Collectors will be displaying and selling vintage masterpieces, retailers and distributors will be showing off their wares, and vintage collectors will offer masterpieces for sale. And there will be performances from guitarists representing a huge range of styles including Jeff Lang, Lloyd Spiegel, Davidson Brothers, James Ryan, Simon Hosford, Nat Allison, Jimi Hocking, Fiona Boyes, Nick Charles, King of the North, Racer Axe (Hosford and Ryan’s cover band playing shred classics), Brett Kingman and Phil Cebrano (and the instrumental progressive rock of the Peter Hodgson Trio, a name keen eyed readers may recognise from certain Mixdown Magazine bylines) plus many more.
Rob Walker, CEO of the Australian Music Association, says “We’ll have over 50 exhibitors, among them the major suppliers and brands, prominent local and interstate retailers, local guitar and ukulele makers, local custom amp makers and a decent collection of vintage to see and buy. The major players in the guitar industry in Australia will be represented at the show.” There will be hundreds of different brands to see, try and buy, making it the biggest pop-up guitar store you’ll ever see. Walker started playing guitar in his teens, then took up bass and has played in many bands “for longer than I care to remember. I’ve been fortunate to have played in a lot of good bands over many years, and fortunate to still have a play pretty regularly now. I’ve worked at putting on a lot of music events over the last 25 years too, and written a bit about it along the way.”
Lang is looking forward to playing to a guitar-centric crowd, “I’m going to be playing solo, and it’ll probably be a mixture of recent songs alongside older tunes and some fl ying by the seat of my pants,” he says. “I’ll have my usual touring guitars – a regular six string acoustic and an acoustic lap steel both made by David Churchill in Ballarat, and a Beltona resonator guitar made by Steve Evans in New Zealand.” (And for the gearheads reading this, we couldn’t resist asking Lang what his favourite recent gear discovery is, “Alan Kelly in Geelong has made an amp called the Almach Custom 20. That thing sounds incredible! That’s my latest favourite piece of gear.”
“We’ve tried to showcase the guitar in as many forms as possible,” Walker says. “We will present the cream of Melbourne’s guitar scene, from the young guns to the seasoned pros presenting anything from ambient music and ukulele maestros, to bluegrass, and blues and roots, and jazz to straight ahead rock and high performance shredders. The clinics and workshops feature the likes of Stevic Mackay of Twelve Foot Ninja, Brett Kingman, Phil Ceberano, Jimi Hocking, Marcel Yammouni, Shannon Bourne, Lloyd Spiegel, James Ryan, Simon Hosford and many more, tapping into the ‘guitar as a communal experience’ concept: the “Dude, you have to check out this lick” nature of the instrument. I asked Lang if he had any mentors in this way coming up. “I did indeed. Early on I played alongside a guy named Mick Riley in Geelong He was very encouraging. And then when I first started touring around the country Phil Manning was the guy who was incredibly supportive and kinda showed me the ropes, made me feel welcomed into the scene. He was and remains a great player too.”
Importantly, unlike the NAMM Show or its Australian equivalent AMAC, the Melbourne Guitar Show is for the public, you don’t need to be associated with a brand, retailer or media to attend. It’s for anyone who loves the guitar or the music it makes, so families are welcome as are those who just want to hear a couple of days’ worth of great music from some of Australia’s best. So what is it that makes the guitar so enduring in the face of shifting genres and changing technology? “I guess that I was drawn to music where the guitar is prominent – rock n roll in particular early on,” Lang says.
“The electric guitar can sound really nasty and mean and that probably appealed to all the pent up frustration and confusion of being a teenager.” Walker has his own take, “I think because it can be played in so many different styles and ways. It can be used for any style of music as well as creating its own styles. The guitar is very much connected to the technological world, so the way it is played has progressed along with technology. The guitar has embraced technology really as it has expanded the applications and sounds you can get out of it. The acoustic guitar’s popularity in Australia is at an all-time high. It’s portable, you have percussion and melody in one instrument and it is the most accessible instrument for accompanying yourself too. Also the guitar is relatively easy to learn, at least enough to learn and sing a few songs. It’s also a very expressive instrument, and you don’t have to spend a fortune to get a decent one.”
The Melbourne Guitar Show takes place on August 8 and 9 at Caulfield Racecourse. Visit their website for more information.