I arrived in Tetonia, Idaho on Friday last week, and on Sunday morning I headed to Pendl’s, my favorite bakery in Driggs or anywhere else, to sit in with my friend Michael Batdorf, who plays acoustic guitar and sings lots of his own songs and some by other people. His basic style is Americana, and he takes the chord progressions farther than you’d expect in that genre. Michael greeted me warmly, and I was set up in time to start the first set at 9 AM.

I guess I haven’t spelled it out before, so here’s what it takes me to set up my basic road kit with amp. If I’m running straight to the PA, I skip step 3. But I do prefer to take the amp when I can. I just like the sound of air moving.

This complete procedure takes about 5 to 10 minutes, depending on how much flexibility I have in terms of where stuff gets positioned.

  • Unpack the gear–harps, mics, cables, power strip, etc.
  • Plug in the power strip.
  • Position the amp and plug it in to the power strip.
  • Position the RP360XP and plug it into the power strip.
  • Plug the lo-hi-z converter into the mic cable.
  • Plug the mic cable into the mic and the RP.
  • Run a line out from the RP360XP to the amp
  • Place the harps where I want them onstage so I can quickly and easily get to the harp I want.

  • I was a little worried during setup because I was standing–and placing my gear on–damp grass. I was concerned about the potential for electric shock,but no problems there. Anyway, the music just got better and better. I played a few too many of my big licks in the first few songs, but then I caught myself and began playing what I thought of as “arrangements” for the songs–signature (repeated) melodies from the harp, with different approaches to different sections of a song. It was pretty clear that something very good was happening, and to my dismay, my Zoom H4 chose that very time to run out of space on the SD card. So no recording. I’ve cleared the SD card, so I’ll get a recording next week.

    By the time the gig was halfway over, the crew included local stalwarts Greg Creamer and Brian Maw, the latter of which I of course played plenty of gigs with a couple of summers ago. The jams were surprisingly cohesive, with one hilarious episode involving “It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry” in which everyone fumbled the structure, and we eventually coalesced on performing the song as an E blues. I had to modify the rhythm of the licks to make the words fit, but it solved what could have been a train wreck.

    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 used the Digitech RP360XP and a Peavey KB2 amp for this gig. The rig sounded great, of course, but I learned something about playing with FX at low volume. Did I mention that the volume was VERY low? The amp was positioned ahead of me and to my left, and the volume was set so low that I had trouble hearing what the FX were really doing. The audience could hear it easily; everyone in the place went bananas when I started soloing through my new tenor-sax-with-wahwah patch (which I’ll distribute to my patch set licensees soon). But what I heard mostly was the harp in my hands, not the amp. Lesson learned: for very low volume gigs, put the amp behind me, not in front. It’s not like feedback is an issue under those circumstances, and it’s a lot easier to hear what you sound like than to imagine what you sound like.

    The tenor sax wah patch aside, mostly I was pretty conservative with my amp and FX choices. I used my DIRROOM and DIRHALL patches, direct signal from the mic with room and hall reverb respectively, on a lot of stuff; acoustic harp with reverb works with acoustic guitar, duh. I also used the TW_SLP patch, Twin Reverb amp with slapback delay, on a few tunes; it’s a clean sound with a lot of power and cut. I used my BASROTON patch–Bassman amp model with rotary speaker on/off under footpedal control–on a lot of stuff, especially the rockers where I wanted to sound like an organ on the accompaniments and like an amped-up harp on the leads. And I used a few octave and double octave down patches for various bass and low-saxish stuff. When I wanted Chicago in the sound, I used a range of patches based on the Gibson GA40 and Fender Champ with various cabinets. I especially like the sound of the Champ amp model with the Tweed Deluxe 1×12 cabinet model, the patch I call CHAMPD in my patch sets for the RP360XP, 500, and 1000.

    RP355 in the middle of the red board: it's great, but the RP360XP is great-er
    RP355 in the middle of the red board: it’s great, but the RP360XP is great-er

    I keep an RP355 at my place in Tetonia just in case, and I had the opportunity to do a side-by-side comparison with the RP360XP. No surprises there: the RP360XP sounds better. The 355 sounds great–just check out “Me and the Devil,” the new release by Ed Abbiatti and Chris Cacavas–but the 360XP is noticeably more articulate and vivid. From this point on, the 360XP is the default device for most of my gigs, with the RP500 the leading choice for my solo looping gigs.

    I’ll post some samples of the latest RP360XP sounds soon. Stay tuned for those. In the meantime, if you’re planning to be near the Teton Valley anytime soon, I’ll be sitting in with Michael again on Sunday 17 August, with Brian Maw’s band at the Knotty Pine in Victor on Saturday 23 August, and with Phil Round’s band at the Stagecoach in Jackson on either Sunday 17 August or Sunday 24 August. Fun fun fun…