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Tales from the Pit: Hair, with Ross Hoekman by Jonathan Moody

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Jonathan-MoodyTales from the Pit: Hair, with Ross Hoekman by Jonathan Moody… There are few shows that, when I hear the title, bring forth a slew of memories and imagery. One of those is Hair, possibly the most well-known musical of the “rock opera” genre and a vivid snapshot of the counter culture movement of 1960s America. And, while the subject matter is dated, it’s surprisingly apropo for this day and age, which is why this musical is still regularly staged. I got the chance to compare notes with Colorado native, Ross Hoekman (find him at www.rosshoekman.net) to talk about how we both “let the sunshine in.”

Ross’ Specifics:

  • Hair at the Evergreen Theater, for a 5 weekend run
  • The pit consisted of 4 musicians, upstage “behind” the set. Still on stage, but the back of the warehouse.
  • Gear used: 2009 Fender Precision V and a pedalboard consisting of Ernie Ball VP Jr., Boss TU-2, Ampeg Sub Blaster, EP2, 3Leaf Pwnzor, 3Leaf GR2, Tech21 Bass Boost Chorus, Hardwire Reverb and Sansamp BDDI, direct into the house system

Jon’s Specifics:

  • Hair at Whole Art Theatre, for a 3 weekend run
  • The pit consisted of 6 musicians, in the pit behind the stage
  • Gear used: Heavily modified P-Bass, Line 6 Bass Pod XT Live! pedalboard, early 70’s Univox UB-50 1×15 combo amp

Because this is a snapshot of a different time, you will find that entire production follows suit. As Ross put it, “Since the director didn’t want to mic the vocalists, we all used in-ear monitors, including the drummer who was playing a V-drum kit. It was actually a pretty sweet setup; the soundguy was really good and we got compliments on sound/levels almost every night.” Because this show is in the “rock opera” genre, it is not uncommon to see the pit stripped down to just a core rhythm section. In Ross’ case, that opened the door for some wild experimentation with effects.

“Because there were only four of us (guitar, bass, drums, keys), we had to get a little creative to cover some of the parts. The guitar player actually bought an EHX Ravish Sitar pedal specifically for the show to cover sitar parts and the drummer programmed things like woodblocks, a gong and other various sounds to the triggers in his kit. He also hung a pair of Tibetan tingsha cymbals from his kit for that extra little bit of flavor.”

My situation was similar, in that mics were not used (with exception of some floor mics for soloists over the company). We were literally backstage in one of the wings, so we could hear everything fairly well, but needed to heed our volume in order to make sure that we could maintain that rock energy without overpowering the singer(s). In terms of the orchestration, we were more filled out as we included a trumpet and trombone player for the horn parts. Everything else was easily covered by the guitarist, myself or the keyboardist with the use of effects. Any auxiliary percussion was absorbed into the drummer’s kit, which also included a very large gong hanging right behind his head.

When it comes to embellishing or filling out a section, this is one of those shows where you would think that the musicians would be given free reign and permission to go wild. However, after playing it twice myself and talking with many musicians that have had it, I’m surprised by the answer. As Ross put it, “We played Hair fairly straightforward, so I didn’t have a whole lot to fill in that the other players weren’t already covering. We added group fills/runs in a couple spots, but other than that, we had all worked together before on a number of occasions, so he pretty much trusted us to do our thing.” And in regard to the bass score itself, Ross said this: “For the most part, we struck somewhat closely to the book, but generally used it more as a guide than a strict map. There were a few sections/songs that we changed on the fly or revamped completely.”

The Whole Art production that I did was a little different in this regard; the choreographer really wanted the more funky version of the show that was featured in the movie over the hippy rock feel of the musical production. A couple of numbers we completely rewrote the style and feel, using the score more as a roadmap in terms of how long the song needed to be over anything else. As someone that had played the show prior, this was quite a change to create something completely different than what you are used to (and led to a little head butting during the tech rehearsals). The end result however, was something that everyone was proud of, after we all put egos and preconceived notions aside for the benefit of the show.

One thing that Hair has always meant for me was that I could pull out as many effects as I wanted (many of which my wife would hear and say “When are you ever going to use THAT?!”), and it would be okay. For my run, I had a very customized P/J bass run into a early 70s Vox amp, which had that old school vibe DOWN. From there, I used a slew of effects on my Line 6 Bass Pod XT Live board to give me everything from slight dirt to full on fuzz, slightly delayed to completely trippy, syrupy tones.

Ross approached it roughly the same way that I did. “I played my go-to 2006 MIA Fender Jazz V with nickel rounds for the first couple rehearsals and didn’t feel it was fitting the sound as much as I wanted. I switched to my 2009 MIA Precision V with (D’Addario) Chromes, which was a much better fit. I set up my pedalboard for the show to include pedals like my Pigtronix EP2 for spacey phaser or trippy envelope sounds, the reverb for ambient parts and the BDDI for preamp duties direct to board.”

If there’s one thing that everyone can agree upon, any theatre that does a production of Hair will wind up with large audiences and packed houses, leading to unforgettable nights. Ross’ theatre had 95% of the run sold out. They are currently in the running for a Henry Award (awarded by the Colorado Theater Guild). Our run was no different; I remember holding the show to allow the stagehands to scramble and add extra seats in an effort to accommodate everyone.

Hair is a show that everyone on some level can relate to. The issues that faced the characters in the late 60s are surprisingly similar to the ones that we are still facing today, hence its appeal. Thanks to Ross for taking the time to compare notes. Check him out at www.rosshoekman.net or on Facebook (www.facebook.com/rosshoekman).

If you’re a fellow “theatre rat” and would like to be included in an upcoming “Tales from the Pit” article, contact me at moody@justmoody.com or find me on Twitter at @monjoody. Thanks for reading, and have a great month!

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This Week’s Top 10 Basses on Instagram

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TOP 10 Basses of the week

Check out our top 10 favorite basses on Instagram this week…

Click to follow Bass Musician on Instagram @bassmusicianmag

FEATURED @zonguitars @shukerbassguitars @bite.guitars @adamovicbasses @mayonesguitars @bassbros.uk @capursoguitars @overwaterbasses @saitiasguitars @ramabass.ok

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New Gear: Elrick Bass Guitars Headless Series

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New Gear: Elrick Bass Guitars Headless Series

New from Elrick Bass Guitars, Headless Series added to Custom Lineup…

Elrick Bass Guitars is excited to announce the addition of a headless option on hand-carved series bass guitars. Initially previewed on the 2023 Gold Series SLC MkII bass of prolific solo bass practitioner and educator Steve Lawson, a headless bass option is now available to all. According the Elrick, “The excitement surrounding Steve’s MkII SLC bass at 2024 NAMM confirmed that the time is right to add a headless option to our extensive range of custom options.” To date, Elrick instruments have only been offered with traditional headstock construction but, in response to market demand, custom features will now include a headless option in 4-, 5- and 6-string models.

Headless bass guitars share these features with the traditional headstock series:

24 frets + zero fret
exotic wood top
hand-rubbed oil finish
2-way adjustable truss rod
custom Bartolini pickups
custom Bartolini 3-band preamp
fully shielded control cavity
Hipshot bridge
Dunlop Straploks
Elrick Fundamental strings

The headless option can now be selected when submitting custom order requests via the form on elrick.com, contacting the Elrick Sales Office directly, or working with your favorite Elrick dealer.

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Bruegel Masterpiece (1565) Inspires BITE Masterpiece (2023)

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Bruegel Masterpiece (1565) Inspires BITE Masterpiece (2023)

Bruegel Masterpiece (1565) Inspires BITE Masterpiece (2023)…

Flemish Master Pieter Bruegel the Elder probably had many things in mind when painting his Hunters in the Snow in oil on oak wood in 1565. This masterpiece tells plenty of little stories about winterly pastimes and precarious livelihoods in the Early Modern Age. What Bruegel presumably did not have in mind was that this painting would, several centuries later, become one of the most popular ones in fine arts globally, displayed in a permanent exhibition at Kunsthistorisches Museum (Museum of Fine Arts) Vienna. The painting’s popularity was lately taken to a different level as it was replicated by hand to design an exclusive BITE bass.

An international art collector and bass player who regularly visits Vienna to immerse himself in the wonderworld of Kunsthistorisches’ Bruegel Hall asked BITE to replicate the painting on a bass body. BITE Guitars, an Austrian premium manufacturer exporting most of their basses to the US, has become renowned for colorful artwork basses, offering a range of manual and digital techniques. The firm’s art director Peter, a trained scenic painter of Oscar and Palme d’Or rank, specializes in photo-realistic reproductions. He also painted the bass for Robbie Williams’ 2023 world tour by faithfully replicating Robbie’s own stage design onto the tour bass.

Peter copied the Bruegel motif onto the bass body in minute detail, little twigs even by one-hair-brush. Positioning the rectangular image section on the body shape proved to be a special challege that he met by repositioning little elements, a bird here, a horse and cart there.

It all came together in a memorable video shooting in front of the original painting in the Museum’s Bruegel Hall: venerable fine arts, premium handicraft and groovy jazz tunes.

View video at the museum: www.youtube.com/shorts/2evdqfR6gUE

What’s the conclusion of BITE’s client, our Vienna, art and bass lover? “It’s a magical bass! When I touch the strings, I feel warm inside.”

Specs highlights:
Bass model: BITE Evening Star, the proprietary BITE premium model with inward curved horns
Pickups: 2 x BITE 1000 millivolt passive split-coils (PP)
Neck: roasted maple neck and roasted flamed maple fretboard

Price tag incl. insured door-to-door express shipping:
New York: 4726 USD
London: 3645 GBP
Berlin: 4965 EUR

Full specs available at bite.guitars/old-master-bass/

Bruegel Hall at Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna: 
khm.at/en/visit/collections/picture-gallery/the-best-of-bruegel-only-in-vienna/

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Interview With Bassist Ciara Moser

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Interview With Bassist Ciara Moser

Bassist Ciara Moser…

Ciara and I sat down for this interview a few months after the launch of her debut album, “Blind. So what?”

Blind since birth, she is a powerhouse of talent; she is not only a professional bassist, but also composes music, and is a producer and educator. I am just blown away by her talent and perseverance.

Join me as we hear about Ciara’s musical journey, the details of her album, how she gets her sound, and her plans for the future.

Visit online:

www.ciara-moser.com 
IG @ moserciara
FB @ ciara.moser

Photos by Manuela Haeussler

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Gear News

New Gear: Black Ice Boost and Distort, Battery-Free Modules for Bass and Guitar

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New Gear: Black Ice Boost and Distort, Battery-Free Modules for Bass and Guitar

Black Ice Boost and Distort, Battery-Free Modules for Bass and Guitar…

Black Ice Enterprises introduces Black Ice Boost and Black Ice Distort, small, battery-free devices that can be easily installed in a bass or guitar.

Black Ice Boost offers two selectable stages of up to 7 dB of boost, broadly concentrated in the midrange frequencies to add humbucker-like qualities to Strat®, Tele® and other types of single-coil pickups. Black Ice Distort is an overdrive module that can be configured to offer anything from slight overdrive to distortion. Both models are compatible with all passive guitar pickups and electronics (they’re not compatible with battery-powered active pickups).

Black Ice Boost (SRP: $119.95; MAP, $79.95) can be installed using several wiring options, including a simple “stealth” install that utilizes a single push-pull pot, and a dual-switch option that allows users to select between two different levels of boost. For those using the boost along with Black Ice Distort, a second push-pull pot or switch can be used to select a clean or distorted boost.

The Black Ice Boost module is approximately 2/3 the size of a 9-volt battery, and can be easily installed in most instruments with no routing or permanent modifications required. The tone of the instrument remains completely unaffected when the boost is bypassed.

In addition to use with popular single-coil pickups, Black Ice Boost can also be used with other pickup types. Use it to fatten up a P-90 style pickup, or add girth to a low-wind humbucker. Jazz Bass® players can use the additional midrange content provided by Black Ice Boost to produce a sound that’s reminiscent of a P-Bass® or soapbar-type pickup. Black Ice Boost is not recommended for use with high-output humbuckers and other dark-sounding pickups.

Black Ice Distort (SRP: $27.95; MAP, $21.95) is an overdrive module that can be configured for just a touch of grit, or a more aggressive grind, all the way to a 1960’s-flavored fuzz. While its battery-free circuit will never replace the more refined sound of a well-designed pedal, it provides handy, there-when-you-need-it access to a variety of fun old-school flavors, and is a great way to add additional textures to an already overdriven amp or pedal. Bass players will especially dig its raw dirty grind.

Like Black Ice Boost, the sugar-cube-sized Black Ice Distort provides a lifetime of tone with no maintenance or power source required. A variety of wiring options are included that let you activate the Distort via a switch or push-pull pot, or by easily converting your guitar’s tone control into a control for the Black Ice Distort circuit. It can be used in conjunction with the Black Ice Boost for a wide variety of useful tones.

Black Ice Boost and Black Ice Distort are now shipping.

Visit online at www.blackiceoverdrive.com

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