I HAVEN’T DONE a ‘gear’ editorial for a while, but last weekend I was playing an outdoor gig in Bristol and had a bit of a revelation. You may know from my years of waffling, and of endless pictures of me with nice guitars and amps, that I like my gear. Well, the backline on this gig was supplied, and to save humping the Marshall ministack (my latest must-have!), I decided to risk it. When the gear list arrived I was heartened to see ‘my’ amp was a Fender Hot Rod Deluxe - the older, Americanmade, 40w, 1x12 one. I also elected to use my faded Fiesta Custom Shop Strat rather than the Candy Apple Tele that’s been floating my boat on recent gigs. I also took a small board with a few choice stompers including the brilliant Analogman King Of Tone drive, Keeley-modded Boss DD-3 delay, etc.
A couple of interesting things occurred that day. First, although I’ve always known Fender Hot Rods to be fantastic and reliable workhorses, hired-in backline is often on its last legs. This, however, was amazing! Hand on heart, I’d count that setup as among the top three tones I’ve ever had on stage. Secondly (and I’m a bridge-only or middle-only Strat pickup guy), I stayed on bridge-and-middle the entire gig. I usually find it too obviously ‘Stratty’ and recognisable, but with both sides of the K.O.T. on for the entire gig, and running everything from the Strat’s volume knob, it was just fat, beautifully compressed and utterly controllable. It was a cold and miserable day and, while a few friends did stay to endure us, most felt they’d rather be in the beer tent. But I had a great gig! And what did I learn? That one of the most popular amps in the world is popular for a reason; and that if you put quality in, you’re likely to get quality out (I’m talking about the Strat and King Of Tone pedal here, not me). See you next time.