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Sweetwater's annual gear expo bigger than ever
By Jim Fester
Fort Wayne Reader
The story behind Sweetwater’s GearFest is a lot like the company itself: it started as an ambitious but relatively small venture back in 2002, and then it just grew. And grew. And grew…
Until these days, it’s grown into an enormous, two-day expo that draws musicians and audio gear enthusiasts from all over the country, as well as some of the top music gear manufacturers and professionals. Part trade show, part musicians’ toyland, part festival event… heck, there’s even a flea market.
“There’s literally nothing like it,” says Chuck Surack, president and founder of Sweetwater. “It is a unique form of trade show. There’s certainly nothing this big, with so many great attractions, that is also free and open to the public, anywhere else in the country.”
To simplify, Sweetwater’s annual GearFest is a two-day event that celebrates musicians and the instruments and equipment they use to make music, and features loads of special deals, tons of free giveaways, and dozens of seminars and workshops lead by some of the industry’s leading audio professionals.
That’s for the uninitiated. Those that know GearFest have another set of questions — who is going to be there? What are the giveaways? What cool piece of music equipment can I pick up at a one-time price?
So, here’s the full scoop — GearFest happens Friday, June 24th from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturday, June 25th from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., at Sweetwater headquarters (5501 US Hwy 30 West in Fort Wayne, Indiana).
The event is free and open to the public. You do have to register, though, so if you’re attending, you can pre-register online at sweetwater.com.
Sweetwater is planning on giving away tons of free gear — more than $35,000 worth of top-of-the-line professional music equipment for recording, guitar, and live sound from Epiphone, Line 6, PreSonus, QSC, Roland, Shure, and Yamaha. Theirs is a seprate registration for the prizes, and you must attend GearFest and register for the prizes in person in order to win.
In addition, Sweetwater will be offering once-in-a-lifetime sale pricing on many products.
GearFest '11 will host a multitude of guests from all areas of the music industry for some exciting performances and workshops. This year's featured speaker is Alan Parsons, legendary producer, engineer, and artist, famed for his work with The Beatles, Pink Floyd (Parsons worked on Dark Side of the Moon, just to name one project), and his own group, The Alan Parsons Project.
There will also be a special appearance by remix artist BT, who revolutionized British club and dance music in the 90's. Attendees will have the rare opportunity to learn directly from these guests and more with the amazing sound quality in the Sweetwater Performance Theatre and on other stages throughout the Sweetwater campus. Other informative seminars cover topics such as tracking the band, songwriting critique, recording on a computer, introduction to Pro Tools 9 recording software, and much more.
Acclaimed performers Paul Pigat, Johnny Hiland, Frank Bello, David Ellefson and many more will take the stage to perform on the latest new guitars, keyboards, and electronic drums.
More than 200 manufacturers of musical instruments, music technology, and audio equipment will be on hand to give musicians a look at the latest gear. This rare opportunity will feature over 35 guitar gear manufacturers, more than 45 recording equipment vendors, 20 software publishers, 20 microphone makers, and many more.
One of the new tents at GearFest this year will be called "The iPad Connection." It will be staffed by a half dozen of Sweetwater’s resident iPad experts and enthusiasts who are eager to demonstrate all the ways that the iPad can be used for professional musical applications, including keyboard and synthesizer performance, guitar effects and amp simulators, drums and percussion, sequencing, recording, and even the ability to remotely control your main computer's DAW and mixing applications. The iPad Connection tent will also feature scheduled demos by the manufacturers of the various hardware that can be connected to the Apple iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch.
In the Guitar Gallery tent you’ll find hundreds of guitars and basses from top-of-the-line brands like Gibson, Fender, Martin, Taylor, and many more.
There will also be a free guitar setup and restringing service, and a musicians’ flea market, where you can buy, sell, or trade used equipment.
Other attractions will include hourly giveaway drawings for thousands of dollars of equipment and instruments, plus tours of Sweetwater’s world-class recording studios and headquarters.
Once more, GearFest takes place Friday, June 24th from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturday, June 25th from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., at Sweetwater headquarters 5501 US Hwy 30 West in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
To speed up the registration process at the festival, you can pre-register online; visit: http://www.sweetwater.com/feature/gearfest2011/register.php. For more information, call (260) 432-8176.
The entire GearFest ’11 schedule of events is also available online at: http://www.sweetwater.com/feature/gearfest2011/workshops.php.