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Playing Around: Dick Dale 

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You feel Dick Dale coming before you hear him, long before you see him. Those cascading progressions of deep, bassy notes rolling over onto themselves, causing tremors beneath your skin and deep into your bones -- they herald the coming of the King of Surf Guitar.

Dick Dale is a living legend. In the 1950s he wanted to echo drummer Gene Krupa's primal, uninhibited body-shaking sounds, but with a guitar. He met Leo Fender, the luthier king, who asked him to try out his newest creation, the Fender Stratocaster electric guitar. Forty-nine amps and speakers later, the two royals set out to find someone who could build an amplifier/speaker setup that could withstand the signals coming from Dale's guitar -- the state-of-the-art equipment Dale had been using kept igniting and, consequently, blowing up. He was playing so loud that he had become a fire hazard.

After much experimentation, Dale finally had the most resilient speakers around, and in turn the most powerful amp ever seen attached to a guitar. By pushing the limits of technology, he was able to do exactly what he been dreaming of -- play the ever-lovin' holy hell out his instrument. Being left-handed, he played backwards and upside down, transposing the chords in his head before playing them on the traditionally strung Fender. The resulting sound was this incredibly loud, incredibly unique music unlike anything heard before -- an electric adaptation of the sea. Crashing bars reluctantly receding into echoing melodies, only to quickly rise up to a frantic, resonating peak and then breaking into scattered, bubbling half notes pooling in steady bass beat. To hear it is mesmerizing; to see it played is mind-blowing.

Dick Dale plays the intimate confines of the Music Hall Sunday night and local boys Big Back Yard kick off the evening. The doors open at 8 p.m. Tickets are $12. Get there early or you might miss out -- swing by any Independent Records location or call 800/965-4827.

  • To hear Dick Dale play is mesmerizing; to see him play is mind-blowing.

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