“I feel like with [major sponsor] Triple M coming on board, and with us being able to see what worked last year, I think if we do our job well then we can get a few more [people in than last year],” he says. With 20 more stalls booked in already this year, and a whole new area for all things acoustic, his prediction for a bigger show doesn’t look far off the mark. “We’ve got a pretty full program of artists and entertainers, and all the same great products coming back again as well, plus a few more. It’s been a good reaction and a good result so far,” he continues.
Varying the types of performances is one way that those planning the show are attempting to improve it, as well as trying to find a good balance of male and female acts in different genres. In a change from last year, there will be a real focus on group performances, with a whole heap of different jams, shows and small groups playing at the show; there’s even a ukulele orchestra. With all these different groups playing, you’d be forgiven for thinking that there might be difficulty in getting so many performers together, but Rob assures me that isn’t the case.
“Everyone loves the idea, the concept. Last year’s event was such a happy event for everybody, there was so little negativity about any aspect of the show,” he says. “People did good business, the artists played well and generally there was a great vibe, so everyone’s been really looking forward to the repeat of it this year.”
Billed as Australia’s largest pop-up guitar shop, the show will be a good opportunity to see a whole range of gear. As part of their 70th anniversary celebrations, there will be a Maton Custom Shop seminar at the show, which will detail the history of the company. This is one of the many seminars, clinics and workshops at the show, and one person who will be running a workshop is former Skyhooks and The Angels guitarist, Bob Spencer.
“I’ve had a long involvement with the Australian Music Association,” Bob says. “In 2001, I started the Victorian end of the Weekend Warrior program.” This involvement led to a phone call from his old friend Rob Walker, asking if he wanted to be involved in the upcoming Melbourne Guitar Show, a chance he grabbed with both hands.
“[At the show] I’ll be doing a couple of things. One is that I’ll be involved in a performance where there’ll be some songs played, either I’ll do those with a little band or I’ll sit in with someone else and I‘ll be part of the Professor Guitar series, in which I’ll be talking about certain aspects of playing and performing. And I guess, in general, I’ll be pouncing about doing some kind of guitar-ey things.”
In his Professor Guitar workshops he will be imparting some of his wisdom learnt from more than 40 years in the industry on those attending, but don’t expect a lesson on crotchets and treble clefs. “I want nothing to do with theory, I’m a bit over theory. My workshop will probably be a performance-based workshop, which is really where my interest lies. Since my involvement with the Weekend Warriors, my angle has been about performance. When I say performance I don’t mean how to do the splits on stage, I mean tailoring your playing, your equipment, your sound, your approach for the gig and the band.”
Where Bob is focusing on performance, there will be many other experts focusing on many other aspects of guitar playing, meaning the show is set to have something that appeals to just about every patron. It’s a structure that’s hopefully setting up the festival for a long and successful history.
“Australia has some fantastic festivals and shows like this, and we’d like to keep the guitar on the agenda from here on in,” says Rob. “We’d like to grow with more makers, and more products and more artists, maybe even some overseas artists and more interstate artists, but at the moment we’re doing it with the means we have and we’re happy with the results. It’s really about not only maintaining the standard, but trying to just lift it each year as we go.”
The Melbourne Guitar Show will be taking place at Caulfield Racecourse on August 6 and 7. For more information visit australianmusician.com.au/melbourne-guitar-show.