DATE: 03-02-2013

Hands On A Hard Body the Musical Playbill I don't even know where to start with this one... I guess the show would be a good enough place as any (long entry warning).  Okay, here goes... Hands On A Hard Body! If you haven't already heard of the show... you will, it's an adaptation of the 1997 documentary of the same name.  10 strangers somewhere in Texas join a competition to win a 4 wheel drive truck. All they need to do if keep their hands on the truck longer than any of the other people in the competition.  Sounds simple enough, right? 

Hands on a Hardbody Full Cast PhotoWell, Trey Anastasio (composer, guitar extraordinaire, front man of the rock group Phish) and Amanda Green (accomplished Broadway musical composer) teamed up to do a Broadway musical version of the same story.  In the end what we are left with is a piece of Americana that has something for everyone... a family musical full of emotion, social / political force and most of all GREAT MUSIC and PERFORMANCES! In short... I highly suggest picking up tickets to see the show.  If you like Trey's work or Phish... or if you just feel like seeing a great musical, you will not be disappointed.
ILLUMIRINGER V1.5 Pedal Given to Trey Ananstasio So as the story continues..  I was lucky enough to be one of those in attendance with Mr. Anastasio for it's first preview performance Saturday, February 13th.  As many of you who follow my work already know, and many more probably don't... I have been working on a concept pedal called the ILLUMIRINGER for almost a year now.  The idea for the pedal came to me while watching Trey wave has guitar around in a Jedi master sort of fashion (something he does once and a while for special moments).  I thought it would be great if an effect could be designed the would allow Trey (or another performer) to actually manipulate their guitar sound by waving objects over it, or changing the lighting at the show.  Since crazy lights and wild sounds are no strangers to the Phish show experience, it seemed like something worth doing.  Keep in mind, the idea was never to try to change Trey's amazing and somewhat legendary guitar tone.  This pedal was inspired by the weirder moments of Phish (the moments which have always been my personal favorites.  see this and this and this...   NOT THIS!  After months of different versions, additions and subtractions...  I finally finished a pedal I was happy with... happy enough to give to the man who inspired it.  And the time to do it had come!

Fan Pedal Given to Trey Anastasio at Hand on a hard body premiereSo, just having finished the first prototype of the new pedal I decide I am going to build Trey's pedal.  It's the Thursday evening before the show, and I start etching the PCB for the board while sketching out ideas for the graphic.  I should also mention that I decided to add a volume knob and make changes to the distortion section of the pedal AFTER etching the circuit board, my point... this thing was stylized to the last second of construction.  So much so I didn't even have a chance to record a demo video of it (as I normally would). I did however record a demo of it's VERY CLOSE Star Wars themed relative, the ILLUMIRINGER V1.4. I wanted it to be as perfect as possible for Trey, (as I am with all my pieces and customers actually) after all it's TREY!  Happy with my final piece, and excited to even have a minor chance of giving it to him... we set out to see the BIG SHOW!

Trey Anastasio, Amanda Green & Drew Blanke (Dr Blankenstein) As I already said, the show was amazing. I never really had the intentions to try to give him the pedal during the show, after all this was HIS big night. Seeing the show, and being there to support Trey were the first and most important thing here... giving him the pedal was secondary and could only happen if the right moment were to arise. Running up to someone when they are with family and friends.. enjoying a show isn't my style at all. With something as big to me like this pedal, it just wouldn't be the right mix of vibes. Well, here I was.. show over.. pedal still in hand and being rushed out of the theatre by the ushers.  I should mention here that I am not a big Broadway show guy, seen a few here and there... but my culture in NYC comes more from a classical upbringing (coincidentally the few times I had the pleasure of talking to Trey in the middle 90's this was the topic of our conversations, counterpoint, composition etc).  I was not aware of this  "wait for the crew to come out the backstage door and have them sign your playbill" phenomenon... I am told it is customary of sorts.  WELL, clearly this was to be my chance to give Trey his new pedal!

One by one all of the SERIOUSLY TALENTED cast and crew filed out of the Brooks Atkinson Theatre backstage door.  It seemed there were a lot of people waiting for Trey to come out at first, but many had walked off, got cold or fell for the "If you are waiting for Trey, he was the Trey Anastasio showing fans outside Hands on a Hard Body premiere how to be a Jedifirst one out" (lol)... so there really weren't many people left out there.  I showed the new pedal to the folks waiting outside the door with me and explained the situation, because of this (and that they were super cool people) I was allowed to take first position for when he came out to give it to him and couple of private minutes to explain how it worked.  Well, the moment came and that's exactly what happened.  Trey walked out with Amanda Green and I met him with a smile and presented him with the ILLUMIRINGER.  Trey's first response was a cheerful but inquisitive  "Oh wow, what do we have here?" As I explained what the pedal did, his interest became more and more intense and his appreciation for the gift (and the effort the went into created it for him) was ever so clear, and quite honestly moving for most who witnessed it.  He continued to ask "How far of a range can I get from the motion sensor?" Which I explained is pretty much endless when used with a downward facing light source (and also explained how Chris CK5 could also come into play).  Trey seemed honored and touched by the whole thing, posed for pictures, signed autographs and even did some Jedi style pantomime for Amanda and others who were not familiar with such antics.  A great moment in time, a PERFECT ENDING to a perfect night (and even longer guitar pedal mission).

That brings me to my last point in this MASSIVE rant, what is the future for the ILLUMIRINGER now that Trey has the pedal?  Well, to be honest this project wasn't  Dr Blankenstein showing Trey Anastasio his way around his new ILLUMIRINGER V1.5 Guitar Effects Pedaldesigned for any large scale commercial success, I don't think that was ever really the intention. That most certainly WAS NOT the intention of giving Trey the pedal.. couldn't be further from the case actually.  Truth of the matter is, it's not a pedal that every guitar player could really use (like say a distortion, or reverb etc).  I had no idea folks were taking pictures when it went down, and only made a very quick mention of it on a message board before THIS was published on the LiveMusicBlog... and things kinda blew up a bit from there.  I planned on mentioning it right here on my site, and letting that be the end of it... I had no intention to turn Trey's gift from me into a media circus to sell ILLUMIRINGER pedals.  This pedal was designed around some pretty strange concert moments taken from my mental archive of 21 plus years of seeing Phish and being a fan of Mr. Anastasio...  it's not something I would expect to be every guitar players cup of tea.  That being said, I have other pedals on the horizon I think A LOT of guitar players will be into... probably best to let this one end here for the most part.  Not that I won't work with the circuit I designed anymore and build on it as I have... I will.  Just, I wouldn't wait around for the Trey Anastasio ILLUMIRINGER Pedal to come out... because its not.

Trey Anastasio & Trey Blanke outside opening night of Hand on a Hardbody MusicalI guess that leaves only one thing left to answer...  everyone wants to know if I think Trey will use the pedal ever solo, with Phish or in the studio.  With a Summer Tour just announced I suppose that's a fair question, the answer is.... I have no idea.  I will probably only make it to the Jones Beach show this tour (too busy in the shop for much else), maybe he will bust it out there.  lol  Hey, of course I would love to see it come out at least for a 30 second piece of madness, one of the very pieces of madness that inspired it's creation.  Phish is a very circular sharing of creative energy, pure energy itself and turning it back into creative energy... over and over again.  That being said, I can see it finding a use eventually. Guess we will have to wait and see.  To conclude, what a dream come true this has been... just the thought of Trey plugging in and exploring a piece I created, which was inspired by him in the first place THRILLS ME.  If it gets played out live or not, guess it doesn't really matter... it doesn't matter... it doesn't matter. ;)


Trey Anastasio Receiving his Dr. Blankenstein ILLUMIRINGER Guitar FX Pedal

Dr. Blankenstein walks Trey Anastasio from Phish through his new custom FX pedal

Trey Anastasio and Dr. Blankenstein at the Premiere of Hand on a Hardbody NYC