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SurfGuitar101 Forums » Show Announcements »

Permalink The Phantom Four US West Coast with John Blair starts this weekend!

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Boys and girls: This weekend is the big one in SoCal. So much happening, everyone needs to carry a calendar/Daytimer in their pocket to keep track of all the shows. THEN, there's next week. If you're in the Las Vegas/Henderson, Nevada area, there's THIS:


The Phantom Four tour in retrospect. Let me state unequivocally at the start that this was one of my life’s great adventures. I was honored to have been asked to join Niels Jansen, Phantom Frank Gerritson, and Marc de Regt for this tour and the experience was better than I had imagined it would be. I first saw this Dutch band at the Surfer Joe Festival in Italy back in 2011, and I was totally blown away by their music, performance, and stage presence. Having the opportunity to join them for a series of shows this past month was one of life’s amazing curve balls.

We met up in Seattle, Washington, in the early evening of August 3 and went out for some nice Mexican cuisine. We regrouped the following day to start rehearsals. The next day, after several more hours of rehearsing, we headed to KEXP-FM, a public radio station, for a live on-the-air session. Then, we joined Evan Foster and his great band, The Boss Martians, for the first gig at Darrell's Tavern that evening. Dusty Watson (drummer extraordinaire and member of The Sonics, along with Evan) happened to be in town that night and was at the club. As many will remember, Dusty played drums for my band, Jon & The Nightriders, back in the 80s and 90s. He joined us onstage that evening for a ballsy version of my tune, “Rumble at Waikiki.” The Boss Martians were on fire, as usual, and a helluva good time was had by all.

The next night, we played Portland, Oregon. More of life’s amazing curve balls awaited me there. I met up with two guys before the show who were both influential in my early guitar playing days back in the 1960s: Rick Clingman and Bill Howitt. Rick went to my high school and played lead guitar in a band called The Esquires, known for their lone single release, “Flashin’ Red” ( The Esquires were one of the two or three local surf bands that made me want to form a band and make records. I hadn’t seen him in over 50 years!! Bill Howitt was the other guitarist in my late 60’s psychedelic band, Columbia Bicycle. We met during my first year of college. For one summer between my freshman and sophomore years, the band rented an old Victorian house in Claremont, CA, and lived there together, practicing in the living room, and playing Love-Ins and the like in SoCal. Except for a brief encounter about eight or nine years ago, I hadn’t seen Bill since 1968. I can’t begin to explain what it was like to meet up with both of these guys at the same moment in time during a band tour. A little surreal, perhaps, and certainly synchronistic, but what a special evening it was for me.

We flew down to San Jose for the first really big show of the tour, at the Ritz Theater together with Messer Chups (from Russia), The Bradipos IV (from Italy), and local bands Frankie & The Pool Boys, and Fascinating Creatures of The Deep. Great venue, great audience, and really good supporting bands. We made a personal appearance on nearby KFJC radio the next day. Great running into Phil Dirt at the station. He’s one of surf music’s greatest supporters and radio dj’s. Hadn’t seen him in years. The first leg of our tour ended that afternoon as I boarded a plane to fly home to Southern California and the other three Phantoms took off on a three-day journey through Yosemite, King’s Canyon, and Sequoia National Parks. We all met up at my house four days later to begin the second leg of the tour.

Besides several shows in San Diego (at which my neice, Jennifer Blair Sundstrom Vedenoff, showed up!!!!), Los Angeles, and Huntington Beach, the second really big show happened on August 13 in Torrance, California, at the annual Surf Guitar 101 Convention. This 12-hour event featured over 10 surf bands from all over the world with The Phantom Four headlining. Comments, photos, and videos abound on FB, YouTube, and at (the #1 website for anyone interested in surf music).

It was at our appearance at the Surf Dogs sports bar on August 15 in Huntington Beach that someone walked away with my backpack (an olive drab, canvass Jansport pack). If you have it, I’d really appreciate having it returned.

On August 17th, we played in Las Vegas. There was a huge forest fire that started two days before and had the main freeway to Vegas shut down. We had to take an alternate route, one that added over two hours to the usual 4 ½ hour drive. We made it just in time for the gig, then drove back home the next day.

The third biggest show of the tour happened on the 18th. We drove back to San Diego, but this time the show was during the opening night of the big, annual, Tiki Oasis Fest, a gathering of Hawaiiana fans. We had the BEST audience and the best onstage sound system of any of our shows on this tour. The show was awesome and very memorable, at least for me. I hope the audience felt the same way. Just a great evening.

Finally, the last (and shortest) leg of the tour: Arizona. We had two shows, one in Tucson and the other 110 miles away in Phoenix. After we passed the California/Arizona border, and as the sun set, we hit a nasty little sandstorm that lasted for a few minutes. I guess these things are common in that part of the world, but I don’t think I’ve ever driven through a sandstorm like that before. The weather, however, had not finished giving us a solid Arizona welcome. Shortly after the sandstorm, we hit a torrential monsoon rainstorm unlike anything I’ve experienced before. For a good 15-20 minutes (maybe longer), we had to slow way-y-y-y down from the posted speed limit of 75 mph to a creeping 10-15 mph. The rain was falling so fast and hard that my windshield wipers couldn’t keep up. It was now pitch dark and there were no lights on the highway nor obvious places to pull off. So, we kept driving, albeit very, very slowly until the rain abated. Pretty scary, actually.

Both the sandstorm and torrential downpour of rain put us behind schedule by a few minutes. When we finally arrived in Tucson and made our way to the club, the supporting band, The Surfside IV, were halfway through their opening set. They also played at the gig in Phoenix the next night. Those last two shows went well for us, the weather was cooperative, and the audiences – although a tad on the small size – were appreciative and seemed to have a good time.

The other three Phantom Four flew back to Holland from Phoenix the next morning. We tried to have a final breakfast together, but two restaurants we tried had lengthy waiting lists. There wasn’t any time left to drive around and find someplace without people waiting. And so, standing in the parking lot of a Waffle House, we said our goodbyes. Neils, Frank, and Marc left for the airport while I hit the freeway for the uneventful 5-hour drive back home to SoCal.

So, there it was. I have so many memories and great feelings that go way beyond what I’ve written here. Sharing the road with those three guys from Holland was a tremendous and fun experience. The Phantom Four are a wonderful band that deserves to be heard by the masses. If you aren’t familiar with them, please check them out, buy their music, and enjoy what I’ve had the pleasure of playing a dozen times in the last three weeks. An experience like this most likely won’t happen again. Maybe it will although the experience wouldn’t be the same. I truly thank the band for their interest in me and my guitar playing, for putting up with the older guy in the band for three weeks, and for allowing me to share the stage with you. I also thank all of those who came out to see us from Seattle to Portland, to San Jose and SoCal, San Diego, and Arizona. Thanks to the bands and to promoter Jeff Hanson who helped book all of the shows on this tour. Neils Jansen is the main force behind North Sea Surf Radio, a 24/7 streaming, commercial-free, radio station that plays nothing but instrumental surf music. Please check them out (

Thanks for sharing this great write-up John! I feel truly fortunate to have seen this lineup twice... It was one of many mind blowing experiences from the SG101 convention weekend. I wish I could have caught the Tiki Oasis performance... and who am I kidding... ALL the shows you did together. I never thought I would get to see The Phantom Four live, and lo and behold I did... with JOHN BLAIR!!!

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"It starts... when it begins" -- Ralf Kilauea

Thank you for posting here John,
I feel fortunate to have seen you guys 5 times,
I wish it was more, the Tiki oasis performance was awesome!
I really recommend that people go to Tiki Oasis the following weekend,
After SG101. It's worth it!


I left out a lot in my recap of the P4 tour. I didn’t mention losing my prescription glasses in Arizona; the A/C in my car failing while in Las Vegas’ 100+ degree temps; Phantom Frank realizing his Seattle-purchased Mexican Jazzmaster wasn’t cutting it and deciding to play one of my Stratocasters for the rest of the tour; taking band photographs among the saguaro cacti at a state park near Tucson for a future record release; hanging out with, and enjoying the company of, Messer Chups at several tour stops; sharing the stage with some really good bands (including the Chups, The Boss Martians, Surfside IV, Space Cossacks, The Bradipos IV, The Secret Samurai, and so many more); seeing old friends again whose paths I seem to cross semi-frequently (including, but not limited to, Ivan Pongracic, Ferenc Dobronyi and his wife Karen, and George Tomsco of The Fireballs); meeting Gundi Berlin; soaking in the Tiki Oasis vibe; and my ’61 Fender Reverb tank dying (or otherwise expiring, departing, passing away) in the middle of our last set at our last tour stop in Phoenix. Probably a fuse or a bad tube that I'll get fixed after I recouperate from all this.

I was lucky to catch the tour in Tucson. All the bands were great that night. I was a happy camper and ended up buying everything they had for sale, except for John's books, which I happened to bring along so that John could sign them!

Matt "tha Kat" Lentz
Skippy and the Skipjacks: 2018-
Otto and the Ottomans: 2014-2015
The Coconauts surf band: 2009-2014
Group Captain and the Mandrakes 2013
The Surfside IV: 2002-2005, 2008-2009
the Del-Vamps: 1992-1999, 2006-2007

Here are a bunch of photos taken during our live, on-air appearance at KEXP-FM radio (Shake The Shack program) in Seattle on 8/5/16:


I was lucky enough to see the Phantom Four in San Jose and all I cam say is wow. I could go in depth about the playing, the energy, etc. In a nutshell, it made me realize how much can be done within this genre. Mr. Blair, it was a privilege seeing you on stage. I hope I get to see you guys again, soon!!

The Me Gustas

John, THANK YOU for this great summary of your adventures with the Phantom Four! It sounds like it truly was unforgettable! Having been a fan of the Treble Spankers since '94 and the Phantom Four since their very beginning in '04 (I was reading about them online as they were about to play their first gig, and bought their debut live CD as soon as it came out!), I cannot tell you how special it was for me to finally see Frank play in person - and then to see him play with YOU was a big bonus! My expectations were very high - but you guys far just shattered them! Your set at the convention is hands-down my favorite hour of live surf music in a long time. I was completely blown away. (Unfortunately, with the Space Cossacks going on after you at the pier, I wasn't able to watch at least half of your set or enjoy very much what I saw due to nerves and having to get ready, etc. But it was still a big pleasure to see you there, too.)

I wanted to tell you that I thought you yourself did an excellent job on second guitar. It was obvious all of you guys loved playing together and had a great deal of respect for each other. The camaraderie was obvious and infectious. I was also deeply impressed by Niels' drumming and Marc's bass playing - I already knew they were great, but seeing them live gave me an even higher level of appreciation. I was in particular surprised by how powerful Niels' drumming is live. Whoah. The dude kicks some serious ass!! And it was so much fun hearing your songs played by the Phantom Four - it gave them a whole different spin! It was definitely the Phantom Four playing John Blair, and that was very cool!

And then there's Frank. I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that Frank has probably been my greatest influence and inspiration in surf music. The Phantom Four albums were highly instrumental back in '94-5 in making me see the unlimited potential of this genre that so many people think of as pretty limited. He was also highly influential to me in terms of his approach to exotic scales and tonalities, as well as his intensely melodic approach to his songs. The Treble Spankers' "Jaa Rabbi" comes to mind as a very important song in my own development as a surf musician - its dynamics and structure, its power and beauty, the sheer lack of compromise in creating a 3-minute masterpiece of modern surf music. Well, witnessing all that live was a real dream come true. I'd venture to say that Frank operates at a different level than the rest of us - he really is some sort of a mad genius! Danny and I were joking on FB that we both wish we could BE Frank, in musical terms, but since we can't we have to settle for being ourselves! I have no idea how to do what Frank does with his music, and maybe it's for the best, since if I did I'd just be ripping him off all the time!

Anyway, thank you again, thank you for playing, thank you for making it possible for them to do this tour, and thank you for rocking so hard! It's another big accomplishment in an unmatched career!

The Madeira Official Website
The Madeira on Facebook
The Blair-Pongracic Band on Facebook
The Space Cossacks on Facebook
The Madeira Channel on YouTube

A simple thank you in response to what you've written above isn't strong enough, Ivan. Nevertheless, thank you for all of that kindness. This tour -- getting to do over a dozen shows with Frank, Niels, and Marc -- was a very special one for me. Each one was a joy, musically. Frank is a different, driven guy on stage than off. His love of world music forms the core of what he does on the fretboard. The tunes he's written are uniquely his and I most definitely allowed and encouraged the three of them to put their own spin on my tunes. We all had a lot of fun doing this together. I'm grateful it appeared to have rubbed off on our audiences, too.

Last edited: Aug 27, 2016 19:30:46

The first live performance on the first day of last month's Phantom Four tour took place at the KEXP studios in Seattle, Washington. KEXP is a public radio station and this performance went out live over the air, and streamed online, on 5 August, 2016. We had finished our 2nd rehearsal for the tour only two hours earlier and played our first full gig later that evening at Darrell's Tavern with Marieke & The Go- Get'Em Boys, and The Boss Martians. (For the guitarists out there, Frank and I had to play out of Ampeg amps. Keep that in mind as you listen to this.)


Thanks, John! REALLY enjoyed that! I didn't get to hear it when it first aired, so it was great to catch up. A very nice interview, too! (And I can hear already the problems with Frank's JM - it went badly out of tune during Ramgaya. Perhaps he should stick to the Strats from now on.... Twisted Evil The Ampeg amps actually sounded pretty good! I never would have guessed. Any idea what models? New or vintage?)

The Madeira Official Website
The Madeira on Facebook
The Blair-Pongracic Band on Facebook
The Space Cossacks on Facebook
The Madeira Channel on YouTube

John wrote:

Here are a bunch of photos taken during our live, on-air appearance at KEXP-FM radio (Shake The Shack program) in Seattle on 8/5/16:


Those are great photos; album and publicity quality.

The Ampeg amps actually sounded pretty good! I never would have guessed. Any idea what models? New or vintage?)

I'm afraid I don't know my way around Ampeg amps. They were both small combo amps. Didn't look to be very old. You can see them in the photos of our session here:

Personally, I thought they sounded rather thin for the kind of music we were playing. Didn't have more than a couple of minutes to mess with them, however, before we went live on the air. Perhaps the tone could've been dialed in better if we'd had some more time.

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