Sausages, Hot Rods & the Brothers Grim.

A sum up of my awesome weekend playing the Chopped Festival in regional Victoria.

My band has been pretty quiet this year, so whenever we go on a mini tour I get pretty excited. This weekend we were doing something different, we were playing at a Hot Rod festival in Newstead, a small gold rush town in regional Victoria… near Ballarat. I’d been watching the weather all week in Victoria and it looked miserable… cold & windy. I rugged up in my long johns under my jeans, put on my winter socks, leather Chuck Taylors and my trusty leather jacket. I was ready.

The Chopped Hot Rod Festival is a lot different to the car shows I’ve been to. There’s no pristine show cars getting delivered on trailers and then displayed with a velvet rope around them. These are ‘proper’ hot rods… family built and loved. And no-one cared it was muddy. It gave them an excuse to go crazy on the mud track… doing donuts and racing each other around the muddy racetrack. It was hilarious to watch.

And the food. My god. There is a local delicacy called BullBoar Sausage which I’d never heard about. It’s a recipe that the Swiss Italians brought with them back in the gold mining days of the town. It’s a Beef/Pork sausage that is marinated in red wine, cinnamon, nutmeg and a heap of other spices. They were AMAZING. I had three. I found the recipe online, so I’m going to try making them at home.

The highlights for me were the beautiful Australian cars… this coral pink FJ Holden was my favourite. I’d love one of these. Or an EK Holden wagon… or a Tank Fairlaine… or a single spinner Ford Customline… sigh….

The surrounding towns are absolutely gorgeous… old gold mining towns with beautiful classic Australian architecture. I loved this part of Australia. Except for the cold. It was 5 degrees or so when we got there. In October. Apparently winter is pretty brutal here.

A bad start to the tour was our airline losing my bass amp, pedals & Dan’s guitar pedals. They were being couriered to my friends house in nearby Melbourne the next day, but for the Chopped gig, all I had was my trusty Ibanez Black Eagle. Surely one of the other bands would lend me a bass amp, right?

Rule 1 of playing at a Hot Rod show: Don’t expect any of the rockabilly bands to have a bass amp as A: They don’t have a bass player or B: they have a double bass player who DI’s his double bass straight into the P.A.

And then you will end up playing a Sans Amp plugged into the P.A. like me. Luckily the P.A. was huge so it sounded awesome. I’m buying a SansAmp Bass DI and keeping it in my bass case for now on.

Before us, a band called Brother Grim & The Blue Murders was playing. While their music was great, what intersted me the most was the guitar that Matt the guitar player had. It was a customised Dobro with a Bigsby… something I’d never seen before.

I spoke to Matt after their gig and he told me he did all the mods himself. He was a bit of a guitar modding specialist… he’d also modded his Fender Deville by changing the tone stack and adding other bits and pieces to the overdrive channel so that it sounded better. Way beyond my level of amp expertise.

But the Dobro was another thing entirely.

This thing perfectly suited the hot rods being shown at the festival. It had been chopped, modded and made into a unique beast of an axe. Matt explained that he’d started off with a cheap Chinese made Dobro and added a Bigsby, which barely fit crammed right up to the resonator string cover.

He then added a mini humbucker in the neck which, along with a pickup in the resonator, is controlled by a volume/blender knob that he fitted to the top sound hole.

From what I understand, the guitar is wired so that with a stereo cable, the two pickups can be blended using the volume knob. With a standard mono cable, only one of the pickups is activated (not sure which one) and the knob becomes a straight volume. It’s a cool system, I love the usability of blending the pickups… my Gibson SG has been wired similarly (except for the stereo part).

For the headtsock, Matt peeled of the original pearloid face and left it bare wood, then fitted some Grover Imperial tuners.

I was really impressed Matt had done all this work himself. It’s inspired me to try and get more into the hands on side of guitar building & modding. That way I don’t have to keep bugging Tim and hopefully one day I can do stuff as awesome as Matt has here.

Here’s Matt and his band in action…