#4: Paul Westerberg Signature Guitar

First Act_Westerberg Guitar

Paul Westerberg Signature Guitar PW580
LIST PRICE: $79.99

First Act_Westerberg Guitar

My hero Paul Westerberg finally gets his signature guitar, and it costs 79.99? Freaking Rad! If this had been any of my other favorite musicians, I would have been disappointed. I mean they sell First Act guitars at Wal-Mart, right? That’s how this guy rolls though, delivering some of the best music you’ll ever hear in a sensitive yet raunchy style, while staying true to his accessible suburban punk roots. The man fronted the mighty Replacements throughout the ’80s, had some catchy hits in the grunge era on the Singles soundtrack, and continues to make heartfelt, influential music constantly. Legend has it that the former ‘Mats frontman stopped into a Wal-Mart to buy some shaving cream on the road and ended up walking out with a guitar. That night he played it onstage and continued to rock out with it for the rest of the tour. How cool is that?

Well that guitar was a First Act ME501, and it wasn’t long before First Act approached the garage genius with an offer to design a signature model, the PW580. This little rocker has a lightweight solid body with a single cutaway, and even sports a smooth black finish with a red plaid pickguard! I don’t think I’ve ever even seen a plaid pickguard! This looks like something Westerberg, or even Andre 3000, would play onstage. I can’t decide if it’s gaudy or elegant. When I saw it, and noticed the price, I had to have one. I figured even if it turned out to be lame, I could put some work into fixing it up and raise the action for slide. I will do no such thing. This thing rocks. The single alnico pickup in the bridge position is pretty clean but can punk out if you want it to with a loud amp or a pedal. Contrary to my expectations, the PW580 stays in tune when fretting or playing open strings. It sustains well when playing lead and you can get mean feedback if you crank your amp. It makes me feel like I’m 17 and jamming on three chords in my bedroom again. A time machine! What more could I ask for for 80 bones?

As Westerberg himself describes his vision for the PW580: “Something not too heavy, that I could play quietly or full volume. It has a single pickup, and it sort of snarls. It’s lean, clean, and mean, and it doesn’t have that big, overdriven, fuzzy sound. You can get that with an amp, but the guitar itself doesn’t put it out, and that’s what I was looking for. There’s a definite old-school thing—it belongs in a garage.” While other self-appointed, self-important rock icons design their signature models with whistles and bells beyond their fans price ranges, Westerberg characteristically goes the opposite route by making his guitar affordable for all the broke-ass slop-rockers who look up to him. Very impressive! A perfect buy for ‘Mats fans who want to get their kid his first guitar, only to steal it from his bedroom to go play a gig.