Sunday, January 16, 2011

Blackbird Audio Gallery's Music Night with Dean Peer

The alarm clock didn't go off. It was 5:05 am when I woke up. I had a 6:15 flight to San Diego. The Austin-Bergstrom Airport is 25 miles from my house. And I still made it on the plane with ten minutes to spare. I don't know how I did it, but I think I tampered with the time/space continuum somewhere.

Even though it wasn't an auspicious beginning, I still had a blast at the Music Night at Blackbird Audio Gallery. I saw plenty of my old audio friends, met a few new ones and actually got to sit down with Dean Peer for a while and talk to him about his music, his bass and his plans for the future.

I haven't been in Southern California for a while, and my usual tradition in these instances is to head straight to Tommy's for a #1, chili cheese and mustard only. That's exactly what I did.

Then I took up a long-standing invitation to test drive a BMW M3, which I did as well. What a beast this is with its 414 horsepower and its roaring V-8. This one even had the hard-top convertible option. The price? $77K. Yeah, I want one. I'm only human.

Then it was on to the show! Here are some pics from the event:

Here's was Dan Muzquiz' set up for the evening. It consisted of pretty much the same system as he showed off at CES...Trenner & Friedl ART monitors with the new super tweeters, Heed Audio Electronics and digital front end and a Basis 2200 turntable with a Vector tonearm and a Transfiguration cartridge. It sounded spectacular, but the bass was much deeper and fuller than it was at CES. Then I spotted it, crouched between the ARTs and the Heed monoblocks...a Trenner & Friedl subwoofer! This isn't a current model, by the way; T&F has been around a long time and they have many models from the past that they still like to show off.

Here's a shot of the ARTs with the new super tweeters.

Here's the Basis 2200 with the Vector arm and the Transfiguration cartridge. This was a supremely musical analog rig that was detailed without being analytical. It's funny that as a general rule I tend not to like the sound of acrylic turntables--and yet I've always enjoyed every Basis turntable I've ever heard. They must sprinkle fairy dust on them back at the factory. I'm sure a lot of this magic also had to do with the Transfiguration cartridge from Japan, another audio brand that has never failed to move me with their amazing products.

Here is the Funk Firm turntable I wrote about a couple of months ago. That's the new FXR arm, which is very beautiful in person. The very thin and richly-colored arm tube adds an unexpected delicacy to the overall appearance. The Basis may have had the stage for Music Night, but I look forward to listening to one of these analog rigs in the near future.

Here's a pic of Dan thanking the crowd for showing up. Next to him are Colleen Cardas, George Cardas and the man of the hour, Dean Peer. Dan was incredibly gracious and made a point of thanking everyone for coming out.

Another pic of our gracious host.

Standing room only at Chez Muzquiz.

This is Dean Peer signing my LP copy of his 1992 album Ucross. He was extremely surprised when I handed it to him, saying "Where did you get this? I don't even have a copy of this!" He them told me to take a picture of him signing it because it was a historic occasion. According to Dean, this version of Ucross, the original, is now extremely rare because it was subsequently re-released several times by different record companies with different covers. He told me that another LP version is set to be released soon. I asked him, "Does that mean this version will be worth less?" He replied, " will be worth a lot more." It doesn't matter, because I'm not selling it.

As I mentioned, I did get a chance to sit down with Dean and talk. Dean actually lives in the Austin area as well. I asked him if he was going to be playing at SXSW in March, but he'll be in Canada at the time. I told him I'd enjoy seeing him live whenever he played in Austin. In a slightly self-deprecating manner, he said that people always expect him to be a wild, flamboyant bass player after hearing what he accomplishes in recordings. He admitted that most of his other-worldly bass sounds are created through very small and precise movements of his fingertips. In other words, he can be very still when he know, like a typical bass player. I still want to see him play live.

He spoke a bit about the recording process for the Airborne recordings. Dean is much more than a bass player, he is an accomplished record producer and engineer as well. He described the very technical digital processes that went into the recording but also stressed the simplicity of the solution, thanks to the latest digital innovations. When asked about whether or not he was satisfied with the results of the Airborne LP pressing, he was enthusiastic. Dean said that he and the studio engineers were trying to make the LP sound like it came straight out of the '70s. The sound quality of Airborne is so breathtaking that it didn't even occur to me that a "vintage" sound was the target. After hearing Dean's comments, I can now hear what he's talking about. There's definitely a funky, loose '70s vibe running through the entire album.

Finally, I asked Dean what was next. He said he wanted to work on a project that was all about the year 1959. He discussed all the intriguing things about that was the peak of Jack Kerouac's creativity, Alaska and Hawaii became states and it was the last great year of classic jazz recordings. I also mentioned that it was the "year the music died," referring to Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper, and he nodded his head in agreement. Finally, Dean said that he was born in 1959, which is why the year has such special meaning for him. I'm looking forward to hearing this project.

This is a wine stopper that Dan gave me (as well as others there) as a thanks for coming out. It's a beautiful handmade stopper from a friend of his at A-Skewed Creations. Thank you, Dan, for hosting this event! I look forward to the next one.

I'd also like to thank everyone I met for being so gracious and friendly such as the entire Cardas family, Gavin Fish of MIT and, Marc Almirall, Dave and Carol Clark of Positive Feedback Online, David Aitken and of course Bob Clarke of Profundo, who told me a few amazing stories about how he got started as an audio distributor. Thanks everyone!


  1. Great comments... nice seeing you again

  2. Great write-up Marc. It was a lot of fun being there.

  3. Thanks Dave and Gavin! It was great seeing you two again as well. When's the next party?

  4. Thank you for the nice write-up! And thanks for coming over for our event. It was great fun to have everyone over.