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Bristol Guitar Show 2010 Review

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The 2010 Bristol Guitar Show was staged at the Ashton Gate Stadium (home of Bristol City FC) on September 19th featuring a range of the UK’s leading guitar and effects manufacturers.

…the UK is home to some excellent independent guitar manufacturers and it’s thanks to events like the Bristol Guitar Show that helps the guitar playing community to be made aware of our home grown talent…

Brian May Guitars at the Bristol Guitar Show

Brian May Guitars

I haven’t been to a guitar show for a couple of years. The last event I attended was the London Guitar Show at the Excel arena. That was a bizarre day for a couple of reasons; firstly I met up with a guy in a random car park to sell my Marshall combo that would see me wedged up for cruising the guitar show, only to be left feeling gutted (second bizarre reason) that the London Guitar Show had an irritating noise restriction enforced limiting the time the general public were allowed to play on their prospective purchases. If you’ve ever visited the London Guitar Show, or an event similar, you’d know how huge those events are. It turns out that this year, due to the current economic climate, the London Guitar Show has been cancelled, paving the way for smaller exhibitions like the Bristol Guitar Show to cater for the guitarist community.

The Bristol Guitar Show was set in the exhibiting/function rooms within the Ashton Gate stadium. There was plenty of free parking with an entry fee of approximately £8 per person. On entering the main exhibition room, I was greeted by the wall of sound of guitars of all styles being played (to a very high standard) by both the attending public and the exhibitors, which was so refreshing as I had no idea whether the sound control limitations would also apply to this event. Fortunately not!

The event was split into three sections: Main exhibition (mainly consisting of electric guitars, effects manufacturers & retail shops), the Acoustic Room and the Live Room.

A deliberate decision by the event organisers was to treat all exhibitors equally – where the smaller independent companies have an equal opportunity to display their products and services alongside the more “household” guitar & accessory manufacturers. This had a positive impact on the show as there seemed to be an atmosphere where all the exhibitors were chatting among each other, sharing experiences, jokes and generally having a really good time. From the perspective of the general public, there was a good range of products to view and try with the majority of exhibitors coming across very friendly & accommodating.

There were some exquisite instruments on display including products from Vanquish, Rothwell, Abanico, Jaden Rose, Waghorn, Kinkade, Brook, Kim Webber, Rob Williams, Patrick Eggle, Probett, Beryl and JJ Guitars to name a few. Retail outlets such as Absolute Music Solutions, Mansons and Absolute Guitars also displayed a good range of stock.

In the main room, the items that caught my eye included:

  • JJ Guitars – beautiful guitars that sound gorgeous and are used by Simon Townshend (Pete’s younger brother who also plays in The Who).
  • Kim Webber Guitars – the “Pimp My Ride” of guitar manufacturers adding some serious bling to your axe.
  • Rob Williams Guitars – some of the paint work and finishes on these guitars are breathtaking.
  • Brook Guitars – stunning acoustic guitars that included an awesome mini-12 string that my friend Ben would have sold a body item for.
  • Kinkade Guitars – Bristol based luthier Jonathan Kinkead was an excellent guy to chat with, displaying a fine range of custom built acoustics (and his book).
  • Zilla Cabs – made me long to own a 4×12” again…
  • Vanquish Guitars – amazing solid body guitars with an intriguing coil tap switching system that bleeds just the high frequencies.
  • Rothwell Effects – I’ve been a fan of Rothwell since they released the Switchblade stomp box, but I thoroughly recommend checking out the “Tornado” overdrive, described as a “JCM800 in a box”. No joke, this pedal sounded fantastic – if you’re after an awesome overdrive pedal, seriously consider one of these.
  • Chickenbone John – Manufacturer of Cigar Box Guitars and authentic glass bottle slides.
  • Beryl Guitars – a new UK based guitar company who’s just launched the “Studio T” and “Studio ST” range of electrics. Their “Studio T” (based on a Tele) is incredible, especially for the price. A complete gigging machine…

The Acoustic Room acted almost as a sanctuary, cancelling out the commotion of electric guitar noodling that took place in the adjacent hall. The range of custom acoustic guitars on show was stunning – in most parts, we’re talking serious money, but the instruments are hand crafted to the specifications of each guitarist, making the instruments truly unique.

The Live Room was great fun, where Ernie Ball Guitars (courtesy of Stings & Things UK) were represented by a Sheffield accented “devil” who proceeded to challenge any member of the general public to a 6-string duel (think the Crossroads movie starring the dude who played the Karate Kid). In most cases, the “devil” rocked it hard and won the duels hands down, but it has to be said the talent on show from the general public was amazing. There was NO WAY I was going to set foot on that stage, as my 3-chord trick would, quite literally, be shot down in flames.

Summary:

Patrick Eggle Guitars

Patrick Eggle Guitars

The Bristol Guitar show was an excellent day out, showcasing a good mix products from both acoustic, electric and effects manufacturers. It’s an inspired move by the event organisers to treat all exhibitors equal, giving all the companies the chance to display their products and services on an equal sized footprint.

The atmosphere was excellent, where all the companies represented were friendly, very approachable and it was so nice to have the opportunity to play on some incredible guitars.

I was blown sidewise by the high standard and range of products that are available from UK luthiers and manufacturers. On my drive home back to sunny Dorset, I found myself thinking (whilst stuck behind numerous tractors and caravans) about the guitars that are produced in this country and although the big boys such as Fender and Gibson seem to dominate the guitar market, the next time I’m after a new axe to add to the arsenal, I’m going to contemplate purchasing an instrument made by some of the independent companies that were being represented at the Bristol Guitar Show.

If you are after a new guitar, I encourage to look at the offerings from the UK independent manufactures, where it seems in most cases, the standard of quality is extremely high, blowing a lot of the “off the shelf” Fender & Gibson models out of the water.

Did I purchase anything from the show? Well, it would have been rude not to have taken something home with me. I left with an authentic Bottle Neck slide provided by Chickenbone John but is was the “Studio T” electric produced by Beryl Guitars that almost made me reach for my credit card. At an incredibly low £600 ball park price tag, I couldn’t believe how great the guitar played and sounded (especially compared to a lot of equivalent Fenders I’ve played). If this is the standard of instruments Beryl are about to officially launch, the future looks bright for this company.

The UK is home to some excellent independent guitar manufacturers and it’s thanks to events like the Bristol Guitar Show that helps the guitar playing community to be made further aware of our home grown talent.

A really enjoyable event and I hope it’s more of the same next year.

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About the author:

Sam is passionate about talking all things guitar related and started GuitarJar.co.uk to help encourage all guitarists in their guitar playing journey.

3 Comments

  • Just wanted to say it is good to see someone supporting the smaller guitar shows. It was my (Zilla Music) first time at one of the none-major shows so its nice to see some coverage of what was a really cool, if not tiring day.

    Oh and thanks for the link, I will return the favour asap

    Paul

  • wooooooow it looks so cool i wish i could have come. although think i would have spent a lot of money

  • I was kinda lucky enough to get there before noon, after a very late night. The show woke me up a treat. The sounds and variety were just right. I’d go so far as say it was better than LGS – It was a proper show for any kind of guitar lovver. Mananged to get a Play (amongst of lots of guitars some valued in thier thousands; along with a classic, supplied by a guitar teacher and family company in solid cedar top, rose fretboard and a fine quality classic at under 250 quid – name will be posted (soon as it comes back to me) – Roll on next year!

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