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One of the biggest hurdles of every budding guitarist is building the right rig. Your live rig speaks volumes about you, even before you walk on stage. Timidly clutching your warm PBR as you gaze across that sparsely populated bar, you just know those two dudes in tight jeans and leather are talking smack (and maybe you're right).
In today's gear-conscious world, we spend so much time culling each and every piece of equipment prior to its inception into our arsenal. What is "cool," however, is subjective, and the fact is, you don't have to empty your wallet to make a rig that truly represents you.
Here's a quick look at some musicians that poo-poo'd the norm and in turn have changed the way we perceive music gear, both in dollar value and cool factor.
It just wouldn't be right to discuss esoteric guitar rigs without mentioning Jack White.
Whether he's building his own instruments out of wood, household garbage, you name it, White has lead the charge championing the ugly, neglected, and downtrodden instruments of yesteryear. His rejection of traditional "cool" instruments has given rise to an entire sub-genre of style and music.
Had plans to pickup an Airline Res-o-glass someday? Better get in line. Remember Silvertones at yard sales for $10? Us too. We also remember when gas was under a $1 and Independence Day was a nail-biter of a film.
Queens of the Stone Age frontman Josh Homme may rip on some high-end boutique gear today, but his roots are as humble as the best of us.
Living out of his car, working part-time to fund his music, Homme selected gear based on feel, sound, and pure affordability. An Ovation UK II slammed through a pile of Ampeg combos showed the world there was more to rock music than floating tremolos and high-gain full stacks. To this day he can still be found using a wall of custom of Tolexed Ampegs on stage.
Brian May (Queen)
Brian May is a unique specimen. Besides being an accomplished astrophysicist, as the lead guitarist of Queen, May's main axe was a DIY project built by himself and his father.
Dubbed "Red Special," his guitar neck was hand carved from a fireplace mantel. The body was constructed with layers of old furniture wood, while the tremolo system was fabricated from old motorcycle parts.
Ranked No. 26 on Rolling Stone's, "The 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time," any perception of his homegrown battle axe being uncool clearly didn't phase him.
This article wouldn't be complete without the truly grungy antihero and songsmith himself, Kurt Cobain. Cobain, wielded a now-classic Fender Mustang at a time when they weren't exactly at the peak of their popularity. Perhaps his most famous incarnation was the Jag-Stang—a hybrid of a Fender Jaguar and Mustang. The classic and revered status both of these guitars enjoy today—especially with the rise of indie and alt rock—is in no small part due to Cobain's success.
It's not the gear you use, its how you use the gear you have.
This goes out to you, seventh-grader playing his older brother's blue Ibanez that smells like kitty litter. To you, 24-year-old college grad just getting her feet wet in the merciless Chicago DIY scene with the five-string bass her old roommate left in the closet...
You might not ever reach the upper echelon of music royalty, and might not ever be cool, but let's have a hell of a time trying!
If you're into the obscure and rare, be sure to keep tabs on our Vintage New Arrivals Collection. Our vintage inventory changes by the hour, with some of the most unusual and interesting instruments you'll ever lay eyes on.
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