7 p.m. March 31 at Danville High School Gravely Hall, 203 E. Lexington Ave., Danville. $15. (859) 319-0773, (859) 319-3016. Keithmedleymusic.com.
When a guitarist goes up against an intrastate NCAA Final Four matchup that will be broadcast nationally, there had better be a hefty level of instrumental firepower at his disposal. If not, he can pretty much forget about getting noticed this weekend.
Seriously, would you want to be performing during Saturday's Kentucky-Louisville NCAA Tournament semifinal?
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Luckily, Kentucky-born Keith Medley has some distinctive musical artillery to show off. His weapon of choice for a solo performance Saturday in Danville is a self-designed variation on the centuries-old harp guitar that boasts 27 strings. We're talking an instrument that essentially blends a traditional acoustic guitar with an autoharp and a mutated harp into a single frame.
Medley, who grew up near Owensboro, has said in interviews that designing the instrument wasn't difficult. After spending time in Nashville playing funkified R&B and, of course, country, he quit the road and devoted his career to guitar building, design and repair. The big trick has been mastering the ability to play the beast.
Though he has released an independent album titled Ride, the best glimpses of Medley's 27-string guitar design have come through a series of videos on YouTube.
The most arresting clip features an unaccompanied performance of Grieg's In the Hall of the Mountain King played at multiple tempos. The bass guitar establishes the melody, sweeps upon the autoharplike section to provide a taste of ancient orchestration, and the harp portion fleshes out the composition's overall lyricism. But Medley is remarkably deft in juggling the instrument's numerous capabilities. After all, the kind of armspan required to simply reach the different sections of the harp guitar probably would make Anthony Davis proud.
The instrument has roots as far back as the 19th century (and much further if you consider the stringed settings the instrument encompasses). Medley's fascination with the harp guitar began in earnest with a photo of the late Michael Hedges holding an early model. But the multineck electric guitars popularized in the '70s by Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page also had their place in Medley's design. Another guitarist who has helped introduce versions of the harp guitar to mainstream audiences is jazz pioneer Pat Metheny.
"The 27-string was designed and built for me to play," Medley says in an essay posted on his Web site. "I didn't build it to sell, or any other ill motive. I am a player. I hear music to play and share as a gift to those who want it. Building is my craft. Playing is my passion."
Wisely bypassing the basketball frenzy Saturday will be a pair of benefit shows Friday designed to raise money for those affected by the deadly storm and tornado outbreaks earlier this month.
At Cosmic Charlie's, 388 Woodland Avenue, The Tallboys, Coralee and the Townies, Idiot Glee, an acoustic version of The Fanged Robot and John the Baptist will perform, with proceeds going to the American Red Cross. (8 p.m. Suggested donation is $10. (859) 309-9499. Cosmic-charlies.com.)
The Green Lantern, 497 West Third Street, will get in on the Friday fun with an evening-long benefit titled "Readers and Rockers" that will balance readings by poets Martha Gehringer, Carrie Green, Maurice Manning, Eric Scott Sutherland, Philip White and Lisa Williams with bite-size musical sets by The Apples in Stereo chieftain Robert Schneider, performing in a solo acoustic setting; The Deloreans; Palisades, and Tula. Funds will go to the Bluegrass Community Foundation's Eastern Kentucky Tornado Relief Fund. (9 p.m. $5. (859) 252-9539.)
Were you like me and had to miss last fall's Lexington return of The Psychedelic Furs at Buster's for the Boomslang festival? If so, get ready for a road trip — or two.
The Furs, still with gravel-voiced frontman Richard Butler and his bass guitarist — and now Kentucky-based — brother Tim Butler in tow, will be performing two regional shows in the days ahead.
The band plays Saturday at Bogart's, 2621 Vine Street, Cincinnati. (9 p.m. $28. Bogarts.com, (513) 872-8801.) The Furs then travel Wednesday to Headliners Music Hall, 1386 Lexington Road, Louisville. (8 p.m. $25. Headlinerslouisville.com, (502) 584-8088.)
The current Furs lineup isn't playing vintage albums such as 1981's Talk Talk Talk in their entirety, as they were a year ago, but current set lists are generously scanning the bulk of the band '80s-era hit-making heyday, from breakthrough post-punk tunes like President Gas to more keyboard-directed, MTV-friendly hits such as The Ghost in You to a sampling of songs from what remains its finest album, 1982's Forever Now, produced by Todd Rundgren.