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Sweetwater’s GearFest 2015

Special guests, special deals, and gear galore

By Eddie Torres

Fort Wayne Reader


The lure of being an “insider” is impossible to resist for most people — privileged information, special deals, the chance to see, hear, and experience something new just a little bit before everyone else…

Sweetwater’s annual GearFest has grown to become one of the largest music trade shows in the United States — in fact, THE largest music trade show open to the general public — based partly on that “insider” appeal. It offers musicians and music-lovers the opportunity to see, hear, and enjoy (and buy) what is usually reserved for industry insiders — seminars and unique performances; incredible deals; and world premiers of brand new pro audio gear and music technology.

And the event is FREE.

GearFest 2015 happens on Friday, June 12 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturday, June 13 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., at the Sweetwater campus, 5501 US Hwy 30 W in Fort Wayne.

The event combines a gear expo, entertainment events, a flea market, and musical demonstrations, with seminars and workshops by some of the biggest names in the music industry. There are also great deals on the best music instruments and pro audio gear available. More than 400 product lines — including all of the newest musical instruments, music technology, and audio equipment — will be represented in 19 tents and four semi-trailers. GearFest also features once-in-a-lifetime sale pricing on many products, and hourly giveaway drawings for free gear totaling more than $80,000, from names like Gibson, Fender, Antelope, Focal, Roland, Yamaha, Moog, and many others.

The roster of talent appearing at GearFest ’15 is just as impressive as the deals.

One of the featured guests is guitarist Jeff “Skunk” Baxter, whose long career includes stints with some of the biggest names in rock. Way back, Baxter even played bass with Jimi Hendirx in one of Hendrix’s early bands, but his career really took off in 1972 as one of the founding members of Steely Dan. Baxter stayed with Steely Dan for the band’s first three albums, then joined the Doobie Brothers, playing with them during their massive run of hits during the mid/late 70s. Since then he’s worked as a session and touring musician for artists like Rod Stewart, Sheryl Crow, Eric Clapton, Elton John and many, many others. A technology enthusiast, Baxter can also claim what has to be one of the most unusual secondary careers for a professional musician — defense consultant, specializing in missile defense.

Also on the guest list at GearFest ’15 is Glenn Hughes. Hughes played bass and shared vocal duties with David Coverdale in Deep Purple after the departure of original member Roger Glover. That was followed by several solo albums and many projects with other collaborators, even a short time with Black Sabbath (he’s worked with Sabbath guitarist Tommi Iommi). Though Hughes’ musical resume suggests a focus on hard rock and metal, some of his projects stretch into blues and prog rock.
Another featured musician is drummer Shawn Pelton. You may not think you know him, but you do — among his many projects, he’s the drummer for the Saturday Night Live house band and has served as Anton Fig’s replacement on the Late Show With David Letterman. His recording work boasts a remarkable range of styles; he’s appeared on albums by Sheryl Crow, David Byrne, Pink, Bob Dylan, Buddy Guy…

Other guests at GearFest ’15 include bassist Nathan East (Barry White, George Harrison, Sting, Stevie Wonder); drummer Steve Ferrone (Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers); jazz guitarist Mike Stern (Billy Cobham, Miles Davis, and Jaco Pastorius); guitarist Mark Colcomb; guitarist Javier Reyes; keyboardist Steve Weingart; and many more.

Sweetwater's Mitch Gallagher will host an historic panel discussion with three pioneers of synthesis and electronic instruments: Roger Linn, Tom Oberheim and Dave Smith.

Technical Grammy award-winner Roger Linn invented the LM-1 Drum Computer (the first sample-based drum machine) in 1979. He later designed the Akai MPC60, which combined a sampling drum machine with a real-time MIDI sequencer.

Dave Smith founded Sequential Circuits, and his Prophet-5 was the world's first fully programmable polyphonic synth, as well as the first musical instrument with an embedded microprocessor.

And Tom Oberheim co-designed the Synthesizer Expansion Module (SEM), a device that allowed musicians to simultaneously combine live playing and sequenced playback - a concept that pre-dated the MIDI revolution. They'll share anecdotes and talk synthesis and electronic instruments in this informal roundtable discussion.

The entire GearFest ’15 schedule of events is available online at: sweetwater.com/gearfest/schedule

GearFest is FREE, but you need to register. To speed up the registration process, you can pre-register online at sweetwater.com/gearfest/register

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