Yesterday was a day-trip to the Music Live show and the accompanying Guitarfest at the NEC. It was a good day and, being Friday, not overly busy. There were lots of goodies on display and some great bargains especially on the Roland/Boss stand. It was interesting to see the differing approach of the exhibitors; some very clearly going to town and others more chaotic or low-key.
My list of highs from the day:
Joe Bonamassa – Although playing a full-blown set tonight (Saturday) he was slated to be bringing his Blues In The Schools programme to the UK on Friday afternoon. Unfortunately, it looked like no-one told him. The result – after a few stage problems and wonderfully viral heckling of "Bring on the Trumpets" – was an excellently fiery acoustic set by Bonamassa which included Ball Peen Hammer, one of my favourites.
Simon McBride – McBride was demo-ing for PRS guitars and succeeding in partially defusing my unfounded prejudice against those very beautiful guitars. He’s a great blues-rock player who has just released his debut solo album.
The Quireboys – The evening’s Guitarfest event was about an hour late in starting and the audience was fairly small. However, the Quireboys played a storming set typical of their provenance as the ultimate good-time party band.
Vinnie Moore – I’m not a great shred fan but Moore played fantastically well. Awesome speed with not a little taste and delicacy.
The Get Experienced Festival Tent was a forum for new and student talent to get up and perform. Everyone I saw was excellent (except for one unfortunate, horribly out of time singer). I was drawn in by a pair of great guitarists playing Hotel California and stayed for half a dozen songs by a constantly rotated line-up.
Well, just two really.
The Stage Crew – Sorry, but all the main acts I saw were hampered by the same problem; an inability to connect guitar to amp. All of these were eventually solved by the innovative solution of starting at the guitar in question and following the cable back to the amp… where it inevitably wasn’t.
Fender – I am an enormous Fender fan but their inflatable mini-igloo just didn’t work. The guitars were poorly displayed and the self-demo equipment cramped and inaccessible. The demonstrator seemed pretty well-versed but was so quiet that only the four kids at the front of the "crowd" of 12 or so could hear either what he said or played. The other stand crew seemed pretty disinterested. Actually, Fender’s wares were better much better displayed and more accessible on the stands of the major retailers. Fender would have been better served by devoting the space to a decent stage for a competent demonstrator and then letting the retailers do the touchy-feelly piece. It was very disappointing and although I quite liked the look of the Jaguar (which I think was a Classic Player), I went away none the wiser. By contrast, Gibson had a much better planned area which, although admittedly far larger, had a great help-yourself lounge area, a small stage and their glossiest Epiphones and Gibsons hung on the back walls. I’m not a big Gibson fan but the stand was very professional.