Tonight: Celebrate Steamboat Amps’ Ninth Birthday & New Partnership (and Help Out, Too!)

I’ve played guitar (badly) for most of my life at this point, at least sporadically, but I’ve never, ever been a gearhead. In my younger days, I was more of a whatever-I-can-get-my-hands-on-head, because I couldn’t afford actual decent equipment; when I finally got an okay-paying job, literally the first two things I ran out and bought were a new guitar and (more crucially) a new amp, the latter because I’d been playing through a shitty little Peavey (I think?) since middle school that wasn’t good for anything but sounding like Metallica circa And Justice For All.

Even then, though, I couldn’t have told you why I bought the amp I bought — I had very little idea what I was getting, and relied on some guidance from guitarist friends. I ended up buying a Fender combo amp mostly because a guy I’d known in college had had one, and I liked how it sounded. Plus, it had a cool foot-switch to go from clean to dirty (I hadn’t yet bought any pedals, and I’ve only ever bought two, a distortion pedal and a tuner).

Even now, when people talk amps — or, hell, guitars — I mostly nod and smile. It’s like a guy into jacked-up, tricked-out big trucks enthusing about his truck’s new bull bar to a guy who drives a ’97 Ford Aspire because, hey, it still gets him to work and doesn’t use too much gas. There are Guitar (and Amplifier) People, and there are people who are not those people. I’m one of the latter.

With that in mind, I’m kind of amazed at my reaction to the amplifiers that the Steamboat Amps guys make. I thought they looked cool when I first saw ’em, because sure, they do, with the little retro-ish tugboat logo and all that, they’ve got some nice colors, all that. They just look nice, and I’m as much a sucker for that as anybody.

Then the Steamboat crew sponsored FPSF one summer (I think they’ve done several FPSFs, actually, at this point), and actually hearing music blasting out of those amps up there on the stage…I was sold. Immediately, completely. They just sound damn good, especially in the hands of somebody who plays loud and heavy; it just worked, beautifully.

So now here I am, non-gearhead, Not a Guitar/Amplifier Person, the whole deal, and I regularly wander over to the Steamboat website to browse through the amps they’ve got for sale. Not because I need one — I haven’t played in a band or even regularly through an amp in at least 15 years — but because holy shit do I want one. These amps, out of all the amps in the world, are the only ones that genuinely make me drool. They’re the only ones that make me consider risking the wrath of my wife by saying, “fuck it,” and spending money I need to be saving on one.

I say all of that to point up the fact that Steamboat Amps has officially been in business for 9 freaking years as of last month — main man Jacob Rynearson (aka Captain Jake) started the company back in January 2009, and it’s been going strong and growing ever since. Beyond the amps, they do a whole shitload of other stuff these days, from repairs to custom sound systems.

To celebrate, they’re throwing a party this very evening, Thursday, February 8th, starting in, um, about an hour, at 6PM at their shop at 1505 Gano St., north of Downtown. They’re not far from fellow local heroes St. Arnold’s Brewery, who are providing drinks for tonight, which is cool.

Actually, the event is a three-fer, if you will — not only is it a birthday celebration-slash-open house (okay, maybe a fourfer?), but it’s also a chance for Steamboat to announce its brand-new partnership with legendary H-town recording studio Sugarhill Studios. Going forward, they’re going to be working with the Sugarhill folks to build new amps and will have some kind of space at Sugarhill to demo their gear, which is extremely cool.

On top of that, the party is also a charity fundraiser for the Buffalo Bayou Partnership, with proceeds from T-shirt sales and raffle tickets for cool stuff going to help clean up, beautify, and improve the whole Buffalo Bayou area, which is also extremely cool.

There’ll also be art, food trucks, and music starting at 7PM or so, courtesy of Sam Turner and the Cactus Cats( who I’ve been seriously meaning to see, btw). And it’s all free…well, other than the fundraising stuff, and probably the food trucks, but still. It sounds like it’s going to be a pretty awesome time; get on out and join ’em, alright?

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