When I travelled to Tokyo, the guitar shops absolutely shocked me.
“You’re a musician,” you might say. “All you guys get nerdy around instruments.”
Well, those who know me will tell you that I am jaded. I can walk through a Guitar Center with a few hundred bucks to burn and walk out with — absolutely nothing. I am hard to impress. And my current gear is primo stuff that earns its keep – ESP and Carvin guitars — amps by Fryette, THD and a custom frankenamp built by an electronics genius friend.
But then, a few minutes’ walk from Jimbocho Station in Tokyo, I find a place called Big Boss Guitars. It climbs five stories into the first few floors of a 20-story (or so) building. It sprawls into an annex.
Inside, I find rarities that I have never seen in the U.S. That’s right, not even in Hollywood on the famed Sunset Strip. Big Boss Guitars destroys the Sunset Strip – even with its Mesa/Boogie, Carvin Guitars and original Guitar Center stores – as a pretender.
From the second I walk in, it’s like 80s metal never died. There’s nary an indication that grunge, indie, shoegaze and various other forms of low-fi droning exist.
What do I see? Where to begin … how about an Emppu Vuorinen signature ESP? This thing doesn’t even exist on the U.S. edition of the ESP website! There’s a used Egnater TOL amplifier, which I rarely even see on eBay, much less in a random guitar store. There’s a BC Rich that looks like it’s chiselled from white basalt. Everywhere I look, a new treat. Every floor holds wonders — well, except for the acoustic floor.
I wander to the next storefront, and get my mind boggled by more effects pedals than I’ve ever seen in one place. And more amplifiers.
Here’s the downside: The prices are murder. I wonder what my crazy late 80s Charvels would sell for here. My Carvin could probably make me a mint (because it is a magnificent instrument, my own version of Ned Stark’s Ice).
I return home to Phoenix. I haven’t set foot in any guitar shop since Tokyo. And after that, I barely have any reason to.
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