There’s a lovely article on Nels Cline’s website called ‘Amp Du Jour’ about the adventures (and mis-adventures) of using venue-supplied backline at small gigs. I feel his pain and his joy. Most of the time, for obvious logistical reasons, I’ll be plugged into whatever big black box the venue has to spare. Most of the time this works out just fine (see pedals, below). Occasionally we’re lumped with some falling-apart HH thing from Nineteen-Eighty-No and have to make do with whatever hissy fit it spits out.
I have, much to the dismay of those far nerdier than I, an ambivalent attitude to the universal godliness of valve amps. Orange Rockerverbs I can get on with. Certain Blackstar amps I’ve tried and liked and I recall a few Cindytalk gigs where I borrowed Steve Gullick’s Fender Twin (bumped and lumped-up with a bit of overdrive to juice-up the midrange) which was truly joyful.
But given a choice (and by “choice” I mean “van and driver to get loads of heavy stuff to and from the venue”) I love playing through my Trace Elliot Tramp combo. It’s loud and big and green and for whatever reason sounds incredibly lush and flattering with my choice of guitars and pedals. It’s solid state (I belive they made a later version with a valve pre-amp) but has plenty of warmth and richness. It’s getting a bit of a mains hum going on which I’ve been meaning to get sorted, but this is really only noticable if I’m playing very quietly in any key other than slightly-sharper-than-G.
Again, I have been keeping an eye out for a backup (god knows where I’d put it) as Trace Elliot no longer make them. If anyone can recommend a relatively portable combo with a similar sonic character, let me know!