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Staff Picks: Best Guitar Performance

Guitarist Daniel Kongos catches lightning in a bottle with us as we discuss the best live guitar we’ve seen this year.

Q: What’s the best live guitar performance you’ve seen so far in 2016? What was so “lightning in a bottle” about it?

Daniel KongosKongos
A: Blake Mills, who opened for Dawes. I had no idea who he was, so that added to getting blown away by his dynamics, patience, and ability to build a solo. There’s definitely some Derek Trucks influence, who’s another one of my favorites. Also, his ability to sing and keep intricate guitar parts going is a rare thing. After seeing so much mechanical music, his band reminded me what’s so special about a live, communicating band.

My current obsession is: Freddie King. I think it was Eastbound & Down that used “Going Down.” After getting into the rest of his catalog, it’s clear he’s one of the greats.

A technical obsession would be using a single ribbon mic for recording amps. We’re late to the party on that, but we never had a good ribbon. Now we have a few. No phase issues that come with multiple mics, sits in a mix perfectly, and takes a quarter of the time to set up!

Shawn StephensReader of the Month
A: I took my seat 10 feet away from David Gilmour’s floor monitor at the Hollywood Bowl. To my left, I see Polly Samson (David’s wife) smiling ear to ear, accompanied by David Crosby. The black Strat raised onto the figure’s shoulder, he hits the first note of the first track off his latest solo album, “5 A.M.”—a song I’d been playing for several weeks on guitar and knew by heart. The note resonated through the floor and through the air. Sounds silly but I swear I could almost touch the sound when I put my arms up. The perfect note with the perfect bend to begin what quickly became the perfect night that I’ll never forget.

My current obsession is: At the moment, it’s the differences between the Chandler and BK Butler tube drivers and their relation with the Effectrode PC-2A Tube Compressor. It’s a sound in my head that I’ve been chasing for years and I couldn’t be happier with my tone.

Tzvi Gluckin — PG Contributor
A: It was late 2014 and it was Scott Holiday (Rival Sons) at the Brighton Music Hall in Boston. Holiday’s playing was incredible, but the real performance that evening was the fan playing air guitar next to the stage. His entire being emanated pure, unadulterated joy. His energy was contagious and even the band noticed—they dedicated the encore to him!

My current obsession is: The first Iron Maiden record. The band was young, the tones were raw, and everything was new. Their next album, Killers, was probably better, but I can’t stop listening to the first one. It’s an addictive synthesis of punk energy and super-melodic guitar playing, and set the stage for everything that heavy metal was to become. Plus, I still have the original vinyl I bought in high school.

Rich OsweilerAssociate Editor
A: I caught Lush at the Warfield in San Francisco and, damn, call me impressed. As a huge fan years ago, I wanted it to be great, but didn’t know what to expect. The groovy shoegaze pioneers called it quits more than two decades ago and frontwoman Miki Berenyi has been completely out of the music realm for just as long. Lush’s gorgeous, trademark chorus- and reverb-drenched tones were omnipresent, but so was a togetherness and vibe onstage that was pretty remarkable for a band that hasn’t done this in a long time.

My current obsession is: Blesst Chest’s Wish We Were There. This power trio makes bold, raw, all-instrumental math rock that gets downright sleazy at times (in a good way), while moving between bombastic freak-outs and well-crafted space-outs.

Chris KiesAssociate EditorA: I’ll give you three: Tool’s Adam Jones killing their cover of one of my favorite Zep songs, “No Quarter”; being mesmerized by my new favorite band All Them Witches’ guitarist Ben McLeod, who blends the nasty and heavy with beauty and melody; and, lastly, Thelma and the Sleaze spitfire LG, who brought her signature raw aggression and punk ferocity during a month-long tour of Nashville where the band played peculiar settings like busking on Broadway, a McDonald’s parking lot, and a skating rink.

My current obsession is: Sturgill Simpson’s new album A Sailor’s Guide to Earth. I jam it daily and have been losing my marbles over his lead guitarist Laur Joamet’s slide tone on “Sea Stories”—or try “It Ain’t All Flowers” on Metamodern Sounds in Country Music. Day-um!