Frank Zappa called them stunt-guitar players. They were the few that Zappa hired to pull off some guitar work he couldn’t himself. Steve Vai was one, a player with plenty of chops that made solos stand out and songs leap from okay to guitar-great solely because of six-string acrobatics.
Stunt-guitar players have influenced thousands of kids to pick up and play the electric guitar, including Darren Stroud, an Indiana native who came to Durango in 2013 after years of grinding it out in Los Angeles.
Stroud has remained busy in Durango, learning and playing country music with the High Rollers, and playing regularly with his hard-rock trio, PowerTribe, a sometimes vocal, sometimes instrumental all-original nod to rock ‘n’ roll and its guitar heroes of the last few decades.
PowerTribe will perform an all-ages show Friday night at the Steaming Bean. Along with Stroud, they are his wife Missy Percifield on bass and vocals, and John Chominsky on drums. For tonight, Chominsky’s drums are pre-recorded, allowing for the trio to play at a lower volume and in quieter rooms, like a coffee shop. Stroud refers to this as “coffee shop shred.”
In his career, he’s released two solo CDs of rock and blues, one PowerTribe release and a CD with his wife. Stroud recently played alongside Vai at a guitar camp, which can be seen on YouTube.
He’s a poster child of hard-rock guitar influence, one of millions who stood in awe of great players that actually had the patience to sit down and figure out how to play the instrument.
“The first dude was Ace Frehley from Kiss. I literally used to look at his poster on my wall, look at his fingers and put my fingers on my guitar the way his fingers were on his guitar, and try to see what kind of sound would come out,” said Stroud. “It was Frehley at first, then Randy Rhoads hit. That was huge to me. He was playing stuff I had never heard before, and he inspired me to get into studying theory and working on technique and I literally was looking at a Randy Rhoads tab on one side of me, and a Mel Bay book on the other side of me, and music theory made sense to me in that moment.”
It’s more than playing, writing songs, ripping through a great solo or being influenced by Yngwie Malmsteen, Chet Atkins or Charlie Christian. He’s a constant student learning all styles.
It’s also therapeutic. Some people have a crap day and need to run. Or ride a bike. Or drink. Stroud plays guitar.
“I truly just love playing,” said Stroud. “There is nothing in this world as fun for me as that. I can have the worst day in the world, and within five minutes of playing guitar, it’s all gone.”
firstname.lastname@example.org. Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager.