October 26, 2009

Touring Collings Guitars

Filed under: Music,Places — Cory @ 9:49 am

For a few years now I’ve dreamed of owning a Collings mandolin. I first learned about Collings Guitars shortly after I bought my Taylor, about 5 years ago. If Taylor is the Lexus of guitars then Collings is the Rolls Royce (the comparison in relative price differences holds up too).

I recently discovered the Redbone Guitar Boutique in San Antonio, pretty much by accident. I walked in and talked with Scott Stephens for a while and learned that they carried Collings (as well as G&L!). Scott told me that he personally drives up to the Collings facility outside of Austin to pick up each instrument, so that they never have to be shipped. After I left I started thinking about how neat it would be to custom order a Collings mandolin and be able to personally pick up my instrument from the people who made it. I spent a few more days thinking about whether I wanted to make the financial commitment and once I had I went back to Scott and ordered a Collings MT-O mandolin.

A couple days later Scott called back to tell me that he was arranging a private tour of the Collings facility for Redbone customers, and wanted to know if I was interested. Although Collings normally offers public tours on two Fridays per month, but I had never made time for it. This time I wasn’t going to miss it.

Not including Scott there were only three of us on the tour, which was really nice. Our tour lasted about two hours and we were able to see the entire process from raw wood to finished instruments. I’ve never seen a company so focused on producing perfect products. Everything they do is calculated, yet each instrument is a unique work of art. Every detail is considered, even down to shaving off six thousandths of an inch of finish where the bridge meets the top.

The other thing that struck me while I was there was how honest Collings is as a company. Never once was I told not to take a picture of something, and I even asked (my pictures are here). They are proud of the entire process and welcome you to see it. In order to produce a product of such high quality they have to stay honest. Even home grown innovations such as the machines that Bill Collings built himself are explained to visitors. Most businesses protect their trade secrets and proprietary processes for competitive advantages, but Collings doesn’t need to since the instruments speak for themselves. Even prototypes are destroyed so that no instrument with the Collings name on it goes out without being 100% perfect.

They also aren’t willing to sacrifice quality for quantity. Only about 1500 guitars are produced here per year, and about 500 mandolins, and 500 electric guitars. That comes out to about 7 guitars per day, 3 mandolins, and 3 electrics. And before you think “that sounds like a lot”, consider that is with nearly 70 people working full time – for 13 instruments per day. I think it is awesome that artists produce instruments for other artists.

I would certainly recommend this tour to anyone who lives in South Texas. Even if you aren’t a musician, the tour is fascinating because of the craftsmanship and level of attention to detail they give to every aspect of their work. And at the end a beautiful guitar or mandolin is the result. I can’t wait to pick up mine. :)

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September 10, 2007

Terry Allen at the Mucky Duck (part 2)

Filed under: Music — Cory @ 1:17 am

Terry Allen and MeSaturday night I was finally able to see one of my favorite musicians at one of my favorite venues: Terry Allen at McGonigel’s Mucky Duck. I’ve been waiting years to see Terry Allen perform like this.

Nearly two years ago I flew out to Los Angeles to meet up with Chris B. to see Terry perform his play/musical/something-else-entirely “Dugout” at the California Institute of the Arts. It was one of the most interesting performances that I think I’ll ever see, and worth the trip for sure. Since then I’ve been watching his schedule and waiting for the opportunity to see him again. Unfortunately, Terry doesn’t perform very often, typically only 5-10 shows a year (at least for the past couple years), so when I discovered three months ago that he would be playing at the Mucky Duck (which is 1.6 miles from my apartment) I bought tickets right away.

The show was absolutely wonderful, and he played some of my favorite songs of his including “Amarillo Highway”, “Flatland Boogie” and “Gimme A Ride To Heaven Boy.” Terry was joined on stage by fiddler/mandolin player Richard Bowden, and accordian player Bukka Allen (Terry’s son). I was also hoping Lloyd Maines would show up, but that didn’t happen. Bukka’s wife Sally Allen also came on stage for a couple songs, including a beautiful duet performed with Bukka, as well as a bluesy song of her own which was quite good. Afterwards she continued to sing backup on a few of Terry’s songs, and sounded just as good as Lucinda Williams did in the original versions.

I was able to record a few songs on my camera, and I’ve uploaded them to the YouTube on the Internets. But instead of going to the Google to find them, I’ll just link them right here (in the order performed):

We also had the pleasure of sharing a table with a really nice couple from the U.K. (hi Grahan and Gill!) who are big fans of Texas music and had traveled all the way here for their vacation. Now that’s dedication. I can’t say that I’ve ever flown to another continent to see my favorite musicians perform. Fortunately, I just have to make a left turn, a right turn, and another left turn and then I’m there. :)

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December 14, 2006

Stop Motion Music Video: Amateur

Filed under: General,Music — Cory @ 1:18 pm

Apparently this is all over the Internet, but I am just now seeing it and I think its pretty awesome:

By calling himself an amateur, Mr. Gjertsen also inflates his stature as musician — the star performer can’t play a lick. But in the three-minute video, the Norwegian weaves together a drums-and-piano duet, creating a knee-bouncing tune that substitutes crafty editing for the instrumental skills Mr. Gjertsen lacks. His trick: stop-motion video.

Tony vs. Paul is another fascinating stop-motion video if you have another 5 minutes to spare.

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November 29, 2006

Hot Club of Cowtown coming to Luna

Filed under: Music — Cory @ 5:05 pm

Last year one of my favorite bands broke up, the Hot Club of Cowtown. Their website has stated that they might play a show together every once in a while, so I’ve been hoping that I would be able to see them perform again. Well, I just noticed that they are going to be playing 3 sets on Saturday, December 16th at the Luna Fine Music Club in San Antonio. Fortunately, I will be in town that weekend, so you can imagine that I am very excited! Luna’s website lists the booking at “Elana James and the Continental Two”, but Elana’s site says that it will be a Hot Club show. In addition to the Luna sets, there will be performances earlier that day at Central Market. Woo Hoo!

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November 5, 2006

The Beatles’ Cirque Du Soleil Show: Love

Filed under: Music,Places — Cory @ 11:34 pm

I returned yesterday from my 5th trip to Las Vegas in the past 15 months (yes, I like the place). This time I was only out there for 2 days, for a mini family vacation (only part of the family, and only a couple days). The highlight of this trip was seeing the new Beatles’ Cirque Du Soleil show, LOVE.

After having an incredible meal at The Tillerman, we headed over to the Mirage to catch the show. This is the third Cirque show I have seen, and this one did not disappoint. Although there were less acrobatics in LOVE than most other Cirque shows, it was still amazing. LOVE tells the story of the Beatles’ lives, surrounded by their music. I’ve always been a Beatles fan (the first song I learned to play on the guitar was Lennon’s “Norwegian Wood”, thanks to Dad), so it was very exciting to get the chance to experience the Cirque show.

After the show I was thinking about other people/groups throughout history that have never been able to be replaced. Everyone pretty much agrees that there has not (yet) been another band as influential as the Beatles. But what else? The next thing I thought of was Michael Jordon. I don’t really follow sports, but when Michael Jordon was playing basketball he was seemingly invinceable, and I have not heard of anyone else like him since he retired (the first time). I imagine Steve Jobs will probably also appear this way once he retires. Alan Greenspan also comes to mind.

I imagine it would have been awesome to see the Beatles in concert, and to be around when they were changing the world. I wonder if we will ever see anyone as great as they were, or if the world we live in can handle such a revolutionary music group again.

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October 28, 2006

Waste, by Phish

Filed under: Music — Cory @ 11:50 pm

Billy Breathes” is probably my favorite album of all time, and one of the best songs on there is “Waste.” Here’s a performace of “Waste” that I found on YouTube:

Incidentally, I just noticed that “Billy Breathes” was released on my 17th birthday. Once I read in The Phish Companion that “Billy Breathes” is actually a strange Rock Opera about a fish named Billy. The album made much more sense after I learned the story. :)

• • •

September 18, 2006

2006 Austin City Limits Music Festival

Filed under: Events,Friends,Music — Cory @ 12:41 am

 [ 2006 Austin City Limits Music Festival ] This weekend I drove up to the capital city for the 2006 Austin City Limits Music Festival.

After last years festival I had decided that I did not want to spent another weekend under the blazing Sun and try to enjoy music. It was just too hot. But when I saw that both Ween and Willie Nelson would be performing, I went ahead and bought two 3-day passes. As it turns out, I had a pretty good time this year.

Friday I was there alone, and I just walked around from stage to stage. I spent more time getting to and from the festival than I did at the festival, but it was fun anyway (although really, really hot). I managed to see Gnarls Barkley and a few other shows.

On Saturday Sandy was able to come with me and we saw String Cheese Incident, the South Austin Jug Band, Brazilian Girls, and of course, Willie Nelson, as well as several other smaller bands.

Sunday morning we met up with Jason at Kerby Lane Cafe for a late Breakfast. Afterwards we went up to the 360 Bridge and chilled for a while, before picking up Katie and heading to the festival. We caught parts of performances from Ween, Matisyahu, Sun Volt, The Flaming Lips, The Greencards and Ben Harper.

At the gates of the festival there were people giving away iTunes music cards that said they were worth $30 towards music from bands performing at the festival. At first I thought this meant that I could pick $30 worth of music, but as it turns out they have a preselected playlist of 31 songs from artists at the festival. So now I have 5 extra cards, if anyone would like one. ;)

• • •

May 3, 2006

A Nice Surprise

Filed under: Music — Cory @ 11:56 pm

A month or so ago I bought tickets for John Prine‘s upcoming concert at the Majestic Theater on June 9th. I saw him perform last year at ACL Fest and I thought it was the best show there.

Anyway, I was just browsing through my iTunes library and decided to listen to some Todd Snider. Out of curiosity I decided to pull up his website and see when he would be in the area. As it turns out, he’s opening for John Prine on the night I have tickets, woot! That should be a really great show, I can’t wait.

• • •

March 12, 2006

The Gourds at Gruene Hall

Filed under: Music — Cory @ 1:42 am

Friday night I made it up to Gruene Hall to see The Gourds.

The last time I saw The Gourds was in August when they played at Gruene, and I was a little disappointed with the show. They had begun playing more and more electric-ish music, and it didn’t have that Gourds sound. But when I was at Bart’s CD Cellar in Boulder a few weeks ago I noticed that The Gourds had released a new album, Heavy Ornamentals, so I bought it. Its possible that this is their best album yet, and its definitely their best work since Bolsa de Agua and Cow, Fish, Fowl or Pig. So with all these great new songs I had high hopes for the show, and I was not disappointed.

I knew it was going to be a great show as soon as it started because they opened with one of my favorite songs, “Ants on the Melon.” :) They followed it with “El Paso”, which is probably my favorite Gourds tune. The show only got better from there as they played “Pick & Roll” and “Declineometer” from the new album, as well as a bunch of other favorites such as “Ceilings Leaking”, “Blankets”, and “Lower 48.” All in all, it was a fantastic show. I didn’t stay for the encore because invariably at Gruene there are some idiots who yell and scream for “Gin and Juice.”

If you’ve never seen The Gourds, and you like alt-country, you should check them out. They’ll be playing in San Antonio at Rebar on April 7th, I’ll definitely be there.

• • •

February 26, 2006

Bonnie Raitt at the Majestic Theatre

Filed under: Music — Cory @ 9:43 pm

Wednesday night I was able to go catch a show by Bonnie Raitt at the Majestic Theatre.

The show opened with 8 or 9 songs from Paul Brady, an Irish musician who wrote several songs that Bonnie made famous. His musical skills were pretty good, but his songs were a little too “popish” for me.

Bonnie and her band finally came on stage around 9pm, and started off with some really good blues songs. During the middle of the show they descended into pop-land, but arose from the depths to tear up several more blues songs near the end of the show. The encore was 3 slow love songs, which I could have done without.

I loved the fast stuff, and was pretty bored during the slow songs, but overall it was a decent show. I really love seeing shows at the Majestic, its such a great venue.

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