January 2014 Archives



What a great weekend.

It started with getting asked by my friends, Wendy and Tamara, to attend the Wollersheim Winery's "Port Release Celebration" in Sauk City.


I've never been to the Wollersheim, even though I have ridden my bike past it countless times. Little did I know that the grounds were so expansive and beautiful. Who would've ever thought that Wisconsin could host great winery/destination?

The facility features a mix of rustic and modern structures; there's a cave for aging wine. Brick-paved walkways wind their way up and around a hill, guiding you to-and-from the various buildings. I can only imagine how picturesque this place is during the fall.


The Port Celebration event showcased Wollershiem's "White Port" wine, of which visitors were provided samples of at one of the "Wine Stops" along the self-guided winery tour. I was driving the group, so I didn't sample any of the wines, but I'm told they were all quite good.


I've taken several self-guided tours from various breweries; none have been anywhere near as good as this tour was. The course was well marked, and there were plenty of informative signs and trivia bits along the way. I was also impressed with how spotless the place was - to say it was immaculate would be an understatement.

After completing the tour (which took about 30 minutes), we assembled in a huge meeting room, where they had local musicians and more wine sampling. Wollersheim's winemaker, Phillippe, talked for a few minutes about the white Port, as well as their forthcoming Brandy (due out in May of 2014). The meeting room was one of the older, more rustic portions of the facility.


We stayed at the event until around 3:30pm, and then headed back to Madison. They had to attend a birthday party, and I had plans to attend a very special concert.

Kiki Schueler has been hosting extremely small "concerts" from the basement of her house since 2005. She's a bit of a legend around the music scene in Madison - her venue, "Kiki's House of Righteous Music" offers the opportunity to experience live music like never before.

Kiki doesn't promote her shows outside of a very small network of friends and former audience members. I heard about Kiki's from my very good friends, Paul and Sallie - they never miss a Bottle Rockets show at Kiki's (that show sells out in less than 5 minutes). Thanks to their help and "endorsement," I was able to get introduced to Kiki, and before I knew it, I had an opportunity to attend a show.

I went to see Chris Mills, an alternative musician from Chicago, who has a very shaky/vulnerable sound to his voice. I'd never heard him prior to last night, but wow - what a great show. He was there with his band (2 of whom are from Norway); they're kicking off a fairly large world tour and decided to make Kiki's their first stop. Too cool.

Kiki opens her house to around 50 people, all of whom venture down to her basement, where there's a very tiny "stage" (basically a square tapestry) in one corner of her basement. Two long couches flank either side of the performance area, followed by 3 rows of folding chairs on each side. Late-comers (like yours truly) stand in the back, near things like washing machines and water heaters.

The shows are "donation only" - give what you can afford or want to. There are no refreshments; it's BYOB, although Kiki does provide coolers and a refrigerator.

The show started promptly at 9:00pm, with a soloist guitar player (from Chris Mills's band) singing painful, melancholy songs that were almost haunting. He only played 3 songs, which was too bad because while a bit "down," they were well written and performed.

After a brief 4-5 minute break, the rest of the band came out and played. They played for over 2-hours, without stopping, other than to share stories and experiences with the audience in between songs. It was so intimate and involved - you really felt a connection with the band and the audience.

I can't wait to go to another show. Truly a righteous experience.


And now, I'm off to shovel some snow. Try to stay warm next week - I hear we're supposed to see a low of -22F on Monday!!!

Just performing a little surgery...


...on my old Marshall Lead 12 Micro Stack guitar cabinet.

You'll probably recall an earlier entry about how I scored such a rare beast. In the old entry, you'll see that I had complained about some distorted noise from the 20+ year old cabinet, and that I thought it was related to the potentiometers (knobs and controls). Well, I replaced those, yet the noise remained, which meant only one thing: bad speakers.

I set about researching the speakers that were used in the original cabinet, and it turns out they're about as scarce as hens' teeth. Your only chance of finding original replacements is to find another micro stack and pray the speakers aren't blown.

So, I turned to plan B: a newer model speaker that would still honor the sound of the original cabinet. My search lead me to some "Greenback 10" speakers from a UK company called Celestion. And that's when problem number two presented itself - cost. Each speaker cost $170, new. UGH.

As luck would have it, I was in St Paul earlier this week (work assignment) and was browsing Craigslist late one evening. I stumbled across a very simple posting that read, "Celestion Greenback 10 Pair - never used - new in box - $120."

I immediately contacted the poster and discovered he still had the speakers. I said I would take them, and we made arrangements to meet. He's a fireman for the Minneapolis Fire Department; I picked-up the speakers, paid and anxiously drove back to my house to perform a little surgery.

Here's one of the speaker cabinets, as seen from behind, prior to disassembly.


The speaker cabinets are ported units, meaning there's a small port in the back of the speaker to help improve bass response. The speakers are constructed of 3/4" birch wood and are wrapped in a leather-like material called "Toulex." The backs are designed to come off for servicing; there are 12 screws that hold the back on. Removing them reveals the inner workings of the speaker cabinet.


4 more screws hold the speaker in the cabinet. Removing those allows you to lift out the speaker. Here's a side-by-side picture of the two speakers (new one on the left; old on the right - the new one is considerably more substantial).


I installed the new speaker, paying careful attention not to over tighten any of the screws. The speaker frames are somewhat easy to warp/distort if you over-tighten them. Here's what the new speaker looks like:


I reinstalled the back of the cabinet and repeated the process for the other speaker cabinet. Before long, the stack was done.


I fired things up, and am happy to report that the new speakers sound absolutely superb. They have the perfect tone for classic rock - AC/DC, Ratt, Tesla, Van Halen, Metallica... now if only I could do those groups justice with my playing skills.


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This page is an archive of entries from January 2014 listed from newest to oldest.

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