Always Melodic, Never Cliché
By Andrés Wilson
Millions of people play the electric guitar. Since Chuck Berry did his first duck walk until the present day, it has irrefutably been rock's signature instrument. But since the dawn of grunge continuing into our era of the White Stripes, the powers that be of mainstream rock have been more responsive to facile accessibility than virtuosity. Being able to own one's instrument, especially an electric guitar has become taboo, a startling faux pas that further elucidates this country's love of mediocrity. The noise guitar solos of formerly fringe bands are now described as "genius", while the exalted technique of virtuosos is deemed to be contrived, instrumental masturbation, not germane to Rock & Roll. Obviously, critics of instrumental guitar rock have never heard of Jon Finn, who brought his backing band of incredible musicians to the Sky Bar last Friday night.
The Sky Bar is Somerville's best offering for live rock music and interesting cocktails. It's décor drips with lunar and solar references and it evokes a fifties juke joint crossed with a black-box theatre. So who better to warm its stage for Mr. Finn than Sky Bar manager, monster guitarist, and perennial nice guy Joe Feloni. His set was laid back, jam-oriented, and his playing reflected the strong influence of both Satriani and the blues. Feloni's playing is incredibly melodic, espousing warm legato lines with singing blues bends, and his melodies encouraged audience remembrance through repetition and clear tone. Feloni was the perfect match for the act that followed.
Meet Jon Finn. Jon is a Boston guitar legend who has inspired rock guitarists from Somerville to Tokyo and Munich through his explosive concerts around the world and a post as a guitar professor at the Berklee College of Music. Always melodic, never cliché, and quick to laugh at himself, Mr. Finn is the guitar player's guitar player, with a sense of humor thrown in for good measure. His profound knowledge of the history of the instrument manifests itself through his playing, as he is equally adept at chicken-picking, string-yanking blues, and his own brand of forward-looking heavy progressive rock. All of this first solidified itself through his instrumental rock album Don't Look So Serious where he took rock guitar to a pinnacle yet to be surpassed. Chalked full of hum able little ditties that incidentally contain some of the most technically demanding and searing solos ever performed on a six-string, Don't Look So Serious is the type of album that both guitar geeks and the most fervent primativist can enjoy. Mr. Finn followed this album with Wicked, a more progressive effort that retained his signature sense of melody and zany sense of humor (there is one track that is aptly titled "If Stevie Ray Vaughn Had Gone to Berklee and Studied Jazz) and teamed it with bluesy energy and exalted harmonic and rhythmic awareness.
addition to a few impromptu Allman Brothers-esque jams, the tunes from the
aforementioned albums formed the basis of Finn's set. No matter how complex
the song or how virtuosic they are, Jon Finn and his band, demigod musicians
Ross Ramsey (keys), Joe Santerre (bass), and Larry Finn (drums; no relation)
understand that virtuosity is just a tool with which it is easier to perform
MUSIC. Each of Finn's solos was so contagious that my tongue grew heavy from
singing along to the weightless sixteenth notes. Hey Steve Vai and Joe Satriani,
why don't you invite this guy to join you on the G3 tour next year? Jon Finn
and Joe Feloni will incinerate their fretboards again at the Skybar on May