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Sweetwater’s GearFest 2017
More guests! More gear! More deals!
By Eddie Torres
Fort Wayne Reader
Once upon a time, there was a large but mostly unheralded tribe of audio professionals with a certain set of skills that seemed esoteric and arcane to us civilians. These were the sound engineers, the producers, the techs, the “roadies,” and they knew their cardioids from their supercardiods, they knew the difference between an EQ and a compressor and why both those things mattered… As a whole, this group of audio pros were affectionately known as “GearHeads,” and their mad skills were sometimes a mystery to even the musicians and artists they helped to sound so good.
But judging by the continuing growth and popularity of Sweetwater’s annual GearFest event, we’re all “GearHeads” now, at least to some extent.
That’s not to suggest the audio professional has gone the way of the whale oil merchant by any means, but we live in an age where an app on your smartphone can help you make a decent song demo — the fascination with how music gets made and the “stuff” used to make it is shared by a whole lot of people.
Sweetwater’s GearFest — happening Friday June 23 and Saturday June 24 at Sweetwater’s campus at 5501 US Hwy 30 West — is the largest music trade show open to the general public in the United States, and in the years since its inception it’s become far more than “just” a marketplace bonanza for top music instruments and audio equipment. GearFest is a gear expo and entertainment event, combining great deals with seminars, workshops, and demonstrations from some of the biggest names in the music industry.
And just to be clear — GearFest also means two days of the best deals ever on the best music instruments and pro audio gear available.
GearFest 2017 will feature more than 400 product lines, including the newest instruments, music technology, and audio equipment, all on display in dozens of tents and semi-trailers. With so many manufacturers on-site, attendees can enjoy one-on-one time with master guitar luthiers, drum builders, microphone designers, acoustic engineers and many more, test drive cutting-edge audio equipment and instruments, and gain valuable insights on the technical ins and outs of the gear.
You’ll also get to check out Sweetwater’s own Music Store, one of the largest music instrument and audio gear stores in the Midwest, with the largest on-site inventory of any music store in the country.
Other highlights include hourly giveaway drawings for free gear totaling more than $50,000. Attendees can bring a guitar for a free restringing and setup, or
A musicians’ flea market, and check out used equipment at the musician’s flea market.
GearFest always boasts an impressive roster of special guests, and the 2017 edition of the event ups the ante.
The headliner is guitarist Eric Johnson, lauded by Guitar Player as “one of the most respected guitarists on the planet.” In addition to a prolific recording and performing solo career, Johnson has performed with a diverse range of artists including Chet Atkins, Steve Morse, John McLaughlin, Carole King, Christopher Cross, and scores of others.
Other musical guests at Geafest include Steve Stevens, guitarist for Billy Idol and Michael Jackson; guitarist Andy Timmons, who has performed with everyone from Joe Satriani to the Beach Boys; Rock & Roll Hall of Famer and Earth, Wind & Fire keyboardist Larry Dunn; bassist and vocalist Rhonda Smith, who has toured with Prince, Beyonce, Jeff Beck and many others; virtuoso guitarist Robben Ford, a founding member of the Yellowjackets and a successful solo artist who has also done stints with with Miles Davis, George Harrison, and Joni Mitchell; Terry Bozzio, drummer for Frank Zappa, Missing Persons, Duran Duran, and Deborah Harry; and Omar Hakim, drummer for countless A-list artists including Miles Davis, Sting, Weather Report, Madonna, David Bowie, and Michael Jackson.
Dweezil Zappa will close out the first day of GearFest (Friday, June 23) with a workshop/performance at 5 PM. A party for all attendees will follow, featuring a concert by Sweetwater’s house band, the Sweetwater All Stars, joined by special guests.
Those music industry professionals who spend most of their time “behind the boards” are also well represented. Featured guests include Grammy Award-winning producer/engineers Al Schmitt, Chris Lord-Alge, and Chuck Ainlay. Along with Fab Dupont, and Neal Cappellino, they’ll be part of a “producer’s panel” moderated by Sweetwater’s Mitch Gallagher. Gallagher will present two sessions: “Take your Studio to the Next Level” – strategies for improving and upgrading the gear in your studio; and “Build the Perfect Pedalboard” – how to select pedals and a pedalboard, design the layout, and assemble the pedalboard for maximum performance.
Special displays include a Keith Emerson Moog 81-module synth, and one of Terry Bozzio’s huge DW drum sets. Sabian will present “Meet the Masters,” featuring one-of-a-kind prototypes and a chance to meet the masters who created the most ground-breaking sounds in the cymbal industry.
And to fuel your time at GearFest, Sweetwater’s Downbeat Diner and Crescendo Café will be open, and a generous helping of the region’s most popular food trucks will also be on site.
As always, GearFest is FREE but if you pre-register you’ll get in faster.
You can pre-register online at sweetwater.com/gearfest/register_
A complete and updated schedule of events — sweetwater.com/gearfest/workshops