Dream Guitars at the 2015 Memphis Acoustic Guitar Festival
The 2015 Memphis Acoustic Guitar Festival was great fun. I always look forward to the custom guitar shows as it affords me a chance to catch up with the many luthiers I am honored to call friends and see what wonderful creations they are developing as time goes on. This year I traveled to the show with Scott Bresnick, who works with me here at Dream Guitars. What follows is an understanding of what goes on at the shows, the story of a few guitars that truly impressed us, and some insight into the people who build these great guitars.
A custom guitar show is special in that you have the opportunity to play two, three or perhaps four guitars from each of the builders in attendance. Many of these guitars are custom-made for sale at this event. Others are already sold but they afford you a chance to hear multiple models and wood combinations at one time. That is what makes this type of show so special. Aside from visiting a shop like ours, it’s very hard to find all of these makers in one place. The 2015 Memphis Acoustic Guitar Festival consisted of one large hall that housed all of the luthiers and their instruments. Just outside this hall were other rooms for demoing guitars and additional smaller rooms with concert stages for demo concerts, workshops and listening concerts. There were also a handful of vendors, tone wood suppliers and manufacturers of guitar related accessories.
We arrived just in time on the first day to catch our own Al Petteway in concert. He played a rousing set of new material featuring many of the songs on the “Dream Guitars Vol. II: Hand-Picked” CD. This is a wonderful new album that features Al playing his and my favorite guitars that we pulled right off the walls at Dream Guitars. We also have a tab book for the entire CD and are producing video lessons for every song as well.
We have been working with many of the luthiers that attended the show for years. They’re always coming up with new designs, bracing changes and appointments, so it is always exciting to see their latest work. You can see a full list of the builders that attended the festival here. One such Builder is Thomas Rein, who recently revamped his bracing to incorporate a U-shaped brace on the lower bout. This guitar was my very favorite at the show. The tone was so round and lush while articulate and soul shaking. You can see this Thomas Rein guitar on our website complete with a video by Al here. We also interviewed Tom about his process and discovery of his new tone.
It’s no surprise that most of our other favorites at the show were the builders we already work with such as Bill Tippin, Bruce Petros, Brian Applegate and many others. I’ve been discovering and selecting builders at shows like this for many years. We are always on the lookout for a builder that is new to us and one that we believe our clients will find inspirational. This year I met Brad Daniels of Oxwood Guitars, Isaac Jang, Joel Michaud and several other rising builders that truly impressed us. We have invited each of these builders to make guitars for DG, so keep an eye (and ear) out for more on these folks.
There are also other builders that we meet at these types of shows and decide are not for Dream Guitars. We try to stay very true to what our clients expect, which is the best of the best. So for some luthiers at these shows, we provide constructive and honest feedback in hopes they can improve in time. An unseen part of what we do at Dream Guitars is to advise newer luthiers and tell them what areas of construction and tone they need to keep working on. We stay in touch and if they reach the level of expertise we require, we then begin to represent them. We truly enjoy supporting builders of every level and helping the overall craft.
Many of the attendees at the show are longtime clients and friends of the shop. We would stop in the hall and compare notes about what builders we’re enjoying at the show and the overall experience. One of my longtime clients commented that he loves coming to our shop because it is truly quiet, as we give each client a private appointment time. While the shows have quiet rooms, they are not that quiet. Often you are playing with two or three others in one open room and hotel conference rooms do not sound very good.
Scott and I brought along a video camera and throughout the weekend interviewed a number of the builders at the show. Our intention was to ask them questions to provide you with some insight into who these men and women are, and of course there is some guitar design discussion as well. We are after all guitar nuts, just like all of you. All of these videos can be found below and are also be available on our YouTube channel and featured on our website. We hope you find these entertaining and informative: