M9: The Cure For Lousy Backlines Everywhere

Busy guitarist Mike McManus knows better than to rely solely on backline amps for his guitar tones. Which is why he doesn’t leave home without his Line 6 M9 Stompbox Modeler. Two cities in two nights with two different bands = zero opportunity for tonal meltdown.

By Mike McManus

Fly-away gigs. Every working musician does them every now and again. You take your guitar and whatever pedals and cords you may need, fly to the next city, get to the venue and pray for a semi-decent backline amp to play through. More often than not… it’s garbage.

I recently had the pleasure of enduring back-to-back fly-away gigs and lived to tell about it. A Friday night gig in Phoenix with my Queen tribute band, Queen Nation, and then a Saturday night gig in Las Vegas with Platinum Rockstars, a 70’s and 80’s classic rock tribute show.


As I packed for my two-night adventure, I grabbed my newly acquired Line 6 M9 Stompbox Modeler, ecstatic that it fit neatly in my small, over-stuffed suitcase – those wigs and 70’s clothes take up a lot of room! Grabbing my guitar and suitcase, I began my journey from Burbank Airport to Phoenix Airport.

Arriving at the venue in Phoenix, I walked up on stage and saw it: the dreaded “backline 1x12 combo amp.” (Let me just pause here to say that venue names and amp names shall remain anonymous. I know where my bread is buttered and I’d still like to get invited back!) Now, I like Keith Richards as much as the next guy. However, trying to play soaring Brian May leads with a Keith Richards tone just ain’t gonna cut it in front of 350 die-hard Queen fans. That’s where my beloved M9 comes in. Setting the amp on a semi-decent clean setting (even the lousiest amp can get you THAT), I set my M9’s FX1 Unit to “Line 6 Drive” and whipped up a nice creamy overdrive. Later, Keef! I used the FX2 Unit for the slightest of analog chorusing and FX3 for just a dash of the “’63 Spring Reverb.” Later that evening in front of a packed house… I made the rockin’ world go ‘round.


Guitar? Check. M9? Check. Sweaty Brian May wig? Check. I’m off to the airport! I arrived in Vegas around noon for my big casino gig with the Platinum Rockstars classic rock superstar show. In this band we do mini-sets of Led Zeppelin, Boston, Foreigner, Journey, Van Halen, Def Leppard, and Bon Jovi. Needless to say, the M9 is getting a workout tonight. I lugged my guitar and suitcase full o’ stuff up on to the Vegas stage and saw what the venue had provided for me: the dreaded “beat-to-crap half-stack” backline amp. Now, I like Malcolm Young as much as the next guy. However, trying to play ultra gain-y solos from Tom Sholz, Neal Schon, etc… Ya see where I’m going with this? Time to whip it out. I plugged in my M9 and immediately got the “there’s no way you’re getting THAT tone out of THAT amp” look from my band mates.

I fully utilized two banks of M9 settings. Bank A is for the Classic Distortion setting. Oodles of “Opto-Trem” for “The Immigrant Song”, and a little helping of “Plate Reverb” should do me for the Zep and Foreigner sets. Bank B is for the “Big Hair” set. Lotsa gain, chorus, and delay courtesy of the “Line 6 Drive”, “Tri Chorus” and “Digital Delay” settings. And I’m just scratching the surface of what the M9 can do. Before I knew it, the ladies of Vegas were boogying to Boston, jumping to Journey, and dancing to Def Leppard. And yes… Sugar was poured on me. But that’s a story for another time.

Two great nights. Two bad amps. One great pedal. Tons of awesome tones!