A Bigger Coop

Welcome to the Coop

Welcome to the Coop

One of the main reasons we haven’t been nearly as nomadic as we had expected to be is because of my husband’s decision to start building guitars in Chattanooga.  They have a really cool business development center that makes it a lot easier to start a new business and make it successful.

My husband had wanted to build guitars for a long time–he invented a machine to make it possible to build replicas about 16 years ago, in fact.  He periodically would order parts, but the machine didn’t become a reality until a couple of years ago.  Then, when we moved to Chattanooga, he had set guitar building aside.

A ring from a very special tree provides the wood for caps on 3 guitars

A ring from a very special tree provides the wood for caps on 3 guitars

At least until he discovered the business development center directly across the street.  Suddenly, switching gears from buying and selling collectable vintage electric guitars to building reproductions of them became a reality.

He’s an impressive guy.  He knows everything there is to know about the guitars he’s dealt in for more than 20 years now.  He’s among the best at recognizing original finishes and has been consulted for his opinion from near and far.  Now, he’s turned that knowledge into a way to create beautiful replicas that are aged to look like a genuine vintage guitar, which allows people to enjoy the look and feel of playing an extremely valuable instrument for far less money.

He’s also added some touches that make his guitars more playable than some of the originals.  Essentially, he creates instruments you can play that make you feel like you’re playing an instrument that should be in a museum.

Using one of his inventions to carve out the complex curves of the body

Using one of his inventions to carve out the complex curves of the body

But he doesn’t just know vintage guitars.  He knows how to build them.  And he doesn’t just know how to build them, he knows how to create machines to help make them really accurate.

I’m always amazed when I watch him designing something like the complex machines he has invented, designed, and built.  He gets as excited as I get when I’m talking about f/stops and the exposure triangle.  His eyes light up and his voice gets more intense.  He exudes the energy that only comes with creativity.

A second machine he built allows him to make necks the exact shape he wants

A second machine he built allows him to make necks the exact shape he wants

I am going to go back and get some macro shots of the carefully aged parts on the guitars if I have to time to shoot again before this set ships.  Even the screws have been aged to look like an actual vintage instrument’s.

When Pat first hatched the idea of Coop Guitars (www.coopguitars.com), he was looking for a space for a workshop that would allow him to build in an efficient manner (rather than in our garage where he spent half his time moving things around to make space).  He went to look at a friend’s vacant chicken coop to see if it could be converted into a workshop  That was when he decided the name of his guitars would be Coop Guitars.  He ended up not setting up shop in that chicken coop, but the name stuck.  Someday, maybe we’ll have some chickens in the workshop.

Product testing

Product testing

Blast from the Past(s)

The unidentified warm-up act had audience members up on stage singing

The unidentified warm-up act had audience members up on stage singing. The foreground beer does not reflect any endorsement of the consumption of alcoholic beverages on my part.

One of the interesting aspects of conferences is the really cool and exciting event planned for one night of the conference to make our customers feel like they got to experience something special.

While I could worry about how many people could be employed for the same amount spent on such special events, in a time when there are no holiday parties, no fancy dinners, limits on spending that make it difficult to get a new pencil, and no excesses in spending in any part of the budget, it’s kind of nice to get to be there to experience something really grand.

The Grand Ole Opry filled slowly with much of the audience hanging around outside until the big acts began

The Grand Ole Opry filled slowly with much of the audience hanging around outside until the big acts began

And grand it was.  In fact, it was in the Grand Ole Opry–that makes it grand by definition, even if the Grand Ole Opry isn’t so old anymore having been moved to the Opryland resort outside of Nashville in 1974.  Well, maybe that is old?

If you look carefully of the photos that include the stage, you can see a light circle in the wood in the stage.  That circle was cut from the stage in the previous home of the Grand Ole Opry, Ryman Auditorium, in downtown Nashville.  I got to see Ryman Auditorium from the outside when I diligently followed the directions my GPS provided, taking me to the former Grand Ole Opry location in spite of the fact that the Grand Ole Opry hadn’t been located there since long before the invention (or at least the availability of) GPS.

Gin Blossoms had the place hoppin' with lots of audience participation

Gin Blossoms had the place hoppin’ with lots of audience participation

What was amazing, was to be at a conference of about 3500 people and to have the entire Grand Ole Opry to ourselves.  Although its maximum capacity is limited to a surprising 4400, we still had plenty of space up in the balcony at stage left to sprawl in our seats.

If having this historic place to ourselves wasn’t impressive enough, the line up of bands to entertain this small audience was over the top.  The Gin Blossoms opened (which was impressive to those of us who went through their musical formative years in the 90’s) followed by Uncle Kracker (which was impressive for those who were into country), followed by Foreigner (which was impressive to everyone even if only one of the original band members was still part of the act).

Uncle Kracker was probably also exciting, but this is about when I went out to get a beer

Uncle Kracker was probably also exciting, but this is about when I went out to get a beer

What was most impressive was the all-out attitude of all three performances.  I can imagine for any of those bands, who enjoyed huge popularity at one time in their history, playing to a corporate conference audience could have been a bit of a let down.  If they were disappointed, they kept it well hidden.  They had us all rocking right up to the last chord.  I can’t remember the last time I had so much fun at a work conference.

iPhone Photographers note:  While the iPhone made for the best camera because it was the only one I would have carried with me during a work conference, adding a telephoto attachment might have made for some better images from the stage.

Foreigner brought down the house--I've never seen so many people over 40 moving so well

Foreigner brought down the house–I’ve never seen so many people over 40 moving so well

Blues on the River

I have a confession to make.  In spite of the fact that I’m married to a guitar player and song writer who has been dealing in vintage guitars for about 20 years, I’m not that much into music.

In some ways, I suppose this works.  I enjoy music.  I love listening to music.  I just don’t really spend a lot of time seeking out music and I was never one to go out of my way to find a concert.  That’s not to say I don’t enjoy concerts.  I just never kept track of who I listened to enough to find out when and where they were playing.

We periodically venture out to hear a band.  In Columbus, when we were still energetic enough to stay up later than 11PM, we would go see friends’ bands every once in a while.  But, I have to admit those nights out have gotten fewer and further between over the years.

In a sudden surge of protest (of the possibility that we’re getting old), when a friend from Columbus gave us a heads up that a Columbus band was going to be playing at Riverbend, we rallied and made our way across the river.  It wasn’t much of a rally since the set was scheduled from 5-6:30PM.

We’d already bought “pins” for access to all 9 days of Riverfest.  We’d gone to see Foreigner, but we took Tisen with us and he wasn’t allowed in.  So, other than me running in to buy a funnel cake (who can resist a funnel cake?), the pins hadn’t been used.

Hadden Sayers, as it turned out, is a guy with a band (I thought it was the band name).  He’s originally from Houston.  He told the story of moving to Columbus on a day when it was 7 degrees and how that led to his song titled “Take Me Back to Texas.”

This is almost the opposite of our experience of moving to Chattanooga on a day when it was 110.  Neither my husband nor I wrote a song about it, however.  I guess we didn’t want to go back to Ohio that much.

Hadden and the band are awesome musicians, every one of them (verified by my husband since I’m impressed by anyone who can play anything).  But, when we arrived, there were only about 20 people standing around in front of the stage.  As they progressed through the set, more and more people arrived.  As it turned out, the next band was Government Mule.  I’ve never heard of Government Mule, but I guess they’re popular in this part of the country.

Hadden told the crowd that the Mules were in the house and, if it was OK with the audience, he was going to play a few more songs (his set wasn’t over).  The audience cheered–I wasn’t the only one impressed.  I don’t know how many people in that audience had heard of Hadden Sayers before, but I think we all went home glad that we had now.


When we made the decision to move to Chattanooga, we knew about Head of the Hootch (a huge rowing event here in the fall) and we thought that was THE big event in Chattanooga.  However, it turns out Riverbend is THE big event here.

Just by chance, we completely missed Riverbend last year.  Our visit to pick a place to live was in March.  Our visit to make it official was in July.  Riverbend happens in June.

Riverbend, is a 9-day music festival that, this year, features 6 stages and something around 100 bands.  Supposedly, 600,000 people will descend upon Chattanooga (population 300,000) for this event.

The first sign that Riverbend was coming was the arrival of a stage via barge.  It was floated up the Tennessee River and parked for a couple of weeks in front of the Aquarium.  Eventually it was raised onto a huge dock (we always wondered why that dock was so big) where it had quietly remained for at least a week before the opening of the festival.

During that final week, tents started appearing followed by rides.  Soon, the riverfront looked like an abandoned carnival.  Billboards all over town advertised “get your pin at such and such place.”  Pins were $32 for entry all 9 days.  Of course, “entry” doesn’t include the lawn in front of the main stage (another $10), a program (yet $35 more), or seats anywhere.

Had we know pins at the gate would be $45, we would have bought our pins early.  We, of course, didn’t discover this until after the discounted pins were no longer available.

Finally, opening night came.  It was Friday night, June 8th.  We expected to hear the bands playing from our place, but they were drowned out by traffic noise on this side of the river.

Instead, the start of the festival was announced to us by a ridiculous amount of noise on the roof over our heads.  Some of our neighbors had apparently invited a large group of friends over to hang out on the roof deck; we’re pretty sure they spent the night.

I went up to the roof top to check out who was up there and to see what kind of shots I could get from the roof.  I left my 100-400mm lens at home since I figured I was going to need my faster 70-200mm lens in the twilight over the extra length.

Alas, the scene was far enough away that I couldn’t get very interesting shots of any details.  Plus, I couldn’t see the river from our roof, which was full of boats listening to the music.

I turned to the sunset briefly (reminding myself that I have too many shots of the sunset and it wasn’t that interesting) and then returned to shoot the skyline wide.  Sine the sky was completely uninteresting that direction, I cropped those shots to panoramic proportions.  I probably should have just put my camera away instead.