(From the Archives, May 2001)
One man’s word on…
David Lindley and Wally Ingram in Concert, NYC
Not sure if you are in the mood for Maori Reggae, Appalachian ballads, or blazing slide guitar-driven rock n roll? But might like all of them together? You just might be a Pleemhead. There is one sure way to find out. Go see David Lindley in concert.
Last night David Lindley and Wally Ingram played the Bottom Line in New York City. Accompanied by percussion master Wally Ingram, “Mr. Dave” bedazzled his audience once again with instruments and music originating from all corners of the globe.
It did not matter if Lindley played a blues number on a Greek bouzouki or a Celtic reel on an Irish one, or used one of his many hollow-neck Hawaiian guitars to play self-composed rockers based on funny true stories, as in “Methlab Boyfriend,” or a sparkling 12-string guitar to play a cover tune about juvenile transvestites, as in Danny O’Keefe’s “Jody,” he showed why he has become a well-loved cult figure to music fans from Madagascar to Japan and everywhere in between. Though my personal favorite of the evening was “Cat Food Sandwiches” – a true tale of food poising acquired from bad, backstage food (“I got cat food sandwiches waitin’ for me back stage … and the woman who made them looks just like Jimmy Page.”)
A virtuoso of most every stringed instrument smaller than a cello, David Lindley first gained notoriety in the 1960’s by winning the Topanga Canyon Banjo and Fiddle Bake Offs so many times they finally made him a judge, that others might have a chance to win. After a stint in the psychedelic-era band, Kaleidoscope, Lindley became most well known as Jackson Browne’s chief side man. For the next twenty years his violin, guitars and blistering lap steel were heard on record and in concert with everyone from Crosby and Nash, to Rod Stewart, to Dolly Parton. He even turned down an invitation to join Lynard Skynard a year before their fatal plane crash. During the 1980’s he continued his work as studio wizard while finding time to tour with his own rock band, El Rayo-X and joining with Ry Cooder on various tours and film soundtracks. However, in the past decade or so he has toured the world with an arsenal of unusual, acoustic instruments; accompanied only by a single percussionist.
Last night Mr. Dave played 1 Vox bouzouki in traditional Greek tuning; two Trinity College flatback, Irish bouzoukis (one tuned in fourths, one tuned in fifths); 3 Weissenborn-style, hollow-neck guitars in koa, mahogany and rosewood – one of which was extra thin; 1 vintage Turkish saz , played banjo-style, though I have seen him bow it in previous performances; 1 James Goodall jumbo-sized, 12-string guitar; and 1 conventional six-string guitar set up for lap playing. I thought this last one might have been a vintage 000-21, perhaps even his early-40’s one that I always assumed he played like a regular guitar. It clearly appeared to have deeply-streaked Brazilian rosewood, tortoise shell-style binding and chrome tuners. But I could not see the face of the head stock from where I was sitting. However he eventually turned it at an angle so I did see it was clearly NOT a Martin headstock. The top of the headstock has a slight slope in the middle so it almost looked like the edges rose up like horns, but in a subtle manner. So best guess was a Charles Fox OM of some kind.
For his second encore Mr. Dave picked up a monstrous Weissenborn made by a friend, Marc Silber. It was actually two-in-one. There was a regular one and a second one with an extra-long scale on the other side of it, with the soundholes aligned so you could actually look right through it. The depth of this leviathan was more than dreadnought-sized and he claimed to have destroyed whole PA systems with it. The low C string on that thing made one’s internal organs jitter.
For his stage rig, Lindley runs the basic line from the instruments through a splitter. Half of the signal goes through a reworked Ashly preamp that has a Klark Teknik graphic EQ for frequency control. The other half goes into an old Roland Jazz Chorus 120 amp, which has a mike on each of the two speakers. It’s mixed to the house with the direct signal in the center and the JC 120 speaker mikes split left and right. The signals don’t get to the audience’s ears at the same time, and the results all add up to what Lindley refers to as “that bigger-than-life-Leo-Kottke-sound.”
One of my companions remarked early on that Lindley must have been triggering some kind of synth-bass device. Seconds later, Mr. Dave remarked on how many people approach him on that very subject and proceeded to demonstrate how the effect was achieved: He uses a very thick string for the lowest tones on his Weissenborns – ala Michael Hedges. It appeared to be along the lines of a .070 or bigger. He also uses a Sunrise magnetic soundhole pickup in most of his instruments and combines that with an under-saddle film transducer pickup made by Pick Up The World. Only through first hand experience can one truly grasp the effect from such rigging.
On percussion, Mr. Ingram was an integral part of the performance. Lindley’s previous collaborator, Hani Naser, played various traditional, middle eastern drums, etc. Wally Ingram did likewise, but also had a full drum kit, one festooned with a dizzying array of bells, chimes, cymbals of all sizes, and what appeared to be a Czech or East German soldier’s helmet that stood in for a cowbell rather well. He used bare hands, sticks and brushes in combination and seemed to grow extra limbs as needed. They make a great, Pleemish partnership and had as much fun between songs as they did playing them.
As expected, both musicians wore exceptionally un-matching polyester from ankle to collar and Mr. Lindley proudly showed off his gold, velveteen loafers that were a gift from his daughter and Mr. Ingram.
Every time I bring someone to see David Lindley for the first time I am always concerned that they will not find his unusual brand of music accessible. And every time they prove such concerns unwarranted. In fact they leave fully converted and proudly brandishing the title of Pleemhead Extraordinaire