Mike Rudd's
Stop Press
Nov. issue #208

live gigs
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Mike & George @ The Carnegie Room Oakleigh-Carnegie RSL Sunday 13.11.22

The chaps navigate to the pointy end of the day safely

A new instrument introduced on a satisfying afternoon in Oakleigh
15.11.22 – It was at lunchtime on Saturday I realised I was completely deaf. Ordinarily I’m pretty deaf anyway, with severe damage to my right ear sustained more than a decade ago and just the normal attrition for my age in my left ear – these days I’ve got some reasonably effective hearing aids, but right now they weren’t helping at all. At my last ear check-up I was told that I had considerable wax build-up in both ears and so I’d been squirting a commercial wax softening liquid in my ears for a couple of weeks, when suddenly everything went quiet.
I hastily booked a doctor’s appointment for noon on Sunday (gig day), a little nervous in case the syringe didn’t clear up the problem, but in the event the wax softening had done the trick and two substantial wax trapdoors were flushed out successfully – and I could hear again!
There was something else to be excited about though. I’d been lent an Eastman arch-top electric guitar by Doc White to see if this might be the guitar for playing my ‘solo’ gigs with George Butrumlis and his piano-accordion. My solid-body electrics and nylon-string guitar just don’t cut it, but when I heard Doc bluesily picking on his Eastman arch-top at Smiths Beach a couple of weeks ago, I thought I heard the solution to my dilemma.
A few days later I mentioned this to Doc, whereupon he very kindly offered to lend me his cherry-red (set-up-for-slide) Eastman (he’s got two) to experiment with in a live context – i.e. George and me at the Carnegie Room at the Oakleigh RSL on Sunday arvo. I’d had a couple of days of fiddling with the guitar in the studio after Doc delivered it to Mt E and was really enjoying playing it, so the gig would be just the thing to sort it all out.
The Carnegie Room at the Oakleigh-Carnegie RSL, (better known as the Caravan Music Club by most of our vintage), is actually the RSL dining-room by another name, to be discovered immediately on your right as you enter the main doors. George was in the midst of cheerfully setting up his vocal PA against the far back wall when Maria and I arrived – a little late, but nothing to be anxious about. (I’d left my guitar stand behind and we had to turn back to retrieve it – then I discovered that I’d brought the wrong glasses, but there was no turning back by then).
I’d brought along my brutish Fender Hot Rod amp that I use for Spectrum gigs, so I was definitely not going to be short of power for my first live adventure with Doc White’s guitar – the trick was to contain that power and let the guitar speak for itself. Maria said she was going to video a few songs during the afternoon and I was looking forward to hearing them back after the gig in case I didn’t know what to think.
We arrived to an empty room, apart from cheerful George and a famished refugee family devouring their lunch, but it was early yet, so hopefully more bodies would arrive before we started at 3.30. Indeed, as we were running through a couple of numbers for our sound check, some familiar faces started arriving, albeit some of them choosing to wear masks, presumably to retain their intrinsic mystery.
As had happened at the Smiths Beach gig a couple of weeks earlier, I had to drop a couple of numbers at the end of the first set, but even so, we managed to pass the sixty-minute mark. All the songs went very well and the guitar was sounding good, but my delinquent Ditto looper played up in Superbody, forcing me to give it a good talking to, much to the mirth of the audience. After finally regaining control of the looper I brought out my trusty recorder and George, who had positioned himself by the mixer for just this eventuality, managed to make the recorder solo sound a bit gorgeous by adding some reverb and delay – well, quite a lot of reverb and delay..
After catching up with various friends, including, to our astonishment, Sarah, our next-door neighbour here in Mt Evelyn, we began the second set and took it up to the Last Post before calling it a day. The Ditto behaved for the second set and the audience, who had given our music their utmost attention all day, responded to everything with very warm applause. Steve Georgiou, (Madder Lake and Spectrum’s agent for The Double Bill shows), who’d booked the gig for George and me, said that having now seen and heard us he understood where we were coming from - and he even sold a couple of Spectrum CDs by way of celebration!
So, the verdict on the Eastman AR-372-CE arch-top electric guitar. It’s been many years since I got excited about a new guitar, but the Eastman turns out to be indeed the answer to my prayers, especially for my solo gigs. I imagine it might have more applications, perhaps even with the full band, (although with almost a full-scale jazz-type body it would be susceptible to feeding back at volume). Certainly it would be ideal for recording – the range of tones that I can elicit from it with my crummy finger-picking is astonishing. I couldn’t be more impressed.
It’s a beautifully made and well finished guitar. I read that the makers emphasise it’s made in Beijing, rather than just China, perhaps too fine a distinction for us colonials, but I’m also hearing from other Eastman guitar owners that they’re
very well made and perform well – not to mention that they’re very well priced. Apparently the 372 is modelled on the Gibson 175, but sells for half the price of the Gibson.
I’ve not tried the Gibson, but Doc has made the playability comparison between the two and, as price is a major factor in my case, I’ll take Doc’s word for it. My issue now is that this model of Eastman guitar is difficult to find in Melbourne at the moment, and I suspect the price will go up when stock does eventually arrive in the country – but, that’s a technicality. I’ve found my guitar! Onwards and upwards.

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