Sierra Surf Music Camp 2013 No. 8: Okay, It's a Toss-Up

Editor’s Note:  Last year, our camp posts seemed to drag on for an eternity.  This year, we are working on being less ponderous.  Is that better?  You make the call.

Saturday night's festivities continued with Slacktone.  Smoke from a few twigs -- last year, logs, this year, twigs -- kept the mosquitos at bay.  An evening breeze helped.  The elements were cooperating as the best surf band in the world set up to play. 

What can I write about Slacktone that I have not written before?  Of our 333 previous Pup Posts, several include Slacktone performances.  The band makes all surf musicians -- both real and wannabe -- feel inadequate, talent-deficient, or just plain lame.  Slacktone combines musicianship, tone, sound, composition, and pure talent to take instrumental rock to a new level.  It sets the bar; according to our blog, it is -- quite fitting for the Donner Mine -- the “gold standard.”

Suffice it to say, nothing about Saturday’s night performance changed previous assessments.  The same superlatives apply.  Slacktone remains the best surf band in the world.  Only this performance was special.  Whether it was a couple of days of camp and the mountain air or spending time with campers and their families or being surrounded by folks who just love the music or whatever, Dave Wronski was at ease and relaxed.  He truly seemed to be having fun.

On Friday afternoon, the campers gained some insight into why Dave is the best surf guitarist on Earth.  We sat enthralled as Dave told us about the precision and preparation that guide him as a musician.  Speaking softly, he had the attention of each of us.  He started out by demonstrating how to set up a Jaguar.  He covered the precise distances for the strings to be above the frets and pickups, adjusting the truss rod and bridge, and making the lock on the tremolo work.  Listening to him made clear the depth of his genius as every adjustment was tied to achieving perfect tone or action. 

As I listened, I realized that my efforts at solidifying the bridge on the Jazzmaster with nail polish were amateurish in comparison with Dave’s preparation.  “Know your measurements; check them out before a gig; don’t guess.”

Then Dave turned to the sonic differences in bands.  The two guitars in a band should play in different audio zones -- complement each other.  To play with Jon & the Nightriders on Friday night, Dave's amp and guitar differed from those he uses with Slacktone.  His goal was to make sure that his tone and sonic zone did not intrude upon John Blair’s.  That was just downright other worldly.

As Slacktone played on Saturday night, the precision and preparation were evident.  The best surf guitarist just does not plug in and play.  He does not rely solely on his amazing talent.  He plans.  He knows measurements and settings.  He makes sure that his setup is absolutely right.  Knowing that plus Dave’s demeanor made Saturday night unbelievable.  Did it top the screening of Sound of the Surf?  In retrospect, it was a toss-up -- yes, two spectacular nights in a row!

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