Steve Vai and Michael Angelo Batio joined a world record breaking jam yesterday as 7,967 guitarists converged upon Wrocław Market Square, Poland, to cover Jimi Hendrix standard Hey Joe, and it’s one of the most bonkers sounding covers you’ll hear.
To some ears, this sounds like a field recording from the floor of the Anaheim Convention Center during day three of NAMM. To Vai, this massive agglomeration of acoustic and electric guitars sounded like “somebody kicked a beehive.”
But it was the ideal preparation before he took the stage at Wrocław’s Hala Stulecia on Monday night, for the latest European leg of his epic Inviolate 2023 Tour.
“It sounded like someone kicked a bee hive!” said Vai, on Instagram. “It was glorious to see all those folks playing guitars and enjoying the event. Really quite amazing. Thanks to the festival for inviting me. We go on stage for our set soon. Poland knows how to have a good time!”
Polish blues-rock guitarist Leszek Cichoński was behind the event, which has become something of a May Day tradition in Wrocław, and assembled the biggest ever guitar orchestra for the world-record attempt.
Just look at the footage; it’s just a sea of humanity, headstocks and strings. “It was a perfect day,” said Batio, whose Electric Guitarlands Tour hits Vienna tonight.
There, Batio will be upping the tempo. Hey Joe is barely practice speed for the Chicago speedster whose discography features some of the most blazing neoclassical shred metal guitar ever committed to tape.
But good luck finding three people who can play Planet Gemini from front to back. Jimi Hendrix’s Hey Joe is the democratisation of virtuosity write large, a track in which the greatest player of all time kept it simple but left room for decorative flourishes when the occasion called for it.
Ordinarily, we’d pick up a Fender Stratocaster for an easy afternoon jam on Hey Joe but Vai and Batio are extremists. Vai was on his white Ibanez ‘Evo’ JEM signature guitar, leaving the Hydra behind and the multi-neck action to Batio, who had his custom-build double-necked Dean for the day. He was also pictured with his MAB2 Aviator S-style, and looked delighted to be there. Everyone did.
The performance beats previous world records set in Wrocław, which is fast becoming to Hey Joe what Woodstock was to The Star-Spangled Banner. Back in 2008, it was some 1,900 guitarists. In 2018, 7,411 guitarists jammed on Hey Joe. Last 1 May there were 7,676. It is surely only a matter of time before we break the 8,000 mark. Next May in Wrocław? Bring a guitar.