Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Our new favorite guitar shop

We had gone so long without coveting a new guitar that we thought we might be over the hump. Wrongo.  All it took was a recent visit to McCabe's Guitar Shop in Santa Monica.  If you are ever on the West Coast and you care a lick about stringed instruments, whether you play them or just appreciate them, a visit to McCabe's will be akin to a pilgrimage to Mecca.

Although the pickings were slim for vintage acoustics -- our usual downfall -- there are too many other reasons, recounted below, to make McCabe's your destination. Many of our favorite artists have walked through the door at 3101 Pico Boulevard and could provide their own testimonials: Lucinda Williams, Steve Earle, Bruce Springsteen, Taj Mahal, Emmylou Harris, Bonnie Raitt, Dave Alvin, Gillian Welch, David Lindley, Lucy Kaplansky, Townes Van Zant, Guy Clark, Ry Cooder, Elvis Costello, J.J. Cale ... where do you stop?  Pat McLaughlin? Randy Weeks? Kasey Chambers? We're just scratching the surface here.

Most of these performers did more than stop by McCabe's between gigs to pick up a guitar and play a riff.  They played concerts in the the back room, and quite possibly bought an instrument off the wall or had one tweeked in the repair shop.  On $10 Sundays this summer you can see Jim Lauderdale (June 18), Roy Book Binder (June 25) and Mary Gauthier (July 10), just to give you an idea. On a recent Sunday evening a line was forming at the front door for the Parson Red Heads and two other local favorites.

The joint has mojo. You can see it, hear it, smell it and feel it as you walk through the shop and learn of its history. Here's what Dave Alvin has said about the experience of playing here. "I've never felt entirely comfortable playing McCabe's. There's been too many astounding musicians, iconic songwriters, broken strings, legendary jams and historic performances on that small, dark stage for me to ever completely relax. That doesn't mean, though, that I don't love playing McCabe's, and treasure the memory of each gig I've done there."

You don't need our 10 Cool Reasons to Visit McCabe's, but here they are anyway:

1. History: They've been here almost as long as we've been on the planet: 1958.
2. Live music: As noted above, legendary artists and performances in the back room.
3. Workshops and lessons by experts: Why not get good?
4. Variety: Dulcimers, ukeleles, dobros, mandolins, psaltries, bouzoukis, sitars, ouds...
5. Teach the children: They hold concerts for kids (under age 2 admitted free!)
6. Quality repairs: They fix stuff and get it right.
7. Below retail: All sorts of sales and bargains. They don't try to gouge you.
8. Upstairs: An impressive photo gallery featuring iconic images of artists who pass through.
9. The first McCabe pick is free: All others, 23 cents.
10.  The Collings OM on the wall:  We compared it to a Martin D-42 and it won handily.

It's almost enough to take the sting out of a $50 parking ticket, which you can avoid by keeping enough change in the meter.  Forty minutes is obviously not enough time to get through McCabe's. Maybe they'll knock that off the price of the Collings...

1 comment:

  1. fabulous timing. what a find...