Music
Review
Michael Osborn and the Drivers

With: Guests Garth Webber and Bill Stuve
When: 8 p.m. August 17, 2013
Where: The Office, Main and Hill streets, Ukiah, California; call 707-463-6934 When: 5 p.m. August 18, 2013 Where: Half Moon Bay Brewing Company, 390 Capistrano Road, Half Moon Bay, California; call 650-728-2739 When: 6:30 p.m. August 21, 2013 Where: Club Fox Blues Jam, 2209 Broadway, Redwood City, California; call 650-298-3434 When: 6 p.m. August 23, 2013 Where: Poor House Bistro, 91 South Autumn Street, San Jose, California; call 408-292-5837
Visit Michael Osborn's website
Visit Garth Webber's website
Osborn and the Drivers
John Orr / Triviana
Michael Osborn and the Drivers at Club Fox in Redwood City, California, on August 21, 2013, with guests Garth Webber and Bill Stuve. From left are Garth Webber on guitar, John Moore on drums, Bill Stuve on bass, Michael Osborn on guitar and Dave Mathis on mouth harp.
Gettin' the blues
over a poor sound mix
Michael Osborn, Garth Webber both brilliant at Club Fox on Wednesday, but only one could be heard clearly
August 23, 2013
Updated August 24, 2013

One of the hardest things to get right at any live music performance is the sound.

People who haven't performed on a stage seldom understand how difficult it is to balance the sound levels of amplified instruments on a stage of any size.

Michael Osborn
Tina Abbaszadeh photo
Michael Osborn
Garth Webber
Tina Abbaszadeh photo
Garth Webber
John Moore
Tina Abbaszadeh photo
John Moore
Bill Stuve
Tina Abbaszadeh photo
Bill Stuve
Dave Mathis
Tina Abbaszadeh photo
Dave Mathis

Nor is it easy to understand that the people on the stage have no sure way of knowing how it sounds out in the audience.

Mixing sound is an art in itself, and a good sound engineer is hugely important in any venue that has one.

The sound mix at Club Fox on Wednesday night was a disappointment. And it has to be said, it wasn't really the fault of the club, or the sound guy, or Vince Caminiti, who organizes the famous Wednesday night blues shows and jams.

Ultimately, it is the responsibility of the band to make sure their sound is properly controlled.

On the stage were Michael Osborn and the Drivers, in town from Portland, Oregon, with a couple of excellent players, Garth Webber and Bill Stuve, sitting in with Osborn, John Moore and Dave Mathis.

Great band.

But Osborn was playing through some mousy little amplifier I don't think was his own, and he just wasn't pushing sound like he needs to do.

Years ago, I saw Osborn at was then called Concord Pavilion. Vala Cupp was singing "Cold, Cold Feeling," and Osborn took a massive, screaming, powerful, Earth-shaking solo that had the crowd on its feet and cheering. The man can play.

And that was before Osborn's boss, John Lee Hooker, hit the stage. He did quite well, too.

And then B.B. King came out, and gave the best performance I've ever seen from him, including a solo on "I Got a Mind to Give Up Living" that was bone-chilling, terrifying and brilliant, the best I ever heard.

I am convinced King hit that peak because he had heard Osborn's solo, and wanted to cut him.

Great night of blues.

At Club Fox, playing through that sad little amplifier, Osborn was playing beautifully — all the licks were there, all the fine musicianship — but too much of the time he could barely be heard.

Osborn is known in blues circles as a master of tone and dynamics, but on Wednesday the dynamics seemed to be out of his control. I've seen Osborn make an audience almost stop breathing, to hear some beautiful, quiet run from him, then yell in delight when he powered up into some screamin' thang. That was missing on Wednesday.

Webber, meanwhile, could be heard all too well. Good thing, because he is a brilliant player. It was like a lesson in guitar playing, blues and jazz to see him on Wednesday. Webber is a walking encyclopedia of what can be done with a guitar. Fabulous performance. But too loud on Wednesday, given the bad mix for the rest of the band.

Webber and mouth-harp player Dave Mathis were actually taken out of the house mix, because they were already playing so loud through their amps.

So, a weird evening. Two brilliant guitar players, an excellent band. But, not being able to hear Osborn as he should be heard was a definite disappointment.

Friday night, the same bunch of fellows played at the Poor House Bistro in San Jose, which has become a major home for blues and other music, and I hope that Osborn got an amp that is worthy of his talent, and a better sound mix.

Mathis, Osborn, Stuve
Tina Abbaszadeh photo
Dave Mathis, Michael Osborn and Bill Stuve, from left, during a Michael Osborn and the Drivers show at the Half Moon Brewing Company in Half Moon Bay, California, on August 18, 2013.


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