neon trees

Witness the gear of the pop-rock gods—from James Valentine's fully-loaded boutique board to Monte Pittman's stash of signature axes, Justin Derrico's collection of Les Pauls, the Neon Trees' custom Fender setup, and John Mayer's beat-and-battered BLACK1 Strat.

Sure, most of the magic conjured by the world’s best players is in their hands, but obviously their gear is a huge deal, too—because they’re still pretty particular about what they play. So take a break from honing your own chops for a bit, and check out what your heroes use to conjure their amazing tones. Who knows, maybe it’ll help you rethink how you approach your music and give you some ideas for how to improve your own rig. Or just sit there and lust after all the cool stuff. Either way works.

Here we’ve compiled our top Rig Rundowns with some of the most badass pop-rock heavy hitters on the road today:
Maroon 5's James Valentine
Madonna's Monte Pittman
Pink's Justin Derrico and Eva Gardner
Neon Trees
John Mayer

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Photo by Chris Schwegler AtlasIcons

Guitarist Chris Allen and bassist Branden Campbell discuss playing with nuance in Neon Trees, an alt-pop rock band with a sound that could be described as new new wave.

Neon Trees, the modern pop band that is musically and sartorially indebted to new wave, might rely heavily on synthesizers to achieve its dance-approved approach. But on its latest album, Pop Psychology (Island Records), the very first sounds—the transient rasp of an instrument cable, followed by the ringing open D and G strings—give a hint of both the importance and the subtlety of the guitar on the record.

Throughout the album, Chris Allen doesn’t play standard-issue rock guitar but something more thoughtful. His collection of riffs and timbres, plus the occasional oddball atonal move, feel spontaneous and orchestrated, and pair nicely with that of his bandmate Branden Campbell, who’s style is equally informed by such great session bassists as Donald “Duck” Dunn and by Campbell’s contemporary counterparts like John Stirratt of Wilco.

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