Amplification: Fender Blackface Deluxe Reverb powering 2×12 felt covered, side-by-side cabs. Fender-philes rejoice: The Deluxe Reverb is Returned. Leslie G-37 rotating speaker.
Note on Amplification: at the LOCKN festival and at Dick’s, the Mesa Boogie Mark III, which was onstage throughout Summer 2016, was not present at all. It is possible that it was obscured and out of site, but I have seen enough pictures and video to be fairly confident that the Mark III head was not present on stage, nor were any of the Bogner Shiva heads or combos.
Additionally, in pictures I’ve reviewed from Summer 2016, it is not clear to me in retrospect that a 1/4″ input cable was plugged in to the Mark III at all during the summer. As a result, I’m starting to think the Mesa Boogie Mark III may have been backup throughout Summer 2016, and the Deluxe Reverb has been the primary amplifier, running a speaker line out to the 2×12 cabs just like Trey used to do with the Bruno cabs (see here for more on the Deluxe Reverb/Bruno Cab combination). This would answer the question I raised previously as to why an unmic’d Deluxe Reverb had returned to the rig. Answer: it’s just a head (although it’s possible that the built-in 1×12 speaker is being used as an unmic’d guitar monitor for Trey). In any case, it was almost certainly the case at LOCKN’ that the Deluxe Reverb was the primary and exclusive guitar amplifier.
Note also that this particular Deluxe Reverb has seven knobs in Channel 2 and four in Channel 1; a stock DR has 6 and 3, respectively. It appears as if in each case one of the two input jacks dedicated to each respective channel (a stock DR has 4 inputs; 2 per channel) has been replaced with a knob, although I can’t get a close enough look to determine what the new knob does. More on amplifiers, below. Bill Carruth has been known to mod Trey’s Blackface amps.
Guitars: Blonde No. 2 (LOCKN’ 1); ’96 Koa (LOCKN’ 2, Dick’s 1)
First to the amps, as a return to the Deluxe Reverb would represent the most significant rig-shift in quite some time. The last time this way Trey’s primary amplifier with Phish was Coventry in 2004. The above photo from Phish’s FromTheRoad Instagram feed is key to my belief that the Mark III is absent at LOCKN’. You can see one Blackface Deluxe Reverb to Trey’s right pointing up toward his head. There is another behind him facing back toward us, presumably a backup (notice it, too, has the extra knobs), with the Megaphone sitting atop it. If the Mark III was hidden somewhere on stage, it would be back here.
The photos below come from a video a friend of mine took from backstage at LOCKN’ during the changeover between sets, and also show pretty clearly that there’s no Mark III on stage. They give us great views of the 2×12 cabs, the floor array, the rack-top pedals and both guitars (the new Blonde No. 2 guitar is up front here, with Koa #1 set up toward the back).
I wish I could say the tonal differences from the Mark III to the Deluxe Reverb were strikingly obvious to me and that I’d suspected all through Summer 2016 that the Deluxe Reverb was back in favor. Although the Mark III’s clean channel was designed in the 1980s to be a then-modern take on the Fender Blackface sound, they are in many senses very different amplifiers.
The Mesa is a 100 watt 3-channel head with a solid-state rectifier and the Deluxe Reverb is a 22-watt combo with a tube rectifier and effectively 1 channel. The Deluxe has a much softer, rounder, bubblier sound, and will organically break up at moderate volumes, while the Mark III is known for nearly limitless headroom and a more sterile, less “vintage”-sounding clean channel. The Mark III is designed to more effectively cut through a mix, and generally has a more mid-forward sound that some people describe as “nasal” or refer to as the Mesa “gronk.” The Mesa’s solid state rectifier will more closely track and accurately reproduce quick passages at high volumes (hence it’s popularity among prog/metal players), while the Fender’s tube rectifier tends to get a little “looser” when pushed hard. The trade-off is the Fender’s somewhat sweeter sound. Each has its advantages and disadvantages.
The fact of the matter is, with all the tone shaping that happens before the amplifier (pedal and rack gain stages and effects), and all the tone shaping that can be done in each amp’s pre-amp stage, it would be difficult for the vast majority of people — myself included — to spot the difference between the Mark III and the Deluxe Reverb with 100% certainty in a totally blind “taste test,” especially with the rest of the band in the mix. And I say that as someone who owns 2 Blackface-era Deluxe Reverbs (a ’66 and a ’68) and a Mark III combo, so I’ve played with these amps quite a bit. It’s especially difficult because Trey rarely runs the amps totally clean during live performances.
More updates on the amplification as more information comes in.
Above, the 1996 Koa guitar (Koa #1) at LOCKN’ night 2.
Above, the Blonde No. 2 guitar at LOCKN’ night 1.
The lighting is poor, but above you can see the Boomerang (far left), Ross Compressor (center), CAE switcher (near right), Beigel Tru-Tron (far right). Trey is working the Dunlop/Teese wah (this is the beginning of the LOCKN’ Moma Dance; audio above as well) and the Ernie Ball volume is behind his foot.
Above at LOCKN’ you can see the two TS-9 Tube Screamers sitting atop the rack (left), one of which is clearly an Analogman mod. To the left of the Tube Screamers, you can see the Alesis Microverb II with the Way Huge Supa Puss sitting on top of it. The rack those pedals are sitting on is unchanged from Summer Tour, with (from top) the Furman Power Conditioner, the Korg DTR-2 tuner, the Alesis DM-2000, and the TC Electronic D-Two. However, the D-Two appears to be powered down — you can see here there are no lights operating on the unit. The Blackface Deluxe Reverb is to Trey’s right behind the rack. The 2×12 felt cabs are behind him to his left, and the Leslie G-37 rotating guitar speaker is behind the cabs.
Above, a photo of Trey tweaking the delay times on the Supa-Puss during the LOCKN’ Tweezer, along with the resulting audio.
A screengrab from night two LOCKN’, above, gives us a look at the rack, right, and the pedals sitting upon it, including the wedge-shaped Tube Factor and the Shin-Ei Univibe behind it. Another view of the pedals sitting atop the rack is below:
Below is a piece of audio from the Dick’s Tweezer (T-Wah-zer) opening; Trey did a long slow sweep of the wah from the bass end to the treble end as part of the opening buildup — very cool:
Above, Dick’s night 1: Koa #1, next to the two TS-9 Tube Screamers (1 with Analogman logo) and the H&K Tube Factor.