Players. Friends. Fans.
|Left: Sheryl Crow, Derek Trucks, and Doyle Bramhall II get in some last-minute practice in one of the air-conditioned green rooms before their sets. Photo by Kevin Mazur. Right: Eric Clapton (with a signature Strat in Ferrari grigio silverstone) and Jeff Beck (playing a blackguard Tele he promptly—and haphazardly—tossed offstage after the song) have a blast during
their “Shake Your Money Maker” duet.
Of course, despite the close friendships and
professional connections, there was plenty
of good-old-fashioned music appreciation
happening backstage, too. Performers could
watch each other from the side of the stage,
on an elevated area that overlooked the
stage, or on a huge television screen in the
air-conditioned Fender artists’ tent. “The way
everybody has learned to play the instrument
is really quite remarkable,” says Gill, “I listened
to almost everybody. Sonny Landreth destroys
me, Joe Bonamassa kills me, Derek Trucks kills
me. Then you go and throw in Jeff Beck and Eric and Buddy Guy! And James Burton and
Albert Lee are probably the reason I wanted to
play a Telecaster. It’s a heady day.”
Everyone we talked to had their prized highlights.
One of Haynes’ was watching Winwood
accompany Clapton for much of his 90-minute
set. “He’s one of my favorites,” Haynes says.
For Burton, the fun-filled Guy-Wood-Lang
set stood out. “It was great seeing my buddy
Ronnie Wood. He and Buddy were just having
a blast out there onstage—and I love seeing
my buddies out there enjoying themselves.”
But, predictably, Beck stole the show for
much of the audience—including the performers.
“The one thing I won’t soon forget
was Jeff Beck’s performance. It was far and
beyond the best I’ve ever seen him,” says
Lang. Clark and Haynes both cited Beck’s
performance as one of the highlights of their
day as well. “He tripped me out!” says Clark.
For one of the originally scheduled bands,
however, watching performances was out of
the question. This year’s Crossroads lineup
was supposed to include a performance
by the Allman Brothers Band, but Gregg
Allman ended up getting his chance for liver transplant
surgery on June 23, just three
days before the festival. Band members
Trucks, Haynes, and Oteil Burbridge (bass)
put together a last-minute set with the Derek
Trucks and Susan Tedeschi Band backing
them. The group set up in a rehearsal room,
patching together their set while the acts
before them performed.
Trucks and Tedeschi’s band lineup was fairly
new—Trucks says Crossroads was maybe their
8th show—and getting them all to Chicago
wasn’t easy. “Not everybody had that time
off,” Trucks explains. “One of our drummers
was in Montreal and had a gig that night,
so he couldn’t make it. The other one was
playing in Ottawa and we somehow got the
group he was playing with to let him off the
hook. He flew in the morning of the show.
We had never used one of the background
singers and had never played with one of
the drummers—it was very seat-of-the-pants.
Between trying to work in all the guests and
trying to figure out a day or two before the
show which tunes to work up, it was total
mayhem. But it was fun!”
Fortunately, the chaotic energy translated into success. “On paper,
it didn’t make any sense [laughs], but sometimes you just know that
things are meant to be,” says Trucks. “There was so much stress and
energy going into it that the first two or three songs were a nice
release—it felt really good. That was one of the highlights for me, just
the fact that, once we started, all of that weight just melted away.”
Gear, Gear, and More Gear
|Left: Steve Winwood played a sunburst Fender
Five of the 22 guitarists onstage for the Crossroads finale: (left to
right) Derek Trucks, Pino Daniele, Warren Haynes, James Burton, and
In addition to playing a whole new set with new personnel, Trucks
and Tedeschi’s band was playing with slightly different gear. Tedeschi
and husband Trucks normally play Fender Super Reverbs, but they
used the Allman Brothers Band’s backline, which included a PRS
Dallas head and cabinet. Armed with his red Gibson SG, Trucks
sounded killer, and Haynes sounded great plugging his two Les Pauls
into a Diaz CD-100 and a Soldano SLO-100.
Some performers brought their own rigs, while others brought a guitar
and plugged into the backline. Most everybody kept it simple. Gill
ran his ’53 Tele into two ’65 blackface Fender Deluxe Reverbs. Burton
played his famous black-and-red-flamed Tele, and Albert Lee used his
Ernie Ball Music Man signature guitar with Seymour Duncan single-coils,
both through the backline Fender ’65 Twin Reverb reissues.
“That’s all you really need,” Burton remarked.
Lang brought his own Fender Deluxe Reverb, while Clark was hooked up with a
Fender Vibro-King—an amp he had been craving for years. In fact, Fender amps were
the standard for the day, with Beck (he used two Pro Juniors in addition to a Marshall
JCM 2000 powering two Marshall 4x12s), Clapton (’57 Twin-Amp reissue), Wood
(Vibro-King), and Winwood (Super-Sonic 60) using them as their amps of choice.
John Mayer ran a two-amp setup consisting of his Dumble Steel String Singer and
Two-Rock John Mayer signature head. His pedals included an Ibanez TS9 Tube
Screamer, a Klon Centaur, an MXR Carbon Copy, and a Keeley Katana. Sonny
Landreth also used a Dumble—a brown Overdrive Special—during his high-energy
opening set on the main stage and during his Ernie Ball Stage clinic.
Buddy Guy, who played through a Chicago Blues Box Roadhouse head, was calm
and collected when he broke a string on his cream Strat. He playfully inserted improvised
lyrics about it into the song and Wood pretended to take off his guitar for the
elder statesman while they waited for a tech to bring Guy his iconic polka-dot Strat.
For the finale, 22 guitarists piled onstage to play “Sweet Home Chicago” through a
wall of amps. “It was this huge array of 2x12 combos,” said Haynes, “and everyone
just picked one and plugged in.”
A Little Rehab for Everyone
Left: Sonny Landreth plays a custom Fender Strat equipped with a Tele bridge through Dumble Overdrive Special and Fender Twin amps for his Ernie Ball Stage clinic. Right:
César Rosas (left) and David Hidalgo (right) step in with the Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi Band to fill in for the previously scheduled Allman Brothers Band. The duo had played the House
of Blues V.I.P. party the previous night.
Toward the end of Clapton’s set, the bluesman confided, “This was supposed to be
the last one, but somehow I don’t think it will be.” It may have been the sweetest
thing everyone there heard all day. And with so much amazing music permeating
the air, it was easy to forget that it was all for a nobler cause. A raffle for guitars and
other goods in the Guitar Center Village area outside the stage raised more than
$15,000 for the Crossroads Centre charity, and merchandise and DVD profits will
also be donated to the treatment facility.
But it’s probably safe to say that the concert was therapeutic for many, many
more people than those who will be treated at the world-class center on Antigua.
Because, at the end of the day, the vibe and experience was what it was all about—
for the performers and the audience. Together, 30,000 fans and 20-something guitarists
endured blazing heat—which sent more than a few attendees to the medical
tent—to bask in the healing glow of great music, to establish and nurture meaningful
relationships, and to witness once-in-a-lifetime performances.
Hit page 4 for an interview with Play Crossroads winner Ryan McGarvey about his experience at the festival...