I spent the weekend in Jackson, Wyoming, where I had a gig with the cream of the local rock scene: Derrik and the Dynamos, Derrik Hufsmith’s stellar band that on this occasion included Phil Round on bass and backup vocals and Ed Domer on drums along with Derrik on guitar and lead vocals and yours truly on harp and keys. The occasion was a wedding, and the groom had specifically requested a harp player for the wedding band. How often does that happen? Not often enough…

I traveled from Connecticut (2250 miles away) with a road kit that included my Audix Fireball mic and my Digitech RP360XP, plus a Roland JV1010 synth module for organ and piano sounds. (This is the rootsy side of rock, and the spacier sounds in the Roland were not required.)

The RP360XP: a very nice device, and the host of my latest patch set
The RP360XP: a very nice device, and the host of my latest patch set

I keep a Peavey KB2 amp, which has a built-in 3-channel mixer, and a Casio CZ-1 synthesizer keyboard at my place in Idaho, and that coupled with the gear I brought with me was all that was required. The Casio has nice sounds of its own, of course, its 1980s vintage notwithstanding, but for this occasion all it was doing was sending MIDI to the Roland, which in turn made the sounds. I put the keys and the harp (the latter via the RP360XP, which is loaded with my latest patch set plus a few other goodies I’ve worked up recently) through the Peavey, which functioned in this case as my stage monitor, and we ran a line from the Peavey’s XLR out to the PA.

The setup was plenty loud and clear for both monitoring and front of house, and it was certainly simple enough to set up. It’s SO much easier to play when you can really hear yourself (and when the other players can you hear you too), and I had lots of tools in the kit to work with.

I used about a half-dozen harp sounds for this gig, including a “tenor sax” patch that I put together earlier this week for the bride and groom’s first dance to Van Morrison’s “Days Like This”, and a few sounds from my Huntersounds v18 patch set for RP360, including my TW_SLP patch (which uses a Twin Reverb amp model and a slapback analog delay), a sound that’s both clear and big, for Stevie Wonder’s “Isn’t She Lovely”, and a few different amped-blues variations, including my ChampB (Champ amp model with Bassman cab) and GA40 (Gibson GA40 amp model and cab model) patches for the heavier blues-rock stuff like the Rolling Stones’s “Honky Tonk Women” and “Miss You,” as well as the Smokey Robinson tune “The Way You Do the Things You Do,” where the harp sounded big and ballsy with chording on the tune’s signature I-IV vamp and a solo that channeled Magic Dick (whose own solo in 1970 on Smokey’s “First I look at the Purse” was one of the recordings that shaped my early ideas about what could and could not be done on harp). I’d never really been all that enamored of “Miss You,” but playing Sugar Blue’s lines on that tune in 3rd position on a Seydel 1847 G harp with a screaming GA40 tone was a hellalotta fun.

I leaned heavily on my Seydel Session Steel and chromatic harps throughout this gig, and they did not let me down. I’d brought a total of 52 harps with me and ended up using, oh, about 4 or 5 of them. As Don Covay said decades ago, better to have and not need than to need and not have.

The players were plenty experienced. I realized in conversation with Phil that I’d seen him perform with the Teton Valley-based bluegrass band Loose Ties at the Pyralisk performance space in Montpelier, Vermont in 1994, when I was resident in that town. He practically fell over laughing when I sang the chorus from “Singin’ Through My Nose,” the song Loose Ties used to end their set on that occasion. (Ed Domer couldn’t believe that I remembered the song. Hey, it was a memorable lyric.) Phil has been performing a weekly gig at the Stagecoach in Jackson for 45 years (with a hiatus in the middle to tour with Loose Ties and various others). He’s an accomplished guitarist, but he stuck to the bass for this gig.

Phil Round, guitar in hand
Phil Round, guitar in hand

This is the second time I’ve played with drummer Ed Domer–the first was the gig I played in Jackson a couple of years ago with George Kilby Jr., which is chronicled here. Ed has been in Jackson for close to two decades; before that he spent 18 years in LA working a variety of stage, studio, and tour gigs. His drumming was top-notch, with lots of precision and drive. We had a brief discussion about drummers Steve Gadd and Bernard “Pretty” Purdie; I’d heard the former in concert with James Taylor in Tanglewood about a dozen years ago, and I had the pleasure of playing with the latter when I sat in with Rob Papparozzi’s band The Hudson River rats a few years ago in NYC. Ed obligingly played a few hihat grooves for me that represented those players’ styles; very educational.

I’ve jammed with Derrik at his house or mine in Tetonia, Idaho on several occasions, but this was the first time I’ve performed with him in front of an audience, and man was he on fire. It was immensely pleasurable to hear him beat those strings to pieces on song after song, and pleasurable indeed to play with a trio of such accomplished players.

Derrik Hufsmith
Derrik Hufsmith getting his groove on for the farm equipment

I didn’t record this show; Derrik’s not fond of being recorded, for reasons that will ever remain obscure to me–y’know, plenty of people who will never play half as well as Derrik does on a bad day, let alone a good one, seem to record themselves every time I turn my back for ten minutes–and it was his gig. But I did find this nifty video of Derrik, Phil, and Ed playing a recent show. Check it out.