Fretless Wonder

Ned Evett makes his mark


Big things break for those who wait. Boise-based singer-songwriter and fretless-guitar pioneer Ned Evett has done the waiting, now he's getting a huge break.

This month, PBS TV stations nationwide, including Idaho Public Television, will air the film Driven to Play, a documentary that chronicles Evett's ascent to victory at the 2003 North American Rock Guitar Competition.

"It is definitely a big break getting that kind of exposure," Evett says over the phone. "That's a new thing for me. The coverage is nationwide, even Alaska and Hawaii."

Driven to Play airs locally on IPTV Channel 4 on June 20 at 9:30 p.m., but another perk of living in Boise now surfaces—we can get the goods early. Evett is hosting an advance screening of the film in conjunction with a live concert at The Flicks on Sunday, June 13 at 7 p.m.—one week before the program's national debut.

The half-hour documentary follows Evett and four other finalists in last summer's competition in Buffalo, New York. The Buffalo PBS affiliate charted the course to Evett's conquest alongside the other competitors in the days and hours leading up the competition. "The name of the PBS affiliate in Buffalo is WNED!" Evett says. "That's just too odd. It was either an omen I was going to win or I was cursed to lose."

Driven features interviews with organizers, competitors' family members and the panel of judges that included Canadian guitar legend Rik Emmett and David Letterman's guitarist Sid McGinnis.

Despite an apparent likeness to the national fascination with reality programming, the documentary is more personal and more informative. "It's not like American Idol, Survivor, or anything like that," says Paul Lamont, the film's producer. "They were all supporting and cheering each other on. It just shows what level the musician lives on—it's a very strong community."

And the strong community from Buffalo to Boise praises Evett's prowess. Though a Westerner, Evett felt that the Northeast was tremendously receptive to his style. "On a personal level, I felt really good," he says of his presence over yonder. "I did a tour there in February. I find the East Coast to be right on."

Evett also toured with electric guitar guru Joe Satriani not long before the competition. With Satriani, he entertained substantial crowds, which gave him an advantage at Buffalo's sold-out throng of 1,200 guitar enthusiasts. "I felt very comfortable there." Evett says. "It was a new environment for [other competitors]."

It also helped that most other guitarists were from the East Coast and had toted along entourages of friends and family. Evett went alone. "I was just by myself," he says smugly. "I stayed in my hotel room, watched The Sopranos and got very focused."

With his fretless guitar, Evett achieves his unique sound from holding the strings against a glass fingerboard absent of punctuating frets, so it's akin to a slide guitar.

Evett's effect stunned both the judges and the audience. "Every contestant had a 10-minute set," Evett says of his winning strategy. "Rather than do two five-minute songs, I did a [medley of a] fast one, a slow one and another fast one. I gave them the roller coaster ride they wanted."

Evett, with percussionist Nate Keezer and bassist Jim Monson, will take the stage for an hour-long concert at The Flicks that will include the same medley Evett performed at the rock guitar competition. Keezer and Monson are affiliated with other Boise-area artists but will tour with Evett this summer.

Also at Evett's screening/concert at The Flicks, local artists Lisa Pisano and Erin Holzer will premiere their short animated film How to Make a Friend (in less than five minutes). Pisano and Holzer, Snapdragon Productions partners, crafted and photographed this stop-motion film. How to Make a Friend was animated and edited by Andy Lawless and features original music by Pisano's husband John, owner of Old Boise Guitar Company.

Two days after the Boise event, Evett releases his third solo album, iStole, just in time to coincide with the national broadcast. iStole is a pleasant and engaging pop/rock collection that fuses catchy lyrics with the masterful effects of his fretless guitar.

And all you fretless fanatics, look for the date to be announced later this year when Evett appears on IPTV's public affairs talk show Dialogue. The episode featuring Evett is a special unplugged edition—different from the usual sit and talk format in that it features a variety of instrumental performances.

Tickets for the film premiere/concert are available at The Flicks, The Record Exchange, Old Boise Guitar Co., the Boise Co-Op and KB's Music Exchange. $7.50 general admission. $5.50 students, children and senior citizens 65 or older.