There was a space problem at the Bayou Friday night at the Michael Fath show. It wasn't the crowd, though, that was too packed; it was the notes, flying from the speakers at a breathless pace, leaving the listener no time to catch any of the nuances of Fath's justly famous guitar technique.
He played all of his new release, "Sonic Tapestries," beginning his set with the first half and ending it with the last half. In between he played older pieces, the best being "Jade," with Fath showing his strength: subtle two-handed hammer-ons the length of the neck. He also used that technique to raise "Strut" above the rest. His covers of Edgar Winter's "Frankenstein" and Focus's "Hocus Pocus" served to point out the limits of his own compositions, with their structure holding up well compared with Fath's series of strung-together riffs. "Innocence of Youth" had nice melodic playing, and even a rare slower moment, but when repeated with little variation to get to song length, the parts lost their power.
The space-between-the-notes issue was at the forefront most tellingly on "Depths of Your Soul," which Fath dedicated to Stevie Ray Vaughan. It was a slow boogie, with ample room to stretch out, but the sixteenth notes kept flying. The rhythm section of Dave Crigger on bass and Corey Holland on drums was tight, and followed the many changes in the instrumentals with ease, but overplayed everywhere they could, with no musical payoff.
Fath is getting a lot of attention from the world's guitar-playing community. He deserves it; few know the neck of the guitar better than he. He needs to vary the recipe for his tunes, however, if he expects the general public to listen to entire CDs and sit through entire sets.