Guitarist Mark Kroos captivates crowd at Troutman library show
BY DEBBIE PAGE
Playing his double-neck guitar, with stints of self-deprecating humor between songs, musician Mark Kroos entertained the crowd with his remarkable skills during a 90-minute performance at J. Hoyt Hayes Memorial Troutman Library on Thursday afternoon.
Joking about being loud and naughty in the library, Kross played a variety of musical styles to reach his audience, which ranged in age from elementary students to grandparents.
Kroos sprang to national attention in 2013 when a video of him playing “Dueling Banjos,” using both necks of his specialty Ovation guitar, went viral. After his brush with fame, Kross decided to take his show on the road, touring all over the country over the past five years.
Guitarist Jimmy Page popularized the double-neck guitar in rock music about 45 years ago while playing “Stairway to Heaven,” but he and other guitarists using this instrument played only one neck at a time.
Kroos first experimented playing two musical lines by playing his guitar, using a tapping method, with his right hand while playing another guitar, lying flat in a case, with his left. Finding this process “uncomfortable and awkward," he ordered his first double-neck off eBay about eight years ago and then perfected his distinctive style of play.
Kroos uses “hammer on” and “pull on” techniques with both hands simultaneously on both necks to play his melodies, which require weeks of work to arrange. He played the Sesame Street song, which has a call-and-response pattern, to demonstrate how he can play a different musical line on each neck.
While performing “Sweet Low, Sweet Chariot,” Kroos used the hammer technique on the top neck while strumming on the bottom to play the combined musical lines.
Kroos also played original songs, including the lyrical “Flight Attempt,” the whimsical love song “Great Wife Shark,” his “misfit song “Sketchy Tomatoes,” and “Indigo Child,” the first instrumental piece that he composed using two guitars before switching to a double-neck instrument.
His melody “Dogs” had a particularly interesting back story. While staying with a friend, Kroos swam laps in his pool, noticing that his friend’s three-legged pit bull Honey Bear was walking up and down beside the pool as he swam.
“It occurred to me that this three-legged dog was lifeguarding for me,” said Kroos. “If I had gotten in distress, I believe she would have hopped in the pool to help me. It was really amazing to see that kind of love, the complete and total admiration of someone exactly the way they are.”
“I believe that dogs are the epitome of unconditional love,” said Kroos. “If this little three-legged dog can show me that kind of love, someone she’s never met before and doesn’t know, certainly I must be capable of showing that kind of love.”
“This little dog made me want to be a better man, a better husband, a better stranger on the street, just all the time, as much as I can,” said Kross as he began to play “Dogs,” his ode to Honey Bear on his just released album Clarity.
Kroos also impressed attendees by playing AC/DC’s “Back in Black” and “Thunderstruck” in an amazing blended arrangement and an innovative version of the traditional wedding song “Canon in D” by Johann Pachelbel.
“I take a lot of liberties with music arrangements,” Kroos said of his cover selections.
Kroos continually tuned his guitars, also using capos and tying bandanas on the necks to create the exact sounds he wanted to create.
“You must be in perfect tune when playing two necks at once,” said Kroos, who believes playing even slightly out of tune causes a disconnect between the music and the listeners, even if they are not consciously aware of the discordance.
Kroos and his wife Nora are in the process of packing up their belongings and putting them in storage as they prepare to embark on a six-month tour of the Midwest, Northwest and British Columbia in the next few weeks. He will play at 30 elementary schools in Kelowna, B.C., in May.
They plan to return to the Charlotte area to settle after their cross-country musical odyssey is complete.
EXPERIENCE THE MUSIC
Kroos’ music is available on his website (https://markkroos.com) as a download or on CD, as is his touring schedule. Videos of his music as well as explanations of his unique playing style are on his YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/user/mskroos