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Surf-Jazz and Art Guitars in a Warehouse-Turned-Gallery

On Friday night, a converted warehouse in Costa Mesa, California, played host to a wild array of hand-wrought artifacts and surf-jazz skronk. The place was the Hurley headquarters; the reason was the 60th anniversary of the Fender Stratocaster; and the cause was Waves for Water, a non-profit devoted to supplying clean water to populations that are lacking around the world. 

Hurley’s pop-up art gallery served to showcase 20 unique guitars painted and otherwise redesigned by an impressive group of artists — musicians, tattooists, car customizers, Dogtown skaters, graphic gurus — currently being auctioned  via eBay (closing November 1). All proceeds from those and the event benefit the aforementioned charity, which works extensively with the surf community.

But the celebration came with a few notable perks as well. The wine flowed and the tall boys crunched as an endless supply of grub circulated and, eventually, the band played. Booked for the evening: Jared and Jonathan Mattson, a.k.a. the Mattson 2, playing with Ray Barbee — a Powell Peralta-weened pro skateboarder who, it turns out, can shred mightily when you hand him a guitar 

The trio (check their 2007 album, Ray Barbee Meets the Mattson 2) donned sharp suits to tear through a ripcurling set of hot surf-rock mixed with cool jazz. They dug deeper into the pocket as they went, whether playing a mellower, seemingly Masekela-owing number, or a stormy cut that bridged Dick Dale to Tortoise’s noisier moments. Two little boys in the front were mesmerized, and the crowd broke from snapping pictures of the Strats to nod along.

And as for those atypical art pieces, it was quite a lineup. Tat man Tokyo Hiro taught himself wood-burning to create his gorgeous offering. Graffiti king Cryptik used a metallic gold paint to lay out an arcane vortex of his trademark calligraphy. Painter Natalia Fabia’s brushstrokes were visible on a fantastical representation of a mermaid in her element. Albert de Alba Jr. and Sr. teamed up to candy-dip a guitar a la lowrider aesthetics. And at the other end of the spectrum, Ryan Adams drew a minimal sketch of a pair of cobras. 

Still, perhaps best of all, at the other end of the room encased in glass was one of the first Stratocastrers to come off of the line in 1954. It was a little dinged up, but that’s as it should be — a nice little reminder that we were in the presence of functioning greatness. Rarely do the implements of art become art themselves, but a classic Fender, painted or played, certainly qualifies.