Saturday’s Stone Mountain LIVE show was subtitled “The Guitar Gods” show and it was almost more like sitting in on a roots guitar master class than a regular night out on the town. The Stone Mountain LIVE house band is headed up by Duke Levine and Kevin Barry, two very fine guitar players. The band is rounded out with Sonny Barbato on keys, Richard Gates on bass, Billy MacGillivray on drums, and Chris Cote on vocals. Most folks would be happy if they just played all night — but they keep inviting great guests, the most recent being Bill Kirchen.
Bill Kirchen is often referred to as an “elder statesman” in guitar circles. He’s a master of the Fender Telecaster and is best known for the song “Hot Rod Lincoln” when he was with Commander Cody back in the 70′s. (I can still remember listening to that on the radio on the Giannetti’s back porch.) Honky-Tonk and “Dieselbilly” is the corner of roots guitar music that he is the master of and putting him on stage with Duke and the gang was to watch pure genius at work. Bill is also one of the nicest people you could meet — quite the ambassador for Austin, Texas.
Bill performs his version of “Hot Rod Lincoln” that includes a medley of musical vignettes that is simply jaw-dropping. He and the band effortlessly recalled the riffs of (in order): Johnny Cash, Duane Eddy, Roy Orbison, Johnny Rivers, Marty Robbins, Buck Owens, Merle Travis, Merle Haggard, Bob Willis, Hank Sugarfoot Garland, Earl Scruggs, Iggy Pop, The Ventures, Bo Diddly, Chuck Berry, Elmore James, Muddy Waters, Howlin Wolf, Alvino Rey, Stevie Ray, Freddy King, BB King, Albert King, Ben E King, Billy Jean King, Elvis Presley, Cream, Deep Purple, The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, The Sex Pistols, and Jimmy Hendrix (and I’m sure I missed a couple of them).
When I photograph live music performances I try to do two things: 1) capture the emotional power of the performance from the audience’s side, and 2) get a glimpse into the what goes into the performance from the artists’ side – those quick glances between band members, the look of concentration as they work through a song, and the smiles when they just know it is “coming together”.
For the first half of the show I was taking the audience perspective, but for the second half I shot mostly from just off-stage providing a more intimate set of angles and, for my money, much better lighting (Carol even had a “hair light” now and then!)
I hope you enjoyed seeing some shots of these “guitar gods” in action. I think Bill is now an honorary Stone Mountain Boy (he should consider moving up to Maine for the summers — it gets hot down there in Texas!) A gallery of close to 70 images from the performance is available at:
Here are a few more of my favorites shots from the evening:
My thanks to Carol and Jeff at the Stone Mountain Arts Center, and to Bill Kirchen and all the performers for allowing me to photograph the show.