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For musicians, Sweetwater’s massive annual expo is the only summer festival that matters
By Jim Fester
Fort Wayne Reader
It is right and good, of course, that a city of Fort Wayne’s size should experience a steady parade of festivals and celebrations to light up our weekends during the warmer months. But if you’re a musician and love all the gear and technology — from stage mics to Pro Tools — that goes with it, Sweetwater’s GearFest is the only summer festival that really matters.
It is hardly news these days that GearFest is more than just a “Fort Wayne thing,” more than just a “Northeast Indiana thing,” more than just a “tri-state area thing.” It grew beyond that a long time ago. As Sweetwater’s Founder and President Chuck Surack says “…GearFest has such a reputation that it is now bringing people from literally all over the world to Sweetwater’s campus.”
For the uninitiated, GearFest is Sweetwater’s annual two-day audio gear and trade show — a weekend full of cutting-edge new gear and instruments from the top names in music; workshops and performances from renowned musicians, producers, engineers and other industry professionals; and loads of exclusive deals, giveaways, and prizes. It’s the largest show of its kind open to the general public in the US, and it’s FREE.
“GearFest is unique in being free and open to musicians and audio enthusiasts, unlike most trade shows, which are held for manufacturers and retailers,” says Surack.
GearFest 2018 features will the newest instruments, music technology, and audio equipment on display in dozens of tents and several semi-trailers. Attendees can enjoy one-on-one time with master guitar luthiers, drum builders, microphone designers, acoustic engineers and many more.
Friday’s finale features a performance by Adrian Belew. Known for his innovative guitar playing and his years as a member of King Crimson, Belew is a multi-instrumentalist and producer who has worked as a session and toruing musician with artists such as David Bowie, Paul Simon, Nine Inch Nails, Talking Heads, and many, many others during the course of his long career. He’s also released a huge catalog of solo work, and garnered awards, acclaim, and nominations along the way. He closes out GearFest’s opening day (Friday, June 22) with a performance in the Sweetwater Performance Pavilion at 5 PM. A Customer Appreciation party for all attendees will follow, including a concert by Sweetwater’s house band, the Sweetwater All Stars, joined by special guests.
Over the course of the weekend, a multitude of producers and performers will host workshops continuously on five different stages. They include multi-platinum engineer Rich Chychi; guitarist Chris Broderick (Megadeath); drummer Russ Kunkel, producer Fab Dupont, musician/producer Butch Walker; and Grammy award winner Buddy Miller.
For a full list of presenters, visit Sweetwater.com/gearfest/presenters
Just a few of the new features/events at GearFest 2018…
Over $70,000 in Prizes
Attendees are automatically entered to win from over $70,000 worth of gear. Some of the items they’re giving away include Universal Audio's Arrow interface; PreSonus's Studio 1824 interface; Dynaudio's LYD 7 studio monitors; Lauten Audio's Atlantis condenser mic; and Marshall's DSL20CR combo amp. That’s just the beginning, of course. A new winner is chosen every hour, which means you'll have plenty of chances to bring home that new piece of gear.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
Cleveland comes to the Fort! See what the institution dedicated to celebrating and honoring the best of rock, soul, and pop has to offer at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame booth just outside the Downbeat Diner.
The ZZ Top Eliminator
You don’t need to be a child of the 80s — or even a sharp-dressed man — to appreciate the iconic Eliminator, the hot rod that graced the videos and album cover of Texas Blue Rockers ZZ Top back in the day. Thanks to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, you can see it up close and in person.
Using YouTube to Get Discovered
More musicians are getting discovered online than ever before. In this workshop/panel, Casey Cooper Anna Sentina, and Luke Holland as they share tips for leveraging the Internet to get noticed, building a loyal online following, and taking your music career to the next level.
Gretsch's 135th Anniversary Meet and Greet
When it comes to guitars, bass guitars, and drums, the Gretsch name has been synonymous with quality for well over a century. To celebrate 135 years of the Gretch company, Sweetwater invited current company president Fred W. Gretch to GearFest for a special meet-and-greet.
Of course, there’s much, much more going on at GeaFest, including a musician’s “Flea Market,” free guitar restringing, demos and giveaway all weekend long. Food will be available from Sweetwater’s Downbeat Diner and the Crescendo Café and a generous selection of the region’s most popular food trucks will also be on site.
GearFest 2018 is FREE and open to the general public, but you need to register.
For a full list of events, an updated schedule, or to register, visit sweetwater.com/gearfest
Friday, June 22 and Saturday, June 23, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m
Sweetwater campus, 5501 US Hwy 30 W