full house were an assistant secretary from President Bush's Cabinet and a congressman who doubled as a musician in the band that performed with both Jim Peterick (Ides of March, writer of Eye of the Tiger and several .38 Special hits) and Jeff Baxter. Here, we learned of Jeff's expertise in missile defense, which prompted a California congressman to recommend him as a defense analyst and consultant on military defense.

     As Jeff is truly enjoying the impromptu meet & greet with his clinic participants, I speak with his tour manager and offer the photos from the May 5, 2003 show for Jeff. He defers by giving me the honor and assuring me that he will be sure that I can speak with Jeff shortly.

     Some V.I.P.s use their passes to access Jeff from backstage and interrupt his fan time. He patiently poses for photos and returns to sitting on the stage front. From within the crowd, one captures a glimpse of Jeff "Skunk" Baxter in his element- humbly sharing his time and thoughts while signing a variety of items for that memorable autograph.


Eric Johnson Electrifies the Evening Outside while He's Lauded on the Clinic Stage Inside

     Eric Johnson flies into Dallas in the middle of touring, having done a concert less than 48 hours ago in Baltimore, Maryland. His gigs are as eclectic as his the variety of artists with whom he's worked since his first music collaboration in 1970.

     The power trio of Eric, Chris Marsh on bass, and Tony Taylor, on drums appears for a brief time this evening of June 5th, on the Main Stage of the Crossroads Guitar Festival. Eric and Chris play in Alien Love Child with Bill Maddox. Tony toured with Eric from 1984-1996 including when Eric was part of Satriani's G3 in '96. He has since rejoined Eric and is pleased to be here.

     While Billy Preston sits in the wings on stage enjoying Eric's playing, the audience is rejuvenated by the band's dynamic set. A special treat is Eric's rocking version of Bob Dylan's "Back Pages," popularized by the Byrds some 30+ years ago. Eric's rendition breathes new life into this classic folk song as his vocals give new meaning to Dylan's powerful poetry. The audience is also fascinated.

     Eric Johnson pays tribute each concert to Jimi Hendrix, in the almost reverent torch-like posing of the guitar in front of Marshall amplifiers, generating the venerable feedback sound. Chris has a vibrant dexterity in playing his Fender bass, while Tony's percussion fulfills the piece's brilliance.

     Eric's voice is as beautiful as his guitar playing, in every genre of music he graces upon our ears. Take advantage of your next opportunity to hear Eric in a full-length concert. Surely, this evening just increases your appetite. As Eric finishes his set and is excitedly begged by fans to join them, I go inside to see Jeff "Skunk' Baxter's clinic.

     Ironically noteworthy is Jeff telling his clinic participants that Eric Johnson is his favorite electric guitarist. How awesome it would have been for Jeff to join Eric as he had joined Styx this morning. When I relay this to Eric later backstage, he is humbly honored by the compliment.

RockonTour   Issue #34
Concert Fan - the Single Source for the Concertphile © 2004 RoT
                  the Single Source for the Concertphile

Slowhand hosts the Crossroads Guitar Festival
Eric Clapton staged a Guitar-Starstudded weekend in Dallas

by Susan Bardenhagen