Saturday Night Special (Fender Blues Junior)

Saturday night’s gig was the highlight of a dramatic three-day weekend that included meaningful interactions with apathetic police, nutty nay-bores, energetic children, confusing local roads, cool liquor store owners, strong imported beers, sexy girls, whisky, torrential rain, shopping malls, sunsets, DVDs, greasy noodle shops and my future ex-wife. However the most pleasing interaction by far was between my Ibanez George Benson guitar, mini-pedal board and a blue Fender Blues Junior amp.

More than lack of practice, what to wear and who hang with after; I was worried about having to use an 80-watt Fender Twin, overpowered for a Shibuya cafe that would barely accomodate 80 people. At my last gig with this R&B cover band, I had a choice between a Roland JC-120 and a 15-watt solid state Fender Studio Drive with an 8″ Celestion “Red Force” speaker. I chose the latter, and was very pleased with the results, though the band lamented they couldn’t hear me enough.

This wasn’t a problem this time. I was able to dial in a tight, bright and balanced sound very easily even with the reggae DJ spinning in the background. With the gain and bass set to about 1~2, I had enough clean headroom and none of the boominess I get with big amps in small rooms with the GB-10. Not wanting to repeat history, I engaged the Fat, and cranked the Master up to about 7, tweaked the treble and literally never looked back.

My pedals that night were my new Xotic SP Compressor, AMT “Japanese Girl” Wah, SD Tweak Fuzz and Line6 Echo park all running on my portable Eneloop power supply.  I love these pedals, but was a bit disappointed with their performance with this amp. That’s probably because my settings are optimised for a different environment (usually headphones), and I never really had a change to test them during sound check.

Back home, I did some research on this little machine. Some people complain of harshness, but playing a dark-sounding archtop with overwound humbuckers, brass bridge saddles and flat wounds, this wasn’t an issue for me. Extended highs are welcome for cutting through a 12-piece funk/R&B for a percussive attack and chord clarity. It turns out that this amp can be easily modded to sound more like a Twin, which is what I’ve been seeking in an amp for years.

That doesn’t mean I’m going out to get one, though — not just yet anyway. I’m still waiting for a handmade Little Lanilei 3350LT right now which is cheaper, more portable and should sound better at higher and lower volumes. Even 15 watts would be too much my apartment and the crazy old unmarried and unemployed bitch who lives next door. Then again, I’ve been changing amps about twice a year since selling my Mesa/Boogie Studio.22, so who knows.



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