MEL­BOURNE GUI­TAR SHOW

THE MEL­BOURNE GUI­TAR SHOW IS AN ES­SEN­TIAL EVENT FOR AUS­TRALIA’S GUI­TAR IN­DUS­TRY AND, MOST IM­POR­TANTLY, THE PLAY­ERS THEY SERVE. OUR IN­TREPID RE­PORTER BRAVED A BRO­KEN RIB AND ENOUGH PAINKILLERS TO BRING DOWN AN ELE­PHANT TO COVER THIS YEAR’S EVENT.

Australian Guitar - - Contents - WORDS AND PHOTOS BY PETER HODG­SON.

We take a sneak peek at some of the fresh­est and most fiery gear for 2018.

“And it wasn’t long be­fore this yearly cus­tom be­came an an­nual tra­di­tion.” It’s one of the great over­looked lines from The Simp­sons, but it also de­scribes how quickly the Mel­bourne Gui­tar Show has es­tab­lished it­self as a given. Now in its fourth year, the event has re­ally found its feet with the right mix of elec­tric and acous­tic, per­for­mance and pre­sen­ta­tion, and re­tail and ex­hi­bi­tion. It’s like a mini NAMM where you can buy ev­ery­thing you can see.

This year’s event was head­lined by the great Al­bert Lee, and played host to the na­tional premiere of Fender’s new Diesel sig­na­ture Stra­to­caster. I, your hum­ble nar­ra­tor, was pulling triple duty at this year’s show: host­ing live dis­cus­sion ses­sions with bassists and acous­tic gui­tarists on the Satur­day, and a Q&A with Baby An­i­mals gui­tarist Dave Les­lie on the Sun­day; hang­ing around the Re­verb booth to an­swer ques­tions about Ormsby Gui­tars, where I re­cently started do­ing Artist Re­la­tions; and, of course, re­port­ing for Aus­tralian Gui­tar.

Over the two days of the show, I got to see and hear some re­ally great gear, and get a nice over­view of where we’re at with the mu­si­cal in­stru­ment in­dus­try in Aus­tralia.

First thing’s first: this year’s show fea­tured the re­turn of Gib­son Gui­tars, now un­der the dis­trib­u­tor­ship of Aus­tralis Mu­sic. As we all know, Gib­son has un­der­gone a lot of busi­ness tur­moil in re­cent years, and their Aus­tralian dis­trib­u­tor­ship changed hands ear­lier this year.

New stock is just star ting to trickle in, and Aus­tralis had some truly beau­ti­ful spec­i­mens on hand to show Gib­son’s re­newed com­mit­ment to qual­ity. Aus­tralis is also Aus­tralia’s long­time Ibanez dis­trib­u­tor, which means they have a real understanding of the evolv­ing needs of play­ers. I have no doubt in my mind that Gib­son will be just fine un­der their cus­to­di­an­ship!

An­other com­pany to change its dis­tri­bu­tion ar­range­ments – but a lit­tle while back now – is Fender, who now have their own Fender Mu­sic Aus­tralia out­post, with most of the same faces as the pre­vi­ous Fender dis­trib­u­tor but now with the wider re­sources of the greater Fender Mu­si­cal In­stru­ment Cor­po­ra­tion.

And you could see it in Fender’s dis­play this year: a com­fort­ably, cozy oa­sis de­tatched from the rest of the MGS chaos, plenty of gui­tars on dis­play, but not so many as to feel cluttered, and with vis­ual mer­chan­dis­ing to­tally in line with what you would see at a NAMM Show in the USA.

Of par­tic­u­lar in­ter­est to booth vis­i­tors this year seemed to be the new Player Se­ries (look for the re­view in this is­sue) and the Made In Ja­pan Se­ries, which of­fers Tra­di­tional and modern Hy­brid takes on clas­sic Fender de­signs from a Ja­panese per­spec­tive, with ap­point­ments like bass­wood bod­ies and U-shaped fret­boards.

I’d like to give a spe­cial shoutout to my guests dur­ing the Meet The Play­ers ses­sions on the first day – bass leg­ends Rod Bus­tos, Craig New­man and Mitch Cairns, plus acous­tic gui­tarists Thomas Leeb, Van Larkins and Mark Fisher with Acous­tic Up­ris­ing doc­u­men­tary di­rec­tor Drew Roller; and Dave Les­lie at the Up Close & Per­sonal ses­sion on the sec­ond day. One of the big­gest high­lights of the show for me was the three-way bass jam, which was in­cred­i­bly re­veal­ing as Bus­tos, Cairns and New­man all found their own unique place in a

spon­ta­neous mu­si­cal mo­ment; Bus­tos hold­ing down a solid groove and Cairns find­ing a place in the mid­dle to add har­monic colour while New­man played beau­ti­ful melodies over the top.

And the acous­tic ses­sion was re­ally fun, with each of the three play­ers having their own very unique take on acous­tic gui­tar as a full band. Les­lie shared some great sto­ries about jam­ming on AC/DC cov­ers with Ed­die Van Halen back­stage and tour­ing with The An­gels, while show­ing off his in­cred­i­ble Gru­bisa Mer­lin gui­tar.

There was a lot of great stuff to dis­cover wan­der­ing the var­i­ous dis­plays and booths. For in­stance, at the Re­verb booth, au­thor Wadih Hanna dis­played his book on Ma­ton Gui­tars. Ti­tled Made In Aus­tralia: My Mat on

Col­lec­tion, the book is al­most as in­cred­i­ble as his ac­tual col­lec­tion, span­ning over 400 Ma­ton gui­tars. He’d even brought a few of them with him, in­clud­ing an ul­tra rare Phil Man­ning model stereo elec­tric gui­tar, which fea­tures an easy‑ac­cess neck joint that beat com­pa­nies like Ibanez to the punch with such a fea­ture by about two decades.

An­other joy ev­ery year is the Sun­burst Mu­sic stand, where you can gaze upon row af­ter row of beau­ti­ful vin­tage gui­tars, from ‘40s Gib­sons to ‘50s Strats to ‘60s Te­les to ‘70s Rick­en­back­ers to ‘90s Charvel Sur­f­cast­ers, and ev­ery­thing in‑be­tween. This is also a great place to just stand around and lis­ten to Phil Ce­ber­ano play­ing sweet, bluesy licks through primo gear.

And up at the acous­tic floor, it was great to catch up with CMC’s Rick Chad­wick. CMC has just picked up the Faith acous­tic gui­tar brand – a re­ally beau­ti­ful line of in­stru­ments with modern playa­bil­ity and a dis­tinc­tive look. CMC is also home to the Ernie Ball Mu­sic Man brand in Aus­tralia, so it’ll be fun to see what the y can do with the Faith line and their dealer net­work.

It’s al­ways fun to stop by the In­no­va­tive Mu­sic booth to see play­ers try­ing out the Kem­per Pro­filer for the first time, and learn­ing just how amp‑like it re­ally feels. Like­wise, folks at the Line 6 booth were all tak­ing in the pro­cess­ing power of the Helix sys­tem.

We’vee re­ally reached the point of ma­tu­rity for this kind of tech­nol­ogy where, even if it doesn’t smell like a real valve amp or put your back out cart­ing it up the stairs, you can sure fool a lot of dis­cern­ing lis­ten­ers when they hear th­ese units com­ing out of a PA sys­tem or a stereo.

Per­haps the best thing about the Mel­bourne Gui­tar Show is the op­por­tu­nity to rub shoul­ders with your fel­low gui­tar play­ers, be they folks you typ­i­cally only run into a gigs where it’s too noisy to re­ally talk, re­tail staff you’ve bought gear from over the years, or play­ers from bands like Ne Oblivis­caris or Baby An­i­mals, or leg­ends like Diesel. You can even meet the folks who im­port your favourite in­stru­ments to the coun­try (or, in many cases, the luthiers who make them right here).

Events like this are a cru­cial feed­back loop for the gui­tar com­mu­nity. They let you know what’s hap­pen­ing, they put you in touch with in­dus­try and me­dia leg­ends, they help you find your next great gui­tar, and ul­ti­mately, they re­in­force that no mat­ter our dif­fer­ences as gui­tarists, we all have this won­der­ful in­stru­ment in com­mon.

Yamaha’s Revs­tar model con­tin­ues to im­press (and just plain look cool). Mark Fisher per­forms at the Art Of Finger­style Gui­tar ses­sion. Wadih Hanna with his ul­tra rare Ma­ton Phil Man­ning sig­na­ture gui­tar, and the book about his 400-plus Ma­ton col­lec­tion. Sun­burst Mu­sic’s vin­tage and vin­tage-vibed gear is al­ways a Mel­bourne Gui­tar Show high­light. Tay­lor Gui­tars can al­ways be re­lied upon for beau­ti­ful tops and flaw­less play­bil­ity.

The Bass Cen­tre isn’t afraid of a lit­tle bling. The su­per pop­u­lar Made In Ja­pan Hy­brid se­ries from Fender. The Fender Clas­sic se­ries has some un­de­ni­ably nos­tal­gic fin­ishes. No heads are bet­ter than one at the .stran­berg* booth. The lat­est Ernie Ball Mu­sic Man good­ies, in­clud­ing the James Valen­tine and St. Vin­cent sig­na­ture mod­els. The Ma­ton booth is al­ways a must‑visit dur­ing ev­ery show.

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