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Up Close and Rad with John 5

Up Close and Rad with John 5 and the Creatures at The Neighborhood Theatre

One thing I hear all the time is that there is nothing to do in Charlotte. We never have any good music come through the Queen City, according to some of its people. Thursday, the Neighborhood Theatre brought one of the best guitarists around to the city, and, personally, I have been excited about this show for months. John 5 is best known for being the guitar player for Rob Zombie and Marilyn Manson, but he has also played with David Lee Roth, Rob Halford, and K.D Lang over the years. He is on the road currently supporting his new album “Season of the Witch,” that dropped March 3rd.

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What got a guy like John 5 into music? The TV show Hee-Haw! Growing up in Grosse Pointe, MI as a child, John found himself watching the variety show and discovering his passion for music and playing the guitar. Hee-Haw was the catalyst for three of his long term fascinations music, buxom women, and his signature Fender Telecaster. John has shared that the reason for his choice of the Tele is that that is the only kind of guitar that he thought there was since his heros all played it on his favorite show.

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For the guitar buffs out there, John’s collection of Telecasters spans every year that they have been made starting at Broadcaster till today. Of course he has many that the amazing folks at the Fender Custom Shop have built for him. Tonight, we had the chance to see a number of his favorites: the Lava Guitar that glows in the dark filled with antifreeze so the liquid doesn’t freeze when it is being shipped via air, his black Sub-Sonic that he plays in every show, the LED Light Guitar that can light up an entire stage, his metal Tele with a Floyd for songs that need that whammy sound, and of course, his favorite show guitar the Tele with the 60s feel Shoreline Gold color.

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The gold Tele never leaves his side, and if he is flying somewhere and they want him to check it, he will buy it a seat on the plane. The one guitar of his that I doubt ever hits the road is his 1950 Broadcaster; his “Holy Grail.” He bought this from Norman’s Rare Guitars out in LA and is the cleanest one ever seen. It has been pictured in many publications, but I would love to see it in person.

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At the show they had John set up on the smaller stage in the front of the theatre. Rant warning! I am going to say that I am really disappointed in the lack of crowd that showed up for John’s show. I felt bad for John, and I was personally embarrassed that we didn’t have that place filled to capacity. So many people complain about the state of music in Charlotte, but when a great showed up to play, they were absent. I know this has to be frustrating for performers and for those of us who are trying to keep interest alive in music in Charlotte. I will probably lecture the next person that says we can’t get good music here. I think I know why people will not come here. As a city, we will not support them. Go see some music please! I digress from my rant.

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The small crowd was great for those of us who did show up because we were literally inches away from one of the most talented guitar players in the world. John being John, humble and soft spoken, played like he was in front of an arena of 50,000 people. If he was disappointed by the turnout, he didn’t let the fans who were there know it.

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He ripped through his set playing some country riffs as well as metal riffs. He even brought out a mandolin and banjo, which I loved!! Swapping out guitars after every song, he showed everyone why he is at the top of his craft. Effortlessly, he navigated up and down the rosewood of the his Teles. Speed through efficiency of movement across the fretboard is John 5 signature, and is a treat to watch. I had to air guitar a few licks myself trying to keep pace with him. My friend, who I talked into checking John out, was banging his head hard as 5 jumped up on his riser overlooking the crowd. He let me know I was right on my recommendation, mentioning to me that “John 5 is a badass.” I just smiled and agreed. Right before he played one of the favorites of the night, he announced that it was getting ready to get weird.

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This announcement came after numerous costume changes into non descript masks, putting on a black mesh veil, and scary clowns pummelling the fans with a giant hammer and spraying us with silly string. Ok, now it is going to get weird? He transitioned into his instrumental version of Beat it. This is where that metal Tele with the tremolo came into play as he hammered through Eddie Van Halen’s solo and recreated Michael Jackson’s vocals on his axe. He then threw his guitar up over the crowd and had them surf it around for a minute giving the fans a chance to get hands on and do their best to create some sounds with it. As John and the Creatures were prepping for their last number, he joked with the crowd: “I wish we knew more songs so we could stay and play all night with you.”

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The show ramped up one last time with a medley of some of the raddest guitar riffs from some of the best songs ever. Maiden, Metallica, Ozzy, Rush, The Police, and some Manson thrown in for good measure rounded out the show. I mean, you can’t go wrong with a sing-along of Roxanne, however I think we sounded more like Eddie Murphy in 48 Hours than Sting, but it’s fun to sing off key as loud as you can once in awhile.

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I don’t usually hang around waiting on artists, but John is one of those guys I wanted to say hello to. It took awhile, but he did come out and said hi to the few of us who braved the wet, cool Charlotte evening. Quietly, appreciative, he spent a little time with us before he jumped in the van and headed off for the next show in Greensboro.

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It was an honor and privilege to get to see John 5 in an intimate setting like we had the other night. You don’t get up close and personal with people who you are fans of often, but we all did on Thursday night. I have to challenge the people in this area to get out and support not only our local musicians. but also national artists when they come to see us. Come see them, and they will come!

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Full gallery of the night.

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Born in a small town in Western North Carolina, exposed to the wonders of the world at a young age through stories, words, and pictures. I have fond memories of flipping through Life Magazine to see the iconic images of days gone by and the exotic locations that only a National Geographic photographer could take me. Of course having my grandmother by my side giving commentary of how she met Mohammed Ali and where she was as Kennedy's car made that slow, fateful turn onto Dealey Plaza gave texture and substance to the pictures. Since then, my feet have left imprints in the soil in places I could have only once dreamed of. I have seen beautiful children smile in the dusty landscape of SW Ethiopia. I have walked the streets of the French Revolution. I have discarded my shoes to enter ancient Buddhist Temples in Thailand. I am always in pursuit to uncover new information, soak in new cultures, meet new people, and discover new music that can stimulate my imagination. I am on a lifelong journey, still searching for that ultimate experience. The goal of my photography and writing is to take you with me on my quest. If you are unable to be there with me, I want you to be able to immerse yourself in my words and pictures to help share with you an understanding of what it was like to be present in that small moment in time with me.

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