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Stole Brooklyn? Well stole our hearts certainly. Die hard BKLYN flag wavers like myself always appreciate and support home town heroes who return to their roots. The Gretsch Musical Instrument Company has made a point of celebrating the place of its origins (in 1883) by making Brooklyn’s Street Sounds an annual stop on their road show events. The “Fred and Joe Show” features company owner Fred W. Gretsch and Guitar Product Specialist Joe Carducci along with a troupe of Grestchites who offer up an afternoon of musical treats, giveaways, and signings. I thought the 2011 extravaganza (see it here) could not be topped but I was happily proven wrong on Saturday June 2, 2012 when proprietor Rocky Schiano and his family welcomed the Gretsch family – and the music community at large – to his Bay Ridge music outlet. Schiano has built his business into one of the leading Gretsch instrument depots on the planet.
Miles of Styles…
Last year the focus was on the reverently researched and replicated George Harrison DuoJet model. This year the show highlighted the breadth of styles played by Gretsch musicians. A full stage was erected in the midst of Street Sounds’ well stocked shelves and the show was broadcast live worldwide via the internet. In addition to the musical acts Ms. Kim Falcon, Gretsch’s very own pin-up gal, helped choose the winners of two beautiful guitars and signed copies of her newest poster.
Like a revival meeting preaching the soul of Rock n Roll, Fred and Joe introduced talented players from Austin, Nashville, Canada, another “outer-borough”, and just around the corner (literally.) The audience got a dose of fiery rockabilly from The Octanes, dazzling fingerpicking from Paul Pigat with his band Cousin Harley and some sparkling country harmonies from sisters Nik and Sam. The next generation of Gretsch players was represented by local gang The Foxy Studs who opened the afternoon with the iconic licks of The Beatles’ “Daytripper.” Performances were framed by fun 1950’s news clips decrying the awful effect of “the beat, the beat, the beat” on the youth of America. Oops, too late.
Headliners (and personal favorites) Fountains of Wayne powered up the proceedings with their signature style of bright pop melodies and witty word play. I’d call ‘em The Kinks of Queens. I was happy to hear them do “Red Dragon Tattoo” from the super Utopia Parkway album. Can’t get better than a tune that references the N Train, Coney Island, Basil Hayden Bourbon, Easy Rider, .38 Special and William Blake’s titular iconic engraving. It is that Red Dragon, right – or am I projecting? The compact set included crowd pleaser “Stacy’s Mom”, FOW’s 2003 radio hit, which had everyone singing along to its undeniable chorus. They clearly had fun extending their final tune “Radiation Vibe” with a medley of bits and pieces of everything from Frampton to Foreigner.
OK-Go’s Damien Kulash signed autographs and chatted with fans while his band’s always unique videos played on the big screen. OK-Go used 300 Gretsch Electromatic CVT III guitars in the making of their wacked-out promo for “Needing/Getting.” Many of those actual instruments, battered but collectible and authenticated, are available via Street Sounds while they last. Check out the video and the story behind it here.
Have It Your Way…
Master Luthier Stephen Stern gave attendees a technical tour of the company’s wares. He detailed aspects of fit, finish and hardware and pointed out how the Gretsch Custom Shop can make the instrument of your dreams. In turn Stern got an up close and personal look at some vintage models brought out by local collectors.
A very special surprise this year was a visit from Mr. Vincent Ottaviano. “Vinnie” was a driver for the Gretsch company in the heyday of its borough tenure and spent part of the afternoon reminiscing with Mr. Gretsch. He delivered Gretsch products; guitars, accordians and drum kits from the Williamsburg factory to music stores and distributors. In 1957 on one such trip to the legendary Manny’s music store on 48th street in Manhattan Vinnie delivered Gretsch Duojet Serial Number 21179. Sold to a merchant seaman, the guitar eventually found its way to Liverpool England and into the hands of teenage rocker George Harrison. You know the rest. It’s the kind of “butterfly effect” story that makes you realize how a simple everyday task can go on to change the world. You can read all the details here.
SkeletonPete Says… Eat To The Beat
Once again Gretsch and Street Sounds offered up an amazing get together.As if all the musical goodies were not enough to sate appetites, abundant trays of delicious culinary creations from the folks at Artisan Food Valley (conveniently located right next door to Street Sounds) were passed through the crowd. The tempting sandwiches of grilled vegetables, fresh mozzarella and sausages put the shoppe on my short list of must explore places. It was also great to see the always jubilant Joe Carducci beaming at the chance to savor a classic Brooklyn chocolate-covered cannoli.
A special thank you to Ken Pierce, of PiercingMetal.Com who graciously got me a singed Fountains of Wayne set-list, something I’m much too shy to attempt myself. His videos of the afternoon’s performances can be viewed here.