Most thought nothing more of our embarkation to the state of California on the 14th of February than simply - the Crowder band embarking on their yearly trip to California. I mean it is, "more than a trend" say most analysts who monitor such things. And they should know. It has been overheard on more than one occasion, from more than one band member, "we work the rest of the year just to come back here. Where else can you find the necessary t-shirts?" So it seemed natural, even normal when again the 2003 schedule revealed the Crowder clan heading west.
But something more was afoot, a current beneath the surface that only the most astute observers would perceive.
We were on a mission. You see, we take our news stories very seriously and to maintain journalistic integrity we were embarking on an undercover follow-up assignment. In July of 2002 we had written of a master guitar builder named Tom and we had made vast, all encompassing statements that necessitated a check-up. The following is written to assure you, the reader, that the statements in news archives are mostly accurate and that you are never far from thought.
....And so our cover began early in the trip. Word was leaked that the band was in need of a guitar tech for this outing. There had been "problems that only a tech could fix", and what with us being superstars, who had the time to take care of it? We had important things to do such as get haircuts, shop for belts, and act like we had money.
So the staged auditions began.
The hopefuls arrived in droves, so we decided on a small amount of prerequisites. They were as follows:
- No mullets (or bi-levels, 10-90's, or any other style that screams 'business in the front, party in the back!')
- An in-depth knowledge of the history of Strong Bad.
- Needs to know some stuff about Guitars.
Before long, all were eliminated save one. A quiet sort of Guy named Tom. The sting was in place. We had lured him in for close observation in the highest of stress environments.
We told him to meet us on Sunday.
He showed up late.
All was forgiven however when he displayed "the skills." In mere moments guitars were laid open by his skillful, surgeon-like hands. Spacers, washers, sealants... nothing inside these instruments was sacred. What? It's not staying in tune? Let me fix that for you. Strings keep breaking? No problem. I'll take care of it!
Not only that, but he helped load the trailer after the show. Man, this guy was good.
But this was expected. We knew he was good. And then, the unexpected.
Last year if you will recall there was the field trip taken to the Tom Anderson guitar shop and we faithfully reported to you our Mr. Rogers neighborhood experience consisting of a dehydrator, various saws, a large computerized machine that cuts wood, sanders, little inventions that wind pickups, and a large contraption that dries a coat of paint in 15 seconds flat. What we did not report was that something very special and sacred was then put into motion. It had been brought to Tom's attention that Dave's relationship with his two guitars used for live performance was shamefully lacking.
( see Dave's gear talk for historical context. )
Master builder Tom knew the relationship between a person and his trusted musical instrument is an intimate and often complex one. In the most ideal of situations the personalities of the two will compliment one another, speaking for one another, completing each others thoughts and words, and using each other to speak to a place much farther than either one could do on their own.
And so Tom Anderson, master of the guitar arts had been busy. Granted Tom had never made a solid body acoustic. Had never even thought about it. Did it stop him? Heck no! Work had begun. The machines had been churning. The beginning of an era was at hand. An era of Anderson domination! Ok, perhaps domination isn't the right word. I mean, he is only the greatest living custom electric guitar maker. Making a solid body acoustic shouldn't be a problem, right? Of course not! Not only would it sound better than anything like it, it would look a sight better, too. Domination is the correct word!
Fast-forward many months, several prototypes, and a couple of trips to Loyd Baggs for electronics collaboration (these things take time, you see). Things looked bleak and dark. The winter was harsh and cold. Would the sun ever come again? (Sorry, but the drama is necessary for such a moment as this!)
And then?the black and silver case arrived. When opened, happiness flowed forth like a fountain. If two guitars could ever be compared to a plot of land, this land would surely be filled with the milk and the honey. And there was but one name heard whispered from the lips of all who were present. Crowdster. A title fittingly bestowed by the master craftsman Tom for one named Crowder.
They were beautiful. They were custom. They were made for the sole purpose of fulfilling the empty places left by the Gibsons. Once again Tom Anderson had shown that he was the skillful master. The Crowdster Acoustic was a masterpiece. Never had Dave heard tone so pure, tuning so precise and playability to bring one to tears with blissful content.
The Gibsons were laid to rest. He had a new relationship now. One that will no doubt be better than ever anticipated. The name shines in the dark... Crowdster, Crowdster, Crowdster...
And we are happy to report with integrity and humbleness, for the sake of news articles, those archived and those waiting for life and words to arrive, that indeed Tom Anderson is still the nicest man on the west coast.
The next show was on Tuesday. And he showed up late again. But so long as he was helping load up when the night was done, who cared?