Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Buckethead and Picasso, or ...

... a weekend in San Francisco.


Buckethead was the first artist whose work I experienced last weekend. I headed west after work Friday evening and went straight to the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco for a burger and fries before the show.

I have been a Buckethead fan since about 1992 when I became aware of the album Transmutation (Mutatis Mutandis), on which Buckethead plays guitar, and I presume, after seeing this live show, some bass. I'm not sure, but I may have read about that album and Buckethead in a review in one of the guitar magazines at the time, probably Guitar Player.


His performance was pretty awesome. I knew he had amazing skills on the guitar, but to see him pull off all of those sounds live was just incredible.


It was just him on the stage, using pre-recorded music. We were all there for his guitar-playing, so that was great. It's hard to describe his music - it's more a collection of themes and emotions rather than your typically structured songs. One minute he's shooting out a high-speed staccato solo and the next he's playing a melodic blues lick.

This was guitar-nerdry at the highest level.

It was an interesting mix of people too. A lot of younger men and women, probably late teens to early twenties, many middle-agers like me, and a few older folks. In addition to guitar, he also played some bass, and I have to believe he picked up some tips from Bootsy Collins (a past collaborator on other projects and legendary bassist for Parliament-Funkadelic), 'cause man, that bucket can play bass! Slappin' and poppin', he can do it all.

He also handed out some toys from a large santa-like sack, took some time out to put down his guitar and do some pop-and-lock dancing and also give a nunchaku demonstration right on stage.

He had a specially modified guitar that let him make and control sounds like I have never heard in a live performance. On his customized white Les Paul he had two "spots," one where the pickup selector switch usually is, and another at the tone knob farthest from the strings, which it appeared he could tap or rub to control effects and maybe a synth to morph his sound.

(Interesting: I just found his signature model here and it describes those "spots" as arcade button-style "kill switches." I really thought they were some sort of electrostatically charged plate that was a controller for some effects device. He must have been working some devices on the floor that I couldn't see.)

Anyway, fantastic show!

The next day, I went to the de Young museum and saw the Picasso exhibit. It was quite a mind-bender. I did not know that Picasso worked in so many media - steel, bronze, charcoal and paper, wood - almost anything in addition to the expected oil or watercolor on canvas. I liked the way he plays with perception, perspective, and the use of simple shapes to convey his subjects. Often his pieces look quite bizarre or child-like. Very much worth the trip if you can make it.