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M I SPY

Purchasing Pedals in Massachusetts’ Pioneer Valley New England in the spring is a nice place for a drive; it’s also a nice place to check out MI shops. Northampton, Mass., is one of those “gawgeous” New England towns. It has plenty of classy and classic architecture, as well as artsy eateries and shops, lots of pretty trees, a college nearby (in this case, Smith College) and a branch of Newbury Comics. Nearby South Hadley has Mount Holyoke College, the Hadley Falls Canal Park (watch and listen to the roaring waters), an impressive public library and other sights. In other words, New England in the springtime is a great place to practice some spycraft. I received word from HQ that my itinerary for this mission would include trips to three musical instrument shops in Northampton, as well as another shop located in South Hadley. The three musical instrument stores in Northampton form a sort of triangle in the center of town, walkable from Smith College and historic Northampton, all on or near Main Street. They are all geared strongly toward guitars and other stringed instruments, but they definitely have their differences. Each has its own positive vibe and interesting stock. It is notable that a smallish city/ biggish small town (what exactly does it qualify as?) such as Northampton has three musical instruments shops near each other. Must be a music-loving town to support these three, I thought. The Pioneer Valley region of Massachusetts has a number of other such stores in Pittsfield and other local cities. For this mission in Massachusetts, your MI Spy decided to look for guitar effects pedals. Why? It was time to change things up.

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The corner store on Main Street; how much more American can you get? That is the location of Birdhouse Music, a shop that specializes in stringed instruments and accessories, and particularly guitars. Laid out like a railroad flat of rooms, this store reminded me of walking into a particular type of music lover’s apartment, with the furniture mostly replaced by prized guitars and other musical treasures. And there was a humidifier gusting puffs of steam, to keep certain items in extra special condition. Main Street has plenty of parking, and I opted for a space there as opposed to the hilly street on the corner. Birdhouse had all different types of guitars, and they ranged in price from one or two under $100, a handful in the $100 to $200 range and upward into the low $1,000 bracket. Whew. It also stocked many ukuleles, banjos and mandolins, as well as some brass instruments, drums and percussion. A selection of the guitar pedals was displayed on a lazy Susan near the cash register, which has to be an obvious but genius way to offer up such wares. I mentioned this to the guy on duty and he agreed: “It’s like going to a buffet, but for guitarists.” And he gave the swivel table a slight spin. We talked shop about pedals, and he discussed brands. “Lots of small brands are making effects pedals these days,” he said, and he showed me a handful at various price levels. “This tube screamer is a particularly prized model.” The pedals on display ranged in price from around $40 to more than $200, with many in the $60 to $80 range. Some brands he stocked included Dunlop, Ernie Ball, Catalinbread, ElectroHarmonix, Boss and others. And there was the Devo Guitar, an oddly shaped Eastwood Devo La Baye two-byfour in red, hanging on one brick wall. The Birdhouse guy watched me eyeing this and chuckled. “People love to look at it,” he said. “But it is a serious guitar. It’s from

Birdhouse Music 164 Main St. Northampton, MA 01060 413.584.0404

JUNE 2019

Profile for Music & Sound Retailer

Music & Sound Retailer June 2019, Vol 36 No 6  

In June’s Summer NAMM Preview issue, we recap the RPMDA Annual Convention, give insight into what’s in store for Summer NAMM attendees next...

Music & Sound Retailer June 2019, Vol 36 No 6  

In June’s Summer NAMM Preview issue, we recap the RPMDA Annual Convention, give insight into what’s in store for Summer NAMM attendees next...