It was my first trip to the United States. Any place I might choose to visit in that vast country would be new to me, and special. When I hit New York City I asked myself: Is there anything I absolutely wouldn’t want to miss seeing while I’m here? There was only one reply to that question – The Warwick&Framus shop in Manhattan’s East Village!
Saying that I’m a big fan of Warwick basses would be a bit of an understatement. I’m addicted to their sleek, elegant, mostly scratchplate-free look, to their modern sound, to their small – in certain cases very small – size that’s perfect for tiny little me, to the sexy texture of their oil finishes. Show me a room full of basses of any other make and I’m out of the door within a few minutes. Usher me into that Warwick treasure trove in the East Village and I’m a kid in a sweet shop, and you’ll have to grab my hand and drag me away if you want to go somewhere else, or wait until the shop closes and throws me out.
So far my finances have only been able to stretch to three older models belonging to Warwick’s Rockbass series (a Corvette 4, a Fortress 5 and a Corvette fretless 5, all pre-2008), but there’s always been a more modern, “real” Warwick Corvette 5 in my dreams. Of course, things are never as easy as they seem.
Funds scarcity aside, I happen to be left-handed, and therefore usually precluded from walking into any old Warwick distributor’s store, grabbing whatever models they may have on show, and giving them a try. There are relatively few Warwick resellers in the UK – although things appear to be slowly changing for the better – and most of them will be able to order lefty models in for you, but won’t have any for you to play “in the flesh”, so to speak. Even the large, stylish booth that Warwick had at the London Bass Guitar Show 2013 last March was completely devoid of left-handed models. As a consequence, its very friendly and admirably patient staff had to put up with this middle-aged female bassist complaining in a strange foreign accent about discrimination, and begging them to pass on her request for lefty display models to whomever is tasked with organising their presence at future shows.
In light of all the above, it was fantastic to see that, on the day I visited, Warwick’s Manhattan store had no fewer than three lefty basses on show, and totally awesome to find that two of them were Corvette 5s, the model I’m after! I was soon all over them – and also over the third bass, a Streamer Jazzman 4, for good measure – like a rash.
The first bass I descended on was a lefty Corvette 5 $$, which lovely and infinitely helpful tech Jesse plugged for me into a small but powerful and smooth-sounding practice amp, the Warwick BC40.
Before unleashing myself on to the other two lefty basses, I decided to have a good look round the shop, which doesn’t just cater for bassists with its Warwick instruments, but also for guitarists with its Framus range. The first sight after crossing the threshold is in fact a wall covered with gorgeous Framuses.
There was also a Thumb with an airbrush finish in the colours of the German national flag – I imagine that’s the original 2009 artwork by Ingo Körner.
Turning round towards the shop window, Warwick amplification is the star of the show. (But also note the Vampyre model in the window!)
The amplification theme (with added effects and pedals) continues at the side of the shop, towards the back.
The rest of that wall on that side is covered with equally gorgeous Warwick basses.
The two basses at the front in this photo are Infinity models, followed by two Dolphins, and then several custom signatures: to the left of the blue chrome Streamer, a Bootsy Collins Infinity, a TM Stevens Streamer, and two Jack Bruce models (the red one is a Survivor).
There was, obviously, also an eminently GAS-inducing Triumph electric upright. It was right-handed, so off-limits to me, but I couldn’t resist playing it left-handed for a few seconds, and producing some random, rather tuneless notes – but I made sure there would be no audio or photographic record of the event 😉
Needless to say, I begged Jesse to ask the powers that be at Warwick to produce a left-handed version of the new, affordable Triumph Lite model, which wasn’t in the shop and is currently only available right-handed.
Jesse also took the opportunity to show me the original Framus Starbass. A piece of history! The model is being revived in a modern way.
And so I went back to play and enjoy my two remaining lefty models. I had never tried a lefty Streamer (Jazzman or other model) before, and was pleasantly surprised at how ergonomic its rounded back is.
However, the model I fell in love with was the Corvette 5 Standard, which is nearly as versatile as the $$ and sounds equally great, while being slightly simpler in terms of options offered by the pickups/knobs combination, and would be perfect for my needs (and desires!) as a currently non-gigging bass player.
It was time to leave the shop, despite feeling that I could spend the rest of the afternoon there. Actually, I decided that I want to move into the shop permanently. What a pity I’m not allowed to do that. Jesse made saying goodbye a little less painful by generously giving me an envelope full of Warwick&Framus goodies to take home and cherish: Stickers, catalogues, DVDs with tracks and lessons by all Warwick&Framus artists, phone covers, plectrums, a Framus USB key and a Warwick T-shirt!