Featured Column:The Inaugural J3 Tour: Lets Make it Happen
A few years ago, an incredibly prescient promoter came up with a fabulous idea. Somewhere along the way, he decided to take some of the greatest guitar players on the planet and put them together on one touring bill, simply called G3. The list of guitar players to appear on this tour through the years reads like a who’s who of the guitar., enabling the tour to gross millions of dollars thanks to appearances by such guitar luminaries as Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, Eric Johnson, John Petrucci and the incomparable Robert Fripp. The idea behind the tour was simple and that is why the G3 tour thrives to this very day.
As I was discussing this with a few friends, the conversation turned, naturally, to the jamband world, and the depth of guitar players that litter its universe. We began discussing the possibility of such a G3 tour featuring players from this world, and which players would make the cut.
This brings us to this article you are reading now. This is the case for the first “J3” tour. Is it going to happen? More than likely, REALLY more than likely, no. But that doesn’t mean the idea isn’t one worth exploring. There is no shortage of fans in this scene that, for one reason or another, see the broader band on the stage as merely an extension of the guitar player, doubly so if the guitar player is the lead singer (see: Phish). They spend most of their time watching that guitar player and what better way to appease those fans by putting some of the best guitar players together on one bill.
With that in mind, the first player I thought of, and frankly the first guitar player I always seem to think of these days, is Derek Trucks. His addition to the tour is about as warranted as anyone you are going to come across. He is one of the most respected guitar players in the world, having shared the stage with some of the finest musicians on the planet, including, as we speak, Eric Clapton. Quite frankly, I couldn’t imagine a J3 tour without him
Secondly we have Jimmy Herring. There is no more versatile guitar player around these days, and those fans that have yet to see Jimmy outside of Phil Lesh/Allman Brothers/Widespread Panic/Frogwings are doing themselves a disservice of unimaginable proportions. Herring/Rodgers/Sipe is a must see band and if there is a better drummer than Jeff Sipe, I can’t think of his name.
This brings us to the third and final band on the J3 tour. Now, this was not nearly as easy as the first two. Both Derek Trucks and Jimmy Herring were, as far as the conversation was concerned, automatics. But the third player? Not so much. For starters, several bands had to be eliminated. Both Trey Anastasio and Gov’t Mule couldn’t be on the bill because of each player’s popularity in their own right. While the latter could possibly anchor the J3 tour, pushing it into larger venues, the former’s near-idol status makes his addition impossible, if only to avoid his total overshadowing of the tour.
The thought was given to add Umphrey’s McGee or moe. The two guitar players in each respective band are incredibly talented, but the full band improvisation aspect of those bands doesn’t mesh with the “guitar” aspect of the tour. Conversely, the idea was tossed around to have smaller jambands open the shows, rotating across the country between bands such as RAQ, The Breakfast and Tea Leaf Green. But again, these bands feature more improvisation than focused guitar playing, and while eventually such additions could be made, the tour should focus on guitar playing at the outset.
Of course, someone like Buckethead could easily fit in both conceptually and artistically. He has endeared himself to the jamband fan through his many appearances at festivals such as Bonnaroo, and he surely is a guitar player’s guitar player. Just put on “Revenge of the Double Man” from Monsters & Robots for confirmation. But Buckethead was quickly pushed to the side. Why?
Joe Bonamassa. Perhaps the greatest guitar player on earth nobody has heard of, his playing is as mesmerizing as anyone’s, switching effortlessly from blues to rock to jazz-fusion. While he has appeared at moe.down, Jamband fans still, for the most part, are still unfamiliar with him and perhaps the first J3 tour could change that. To this day, his guitar playing on Bloodline’s album (the band he came up in) is some of the finest guitar playing caught on record in the last twenty five years.
So the idea is out there. The proposition has been, well, proposed. Put The Derek Trucks Band, Project Z and Joe Bonamassa on tour together for the initial J3 tour. The response would be, surely, overwhelming.
Hell, I’d be at a few shows myself.