The age of YouTube channels about stomp pedals now has its own… well, not quite Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat so much as its own Red, White and Blaine. But it is historically accurate.
So, over last weekend, Pedals: The Musical streamed as a live YouTube event. (No cracks about any missing laughter or applause, folks; there is still a pandemic on.)
How did this happen? Well, just like the fictional musical in the film Waiting for Guffman, it does all start in Missouri. (If I’m losing you with these references, it’s a Christopher Guest movie that’s basically Spinal Tap for music theater nerds. And the pacing / feel here is… related.) JHS Pedals is a perfectly respectable pedal maker based in Kansas City. Their 3 series, for instance, is a fine set of simple, affordable effects pedals – see video below.
So, JHS makes pedals. And then, JHS’ own Josh Scott made a YouTube channel to talk about them – and chat about other pedal matters. There’s a ton of advice and frank opinions about all things stomp – it’s really a refreshing resource for anyone obsessed with everything they put on their pedalboard.
Here’s where things get a bit weird – they decided to make a half-hour musical operetta that covers the history of guitar pedals, at least giving a good overview of the 1960s era. (“This is the sixties / This is the sound / This is a movement / It’s really loud.” That may be a veiled threat to make this episodic, of course.)
It’s called, of course, Stomp. Wait… no, can see why that didn’t work. It’s called Pedals: The Musical.
And so a community theater-style production takes on the history of pedals. The narrative structure switches between deskside scenes with inventors at various breakthroughs in pedal history and sung numbers with soloists dressed as various pedals and a dance chorus joining them (often rather interpretively). I will admit, it is still a lot less strange and high-concept than Starlight Express.
You can learn the lyrics. (That should make the next in-person NAMM interesting, should such a thing be revived.) So the Tone Bender croons, “Yo, you can’t even sustain. / I hold notes that blow your brain.” The Electro-Harmonix classic muses, “A little rough, a lotta scruff / No room for fluff / Just call me Muff.”
There’s even merch. And a lot of self-referential humor – so don’t worry; it’s not overly serious. (That said, if someone wants a really dark musical about DSP history in the vein of Sondheim, I can try. Hang on… let me think about an internal rhyme with “Fourier.”)
More on JHS’ pedals. Best of all, you can buy them guilt-free, which isn’t necessarily true of all the competition. Here’s their 3 Series intro (cute! minimal!), which also has a nice look back at “cheap pedal” history:
And they do things like check out the new Universal Audio guitar pedals:
I don’t know if there will be now pressure to sing all the time. Keep an ear out.