So Guitarmageddon 2016 has come and passed. I believe everyone feels it was a success as we managed just under 200 people in the door. I’m not quite taken with that number as I had a higher expectation for it. I was totally gunning for a sellout and didn’t get it. I was running with the Reese Bobby mentality that “if you’re not first you’re last”. So while I feel some disappointment here this is absolutely still a number I can live with.
Where it started..
This idea of a single backing band supporting multiple individual guitarists I’ve had for a few years now truth be told. But it wasn’t until I saw Steve Vai’s Generation Axe tour about 4 or 5 months ago that pushed me over the edge. Vai, who along with Joe Satriani and Eric Johnson started the G3 tour a long time ago where the 3 major guitarists came out with their respective groups and played their amazing instrumental archives. But Vai recently decided that 3 wasn’t enough and bumped it to 5 players which can work time wise if you’re not changing out bands and just simply segue guitarists. And he unwittingly stole my idea!!! I’ve been carrying around that idea for years!! I came up with it because of the amount of open mic’s I had been frequenting and/or hosting. And essentially thats what this was, a glorified, highly organized open mic. But the cool thing is Vai actually did it where as I was just mentally clinging to a “maybe”. So when I saw the tour and saw how smooth it went it was then I said to myself I’m doing this and it’s gonna be great and people are going to see how much guitar talent is right here.
Not my first rodeo…..
I had almost forgotten about this but, in 2005 I was a performer for Carnival Cruise Lines. I was a one man band electric guitarist with backing tracks. Well on my second ship (Carnival Glory) the internet guy and I had decided to organize a crew event called guitarmageddon. I organized the different guitarist of all the different acts on the ship: the show bands guitarist, the rock bands two guitarists, the tech guys played and put together an act, even the karaoke guy played and performed. It was a lot of fun. The show bands guitar player was a british kid who did some fucking sweet chicken picking! Who knew there were rednecks in England..
Unbelievably I was able to lock down the venue, date, and put together a website in just a couple of days, BUT it took me over a month to get talent locked down. I’m still shaking my head about it. I was turned down by MANY local guitarists for a myriad of reasons. The only acceptable reasons in my mind were just 2: you had a gig, or health reasons. Other than that none of your reasons were good at all. I truly felt let down by the “guitar community” that I was trying to help. We all could use a few more people at our shows. After all we are constantly subjected to the pressure of filling a venue we play with all our friends or face the possibility of not getting rebooked. As much bullshit as that premise is…it is still our reality as local musicians. But when you are offered to play an event that could build your individual name and the act you are associated with thereby potentially increasing your audience thereby securing more bookings…… How do you not see that as a no-brainer?? So I say to those players you missed an opportunity and you also let down your band mates.
Buchanan’s was almost a brand new club at the time I approached Shawn McDole one of the owners. But it was top of my list as soon as I walked in. It was such a straight forward set up. You walk in to a large open area and watch a band! There’s no maze or hallways or L-shape or view obstructing beams. The stage was a local performers dream. You can actually move around on it! This is basically an arena that thinks it's a bar! For some reason this place struggled early on which baffled me. Its truly a nice place to catch a band. Clean and classy. I thank Shawn and John for not saying no to this event when they didn’t know me or have any indication of the work I would put into this. However I made it easy on them to decide when I told them that I would do it for no charge. On a weekend day where they would normally pay a band some decent money not knowing if that band would draw for them, I told them that I would put on this event for a door charge only. After all i believed in it so I was willing to risk it……
It was about 9 or 10 months ago I was strolling through a Facebook feed and came across a colleagues post and photo that read: Hanging out with Ralph Ciavolino bassist and singer for Yngwie Malmsteen. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Searched my old friends name and sure enough his pics were all of him standing before massive audiences and next to legendary 80’s guitarist Yngwie. You have to understand this guy ref’d my mens league hockey games in the late 90’s or early 2000’s in South Florida. And also played on my teams. He was a fucking HELL of a hockey player too and we also had thrown back our share of beers together at the time as well. So the next thought was to send him a message and ask about the truth of the matter and there it was…… The message window opens up and reveals a message from him that he sent to me in early 2012 stating that he had become the new bass player for Yngwie Malmsteen. I NEVER SAW THAT! So anyway after the initial shock settled down we corresponded a bit and that was that. Months later the Generation Axe tour is coming here and Yngwie was a part of that so I asked Ralph if he was part of that. He said no but would be there hanging out and we agreed to meet up. When we did I then met Mark Ellis his partner in crime and MEGA MONSTER drummer for Yngwie. They told me they’d be up for a gig during their downtime between tours if I ever had a need. Obviously I took that to heart! Can’t thank you guys enough and Ralph it’s a pleasure to see you succeed.
Helpers and Contributors….
There are many!! Jerry Waller is at the top of that list. He stayed in constant contact with me after agreeing to run the sound FOR FREE. He offered up the drum kit and bass amp for the incoming supporting band (Although, I was able to secure a bass rig. Thank you Steve Taylor). He took a script of a commercial I put together and had folks read it aloud on WPRK a local radio station where he does his Biscuits, Bacon & Blues show And he even was the first online purchaser of a large order of tickets. Jerry you rock buddy, glad to work with you, thank you my friend and to Josh as well! Tom Camp of gigasound productions. This man and his partner Mark Barrie recorded, mixed and mastered both of my acoustic albums. So who would I turn to about having a commercial done?? I tracked it myself and sent it off to Tom and he sent me back a radio quality mix within 2 hours at no charge. You didn’t have to but you did and that helped, thank you! I was not able to secure any radio time with that commercial as air time was way outside my budget. BUT, I gave it to Wally Harper III a manager at Sam Ash music and long time buddy and go to guy for my equipment deals over the years. He graciously agreed to play that commercial over the house system in the store for all instrument shoppers to hear. But I had to provide a CD player so thanks for that Bryan Winston(pretty good idea right??) Thank you Wally!! Robert Kaplinger who simply saw the advertising I was doing and inquired about it. He gave me several great ideas to follow up on. One of which turned out to be a tv segment on Fox 35 which some of you may have see. But he mainly wanted to contribute his photography skills to the event to which I of course agreed. Quality photos will always make an event larger than life! Thank you Bob. To Steve Hoffman of Killer Band Lighting for obviously lighting us up. He helped emphasize and accentuate what we would do. I was apprehensive when I learned he was using some old school equipment. Anybody who has performed under par cans will tell you it’s like being close to the sun, however it was quite cool on stage and he made it look like a fucking ROCK show! Thanks Steve. Mick Dolan helped us get the word out sharing my posts several times on Facebook. Bill Hamilton of the band the Psycho Magnets for taking on the vocal duties for Dale Stephens set. Bill is one fucking hell of a singer. You should hear this guy do Adele, SERIOUSLY!! The challenge for him was that Dale prefers to play a whole step lower than the guitar is normally tuned. And many music insiders would say “oh well that’s easier” but that shows they don’t sing. You see when vocal muscles are accustomed to pushing a certain way for a note its difficult to relax them enough in much a lower key. But he did it and we thank you! Josh Irey who agreed to give up his saturday night out with his girlfriend to come be my doorman and watch my girlfriends back while she took the money. Thanks buddy! To Jennifer Reis and Matt Baclar for also contributing some quality photos and posting videos of the event as the night unfolded. Thank you all.
To my friends Mark Swetland, Joe Stump, Dale Stephens & Shy Singh. You gentlemen had the testicular fortitude to commit and stick with it when you all knew the audience could potentially be lined with doubters waiting for you to fail or fuck up. A show like this would mainly attract guitar players and guitar enthusiasts a lot of whom will hold you to a high standard that they tell themselves they reach all the time. Granted that is there right to do so with paid admission, challenge accepted! We all knew and accepted that and I believe we thrived on it. This was quite an experience both as performer and audience member! And most of you don't know this but there was literally no real rehearsal. We were all expected to know our parts and we did! I gave the guys 20 minutes per player with Ralph and Mark the day of the show only! Just to discuss beginnings and endings. But that again shows you the professionalism of these guys. Thank you brothers! My regret is that I may have been too selfless. In doing so I gave up my chance to jam with my old friend and Yngwie Malmsteen band mate. Originally, I was to play about 3 or 4 songs with them but as time went on I felt bad about putting the pressure of being the first performer on Mark Swetland. Furthermore, he was starting his set with 3 solo songs before the band would join him so for the sake of the flow of the show it just seemed best for me to open as a solo act, have Mark come out and do his solo songs, the band joins him and the night just builds from there on perfectly. It was the right call in hindsight but I regret not playing my electric guitar.
Where do i go now?????
I pretty much achieved everything I set out to do with this event. I would be happier knowing that I made an impact in peoples minds about the local guitar talent here. Time will tell. I really am proud that this single event challenged and demanded all of the skills that i sometimes profess to possess. It called to action my ever evolving but still limited graphic design skills, my video design ideas, all the little promotional tricks i’ve learned over the years of being a self-employed performer and guitar instructor, all of my connections and musical relationships i’ve forged over the years of being in this town. It was all required to be at it’s peak to make this a success. Hopefully I’ve set this up to carry on. Again, time will tell but already more ideas are popping up for what to do going forward.
Thank you all!!