Written by Paul Heumiller, Dream Guitars
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For those who have never been to the Woodstock Invitational Guitar Festival, it is something quite special. Seventy or so of the top Luthiers in the world are invited by Baker Rorick to come to the small town in the Hudson Valley for a weekend of pure joy for guitarists. This is a small show and it’s overcrowded, but that’s a good thing. It ensures that the show will stay of the highest quality. Baker has no plans to grow the show or move it to a larger location and I think that will keep it very special. It’s already host to more guitars than you can possibly see properly in two days.
For me this year’s show was extra special. It had a real feeling of brotherhood. Perhaps the last few years, very hard years in the guitar business by anyone’s account, have bonded us all. Many builders (and shop owners) have barely survived, others have been forced to go back to a ‘real job’, but most continue to hold onto the passion that drives them to build the finest instruments that we’ve ever seen. Immediately upon arrival I received hugs and handshakes from my friends, the builders who whittle wood to make music. Making the show even more memorable is the fact that Scott Bresnick, the man behind the machine that is Dream Guitars, met me at the show as well. Scott quietly does vast amounts of promotion for us and has been my sounding board since I started DG in New Jersey. So this year is, as I said, was just extra special.
Now for the good stuff, the guitars. Woodstock is like the buffet at the Grove Park Inn in Asheville. More food than you can possibly eat, but you’re sure as hell going to try.
As someone who has played thousands of guitars and all of them the finest in the world, I’m struck with the amazing quality of the voices of the instruments here at the show. A large number of the guitars are nothing short of mesmerizing and inspiring. I don’t say that lightly as I am admittedly quite spoiled hanging out at Dream Guitars all day. At a show like this it’s hard to go 10 feet without running into someone else you know and stopping and saying “hi” and catching up. It makes the going slow but well worth while.
I started at the stage where my good friends John Buscarino, Chris & Jeremy Jenkins, Michael Bashkin and Bill Tippin all had their instruments displayed. John had his Autumn Leaves 35th anniversary guitar, complete with an amazing carved tree on the back of the instrument.
Stage left was Keystone guitars from Japan, one of the newest builders to join the Dream Guitars family. Keisuke Nishi built a wonderful modified dreadnought for the show which I promptly snatched up for our clients.
Down on the main floor were a number of builders including:
• Cris Mirabella
• Joe Veillette
• John Osthoff
• Bruce Petros
• Kent Everett
• Julian Gaffney
• David Berkowitz
• Bernie Lehman
• Randy Muth – another builder we invited to join DG at this event
• Ken Parker
• Jason Kostal – indeed Jason Kostal’s guitars are the highest form of artistry
• Tim Reede and Raymond Kraut, both joining the DG Family as well
• Ryan Thorell
• Paul Beard
• Linda Manzer
• Michael Baranik
• And many more.
A veritable cornucopia of fine guitars. Some that have remained etched in my memory are:
Cris Mirabella’s arch top in black with maple accents:
Randy Muth’s guitars all have an amazing and unique voice:
Julian Gaffney, currently apprenticing with Ervin Somogyi, built a stunning guitar that I played for some time and truly enjoyed:
There’s always a big amount of laughter as well, like when Tom Ribbecke decided to probe Kent Everett’s new Petite Model guitar:
But this is just one room at the show. I stepped out the door and into the stage/bar area where there is constantly amazing music being played. All day long there are demo concerts and feature concerts and talks by prominent builders such as Bill Collings, Tom Ribbecke, Michael Gurian, Ken Parker, John Monteleone and Roger Sadowski.
Ear candy everywhere. A short walk across the drive and you enter the secondary room which houses a lot of tonewoods, Luthery tools and a fine display of guitars including multiple Grit Laskin guitars featuring Grit’s fabulous inlay work and two rare Steve Klein Electrics from the Jeff Doctorow collection (see photo below). Jeff is a good friend and fellow Jersey Boy.
John Slobod and his Circa guitars were also here in this room and he and I got a chance to sneak to a back office for some serious tasting. He had two small body guitars with him and each a cannon in its own right. He does things with Maple that are amazing, a lush full voice that’s even prettier than the insanely figured set of wood he actually traveled to Germany for. A few friends joined us as well so I got to hear the guitars from out front and in the driver’s seat and they are masterful.
Another great thing about shows like Woodstock is that it gives me the chance to touch base with Luthiers about what they’re seeing in the business in general. Most everyone has felt an uptick in 2014 with sales increasing. That coincides with what we have seen in the shop as well. Particularly high-end guitar sales have greatly increased in 2014. From where we sit, 2015 looks to be a great year for guitar makers and of course that means for guitar players. With instruments like this being crafted by great people with passion, we should all have plenty of inspiration to make our music for the world.
Below are a list of makers whose guitars we brought back from the show. Contact us here at Dream Guitars for more information:
• Randy S. Muth
• Keystone Guitars
• David MacCubbin
• Raymond Kraut
• John Osthoff
• Bernie Lehmann
• Kevin Pederson
• Tim Reede
Following are a few of the cool & unusual sights from the show as well:
Pellerin Harp Guitar:
Jeff Doctorow’s Steve Klein Guitars:
Lehmann Tiger Maple Bridge:
Manzer Unfinished Guitar:
For more information on the Woodstock Invitational Guitar Festival, please visit their official website.