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|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.|
Players. Friends. Fans.
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.”
|Left: Steve Winwood played a sunburst Fender Strat. Right: Five of the 22 guitarists onstage for the Crossroads finale: (left to right) Derek Trucks, Pino Daniele, Warren Haynes, James Burton, and Jimmie Vaughan.|
Gear, Gear, and More Gear
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.”
|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.|
A Little Rehab for Everyone
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...