Sunday, 15 June 2008

London Guitar Show 2008

[Warning: Longest Guitarz post EVER! (Don't worry, it's mostly photos). You might want to get yourself a drink or something before continuing.]

This weekend has seen London's ExCel Centre host the London Guitar Show 2008, now part of a bigger event, the London International Music Show. I nipped along to see what, if anything, was new and to take some pictures for you guys.

Vigier fretless guitar
The first thing to grab my attention was this incandescent Vigier Excaliber fretless guitar with Delta metal fingerboard. (Delta metal is, I believe, an alloy of Vigier's own recipe!) These sound fantastic, the metal fingerboard creates excellent sustain - even on the unwound strings. But, yeah, I know this guitar is nothing new - they've been around for a fair while now. So, moving on...

Rainsong graphite acoustic guitarPosh Voxes
The next guitar to capture my attention was this Rainsong acoustic (above left) made completely out of graphite. Picking it up, it was as light as a feather, and it played pretty nicely too with a very bright sound which would be perfect for fingerpicking. The weave in the graphite gives the guitar a gorgeous finish too. A lovely guitar, for sure, but I was quite alarmed when I saw the price. The new Vox Virage guitars (above right) also looked very sexy and had an equally scary price tag.

The Vox Scooter!
Vox also had this scooter on display, which was nice. I resisted the urge to take her for a spin and instead tried out some of the cheaper end of their product line: the amPlug range. I was impressed! These little headphone amps actually sound great - my favourite was the Classic Rock model. I'm definitely buying one or more of these.

Indie Ricky-a-likesIndie Rastafarian acoustic
Indie Guitars had a handsome pair of Ricky-a-likes on display (above left... Did someone say "lawsuit"?), and also some oddly coloured guitars such as this Rasta acoustic (above right).

Ibanez acoustics
I preferred the finish on these Ibanez acoustics. Check out the bookmatched tops on this pair.

Ibanez web guitarJoe Satriani guitar
Also on the Ibanez stand was this "web" guitar (above left), with the web design cut into the face of the guitar itself. The body material for this guitar was most unusual. It felt like some kind of solidified expanded polystytrene, and was very light and plasticky. Too plasticky for my tastes. The Surfing With The Alien guitar (above right) reminded us that Joe Satriani was somewhere in the building. Not that I was bothered, if I am honest.

Billy Sheehan
We didn't see Mr Santriani, but we did see this guy, Billy Sheehan, putting a Yamaha Attitude bass through its paces.

Fender Andy Summers TelecasterFender Stevie Ray Vaughan Lenny Stratocaster
Over on the Fender stand were loads of relics and custom shop jobbies including this Andy Summers Telecaster and Stevie Ray Vaughan "Lenny" Stratocaster. I have to say I felt quite underwhelmed seeing them in the flesh.

Also on the Fender stand were...
Fender J Mascis JazzmasterFender J5 Triple Tele Deluxe
...this sparkly purple J Mascis Jazzmaster and this difficult to photograph black and chrome beauty, the J5 Triple Tele Deluxe.

Not to mention...
Some pointy JacksonsCharvel and Jackson guitars
...lots of pointy pointy Jacksons, the odd Charvel...

A gathering of Gretsches
...and a whole gathering of Gretsches!

Warwick headless bassWarwick Star fretless bass
There were plenty of basses and amps on the Warwick stand. Those that caught my attention were this familiar looking Steinberger-esque headless bass (above left) and this quite eyecatching fretless semi-acoustic Star Bass (above right).

Wilson Ventures guitars
Of the many retro guitars on display, these Mosrite-inspired Wilson Brothers Ventures guitars certainly grabbed my attention.

Eko 700 seriesEko Ranger XII
Speaking of retro guitars, Italy's Eko guitars are back with several funky re-issues including the 700 series (above left). Personally, I'd have liked to have seen these complete with the banks of push buttons that adorned the originals, but I suppose they felt they ought to feature more contemporary hardware so as not to totally freak out the modern guitarist. On the Eko stand, I also met up with an old friend, the Eko Ranger XII bolt-on neck 12-string acoustic. I had one of these for many many years and it was one of the best sounding 12 strings I ever played. (It kept its value too! I bought it new circa 1984 for £120 and sold it just a couple of years ago for £160). This new Eko Ranger XII - actually a prototype, but expect them to hit the market in the Autumn - played just as nicely as I remembered. Expected retail price is around the £200 mark.

Paul plays the Ashbury acoustic fretless bass
My friend Paul was quite taken by this fretless acoustic bass from Ashbury guitars on the Gremlin Music stand. The bass had a solid spruce top, a low action and very nice tone, no doubt helped by its larger sized body. (Some acoustic basses feature bodies that are basically too small to project enough bass, and hence are usually very quiet). This bass also had a very attractive price at £279. On the same stand were some Blue Moon brand guitars, of which I tried out a parlour guitar, retailing at just £79, and very nice and very playable it was too! I was quite impressed. It would make a great instrument for having around the house to grab and play a few licks as the fancy takes you. I hate to say it, but it was a nicer player than my Ovation.

Electric ukes
We were also quite interested in these solid body electric ukuleles, each of which had a built-in headphone amp. The two at the bottom of the picture (which unfortunately is a little out of focus) were made from solid rosewood. Alas, I do not remember the brand name of these little Tele-shaped ukes. [Edit: I've been told they are Eleukes, which seems to ring a bell.]

Vintage brand Clapton's Fool
On the stand for the Vintage guitar brand we spied this quite accurate replica of Eric Clapton's psychedelic "Fool" SG, amongst other budget-priced but nice quality "relic" guitars. Much better than buying one painted by some dodgy artist on eBay.

The biggest Orange stack you ever did see
Now isn't this the biggest Orange stack you ever did see?

Boss effects pedals
Speaking of big, I'm sure Boss effects pedals used to be a lot smaller than this. It was like being on the set of Irwin Allen's "Land of the Giants".

Brian May guitarBrian May guitar
Brian May Guitars had Red Specials in a whole bunch of colours, plus a mini Red Special, acoustic Red Specials, and this rather bizarre example bearing a likeness of the man himself. Given his interest in astronomy, it's appropriate that Mr May seems to be suspended in space in the portrait.

What the...?
Of course, there were some hideous guitars to be seen. I mean, check out this OTT Telecaster with glitter and silver skulls and flashing lights everywhere. Behind that is a Strat-styled doubleneck with a Vigier-like fretless metal fingerboard on the lower neck, and which also has a Fernandes sustainer fitted, which makes some sense on a fretless. It doesn't stop the instrument looking hugely cumbersome.

Spinal Tap Global Warming guitar
And what guitar show would be complete without the odd Music Man Spinal Tap guitar or two over at the Ernie Ball stand? (I think it's a tradition or an old charter or something.)

Strangely missing in action were the likes of Gibson, Rickenbacker, and C.F. Martin & Co. I was also sorry to see there weren't many UK-based luthiers present. Black Machine and Feline Guitars, both of whom have appeared at the show in prevous years were nowhere to be seen. Perhaps it's simply not profitable for them? Also where were all the parts manufacturers and the pickup companies? It was a bit disappointing in that respect. I really wanted to try out the Lace Alumitone pickups.

And where was the Moog guitar?

It was entertaining, sure, but it was mostly same old same old.

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