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Dick Dale @ Shank Hall

Oct. 8, 2011

Oct. 10, 2011
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The undisputed king of the genre, Dick Dale was inspired to create surf rock by a desire to recreate through music what he felt riding the waves, finding success in an amalgam of backbeat-driven early rock and Middle Eastern scales, all drenched in heavy reverb. The sound caught on almost immediately, influencing generations of guitar players and providing the foundation on which Brian Wilson would build his strange masterworks.

But if the style was inspired by the surfing scene, the power behind it seemed derived from another California subculture, hot rods and custom cars. Just as teenagers would swap out parts and apply homegrown modifications to get the most out of their machines, Dale tinkered with his amps to get an ever clearer and louder sound, given credit as the first to go beyond 100 watts of power. Even now, at 74 years old, he still pulls out all the stops, reveling in a downright nasty guitar tone that manages to punch you in the chest without overwhelming his nimble-fingered shredding.

He also strove to push the limits of Shank Hall's P.A. Saturday night, constantly chiding the soundman for pulling back on the vocals. This is somewhat ironic given that, of all Dale's talents, his singing voice seems to be the one the worst off for wear. But Dale largely stuck to the kind of instrumentals that made him famous, except for a series of covers that included "House of the Rising Sun," "Summertime Blues" and a rather odd Johnny Cash tribute that managed to mismatch the tune of "Folsom Prison Blues" with the lyrics to "Ring of Fire."

Of course, it was his most recognizable singles that got the adoring crowd going the most, "Misirlou" (the de facto theme to Pulp Fiction) and "Let's Go Trippin'" in particular, all played in a loose improvisational style that found Dale directing his band mates (which included his son Jimmy on drums) via hand motions and shouted directions. It's an approach that led to mixed results. When the band gelled on a number, it took a wild song to the next level; when it didn't, it just seemed unfocused. But thankfully, those faltering moments were few and far between and, for the most part, subsumed in waves of raw power.


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