Top 10 Rig Rundowns of 2019
Based on your watch time and clicks, here are the most-watched videos this trip 'round the sun.
Honorable Mention #2: King Crimson's Robert FrippAlthough Fripp and King Crimson will forever be known for pioneering the prog-rock movement with 1969’s In the Court of the Crimson King, his innovation on guitar technology and craft is staggering. His collaborations with Brian Eno, David Bowie, and Andy Summers are highlights of a solo career nearing 50 years. John Bohlinger went to Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium to get the details from Biff Blumfumgagnge, Fripp’s main road tech since 2005. Blumfumgagnge demoed Fripp’s gear and explained the engineering behind the alchemy.
Honorable Mention #1: Jason Isbell and the 400 UnitBack in the fall of 2015 PG traveled south to the Tivoli Theatre in Chattanooga, Tennessee, to catch up with Jason Isbell, guitarist Sadler Vaden, and bassist Jimbo Hart. At the time, the band gave us so much time and so much gusto about their piles of gear, the resulting Rundown became the longest ever at 65 minutes.
Fast forward four years and now Perry Bean finds himself onstage, surrounded by even more gear, at the historic Ryman Auditorium in the middle of Isbell’s annual October run. This year saw the Alabama native and his bandmates sell out seven consecutive shows at the Mother Church. And before the 4th night, we basically filmed a feature film spotlighting all the new inspiring additions to their arsenal and how it all further propels the 400 Unit’s sonic quest.
10. Covet's Yvette Young
One would never confuse music as sport. However, for Yvette Young, who took up strict piano lessons at four and added on violin at age seven, the internal pressure and external expectations became too much and broke her. The weight of it all hospitalized her due to an eating disorder. And while still in the hospital, rehabbing from her battle, the struggle’s silver lining appeared in the shape of a guitar. Yvette’s love affair with the instrument began while she was still in bed and has remained tried and true ever since.
She admits to starting out like any guitarist, learning basic chords and shapes in standard tuning, but never really findingher voice. The generic, sounding-like-everyone qualities plagued her until stumbling upon alternative tunings by way of influencers like Japanese post-rockers Toe and math-rock aerialists American Football. Through these open tunings (for example: F–A–C–G–B–E), Yvette unlocked her guitar creativity and began expressing herself in solo two-hand tapping compositions. One way she pushes her dexterity and fretboard knowledge is to start an idea out as a vocal melody. Yvette then chases that vocal melody for hours on the fretboard, trying to accompany it with simpatico harmonies on the guitar.
Eventually, electric guitar grabbed ahold and the need for fuller, collaborative jams took root and she began work as a power trio with bassist David Adamiak and drummer Keith Grimshaw. (Now Forrest Rice is the band’s drummer.) Over the last five years she’s released a handful of records and EPs (full band and solo), including 2014’sacoustics, 2015’s Currents, a live performance at Audiotree in 2016, 2017’s Ares, 2018’s effloresce, and most recently, acoustics2.
Before Covet’s Nashville gig at the High Watt,PG’s Chris Kies swooped in for a post-soundcheck hang with the band’s founder and 6-string melodist, Yvette Young. Within the 30-minute video, you’ll witness how her finger-tapping approach, bolstered by gobs of modulation and influenced by formal training on the ivories unlocks fresh, polyphonic compositions that flourish over a bed of atmospheric, transcendent post-rock clouds.
9. Judas PrieestPremier Guitar’s John Bohlinger met with Judas Priest founding bassist Ian Hill and guitarist Richie Faulkner for a walk-through their paint-peeling, mountain-crushing rigs.
8. Dream TheaterDream Theater’s The Distance Over Time Tour is nirvana for the band’s fans, who are devout. It’s a three-hour sonic journey through the new The Distance Over Time album, a selection of fan favorites, and the entire Metropolis Pt. 2 Scenes from a Memory, which is being played in full to mark the 20th anniversary of its release.
We met with Petrucci, Myung, and chief axe tech Maddi Schieferstein onstage at Nashville’s Tennessee Performing Arts Center before a soundcheck for the band’s sold-out April 17 concert. The video covers everything—and the still photos provide a closer look at Petrucci’s new-for-2019 signature models, Myung’s bass, effects, amps and more.
And yes, I know I said “speakers” instead of “pickups” and “alder” rather than “ash” early in the video. Send coffee and hate mail in care of the magazine. Or just troll me in the video’s comments section, for your convenience. But more important, dig into this supercool Rig Rundown.
7. Polyphia' Scott LePageBefore soundcheck, PG’s Chris Kies swooped into Nashville’s Cowan music venue to speak with sarcastic (and sweet) Scott LePage, one-half of the blistering guitar duo that mobilizes the genre-morphing band.
6. Christone "Kingfish" IngramChristone "Kingfish" Ingram is currently putting some serious miles in on his tour to support his debut album, Kingfish. Before his show at Songbirds in Chattanooga, Tennessee, “Kingfish” met up with Premier Guitar’s John Bohlinger to talk through his rig and display some fiery guitar playing.
5. Billy StringsBorn William Apostol, Billy Strings (a nickname given to him by his aunt because of his fluency on several instruments) sharpened his chops in bluegrass alongside his father in Michigan. But to play music with musicians closer to his age, he started shredding in bands inspired by death metal bands Cryptopsy and Cannibal Corpse. While the death-metal thing never stuck (he’s still a regular listener of the genre), the energy, string-splitting proficiency, and raw power trickled into his bluegrass performances. He and his stalwart bandmates logged over 200 shows for a handful of years before recording his 2017 debut Tinfoil and Turmoil, which has many pillars of bluegrass (acoustic instruments, no drums, lightning-fast picking, strong vocal harmonies), but also features the rowdiness of death metal, modern-day tales of drugs and debauchery, and hallucinating delays and reverbs that usher in progressive jams.
Months before his sophomore release, Home, hits the shelves, Billy Strings had the honor of headlining one of the Ryman’s Bluegrass Nights. And that’s where PG’s Perry Bean had the pleasure of spending some quality time with Strings to talk about the perfect acoustic guitar and why he uses pedals to break down bluegrass barriers while still paying reverence to the music’s forefathers like Doc Watson and Bill Monroe.
4. Nita StraussPremier Guitar’s John Bohlinger met with Judas Priest founding bassist Ian Hill and guitarist Richie Faulkner for a walk-through their paint-peeling, mountain-crushing rigs.
3. Sleep's Matt PikeMatt Pike is much like his guitar playing—powerful, blunt, slightly pissed off, and occasionally out of tune. And he’s been playing guitar almost as long as he’s been talking. “My uncle and grandpa used to always play guitar and I just remember loving those times,” says Pike. “Ever since I could handle a guitar, I’ve been playing one.”
Pike’s headbanging lineage started in the ’90s with stoner-metal icons Sleep, and after that band’s initial burnout, continued with the ferocious High on Fire. Decades of playing have honed Pike’s perspective about his instrument and music: “Riffs are the conversation starter—that’s what brings people in, but you better have more to offer than just that,” he says. “I create with the guitar and the riff is my illustrative force.” For fans of Pike’s raging riffage, it should be no shock that the frontman/guitarist had enough to say by way of his guitar (and High on Fire lyrics) to populate two new albums: Electric Messiah from High on Fire and Sleep’s The Sciences.
Since the release of those two critically acclaimed albums in 2018, Pike’s vision has been validated by way of a Grammy for Best Metal Performance (Electric Messiah) and dozens of sold-out Sleep shows that have continued to send the doom trio around the world. While the tour that brought Pike, bassist/vocalist Al Cisneros, and drummer Jason Roeder to town was delayed because Pike had one of his toes partially amputated due to diabetes, the pioneering guitarist couldn’t be sidelined for long. “The guitar is a spiritual instrument—it goes from heart, to head, to hands, out the speaker cabs, and into the universe. That directly impacts the people who listen to you—they know if you’re full of shit or not. I’ve always known I was meant to express myself through this 6-string tool. The only constant through addiction, hard times, juvenile delinquency, heartache, and life has been the guitar.”
Before the band’s show at Nashville’s Marathon Music Works, the bare-chested shredder threw on a shirt, strapped on a Les Paul Artisan, and explained to PG’s Chris Kies how Sleep’s aural expeditions are full of patient, spontaneous moments built on a bed of sustain and swirl.