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Phil Manning photo by Jason Rosewarne
Phil Manning photo by Jason Rosewarne


To fully appreciate your time at the Melbourne Guitar Show, make sure you get a taste of absolutely everything. First and foremost … play a guitar! It might sound obvious but there are so many distractions that it’s easy not to get around to just sitting down, holding a guitar and giving it a strum. There’s a huge range of electrics on the ground level and some superb acoustics upstairs on level one. You might even be tempted to buy one. Next on your checklist, experience a show from all 3 performance stages: the AON Mezzanine stage, Exclusively Acoustic Stage and the electric-themed AON Whammy Bar. There’s a steady stream of amazingly talented international and local artists playing all weekend. Once you’ve got those bases covered, indulge in some education courtesy of the Winners Circle Workshop Room. You can choose from a fine array of product seminars on topics ranging from cutting edge gear to beautifully crafted instruments and more.

Up Close & Personal host Peter Hodgson at MGS 2015
Up Close & Personal host Peter Hodgson at MGS 2015

Guessing your day’s done? Not until you catch an Up Close & Personal session with a local guitar legend at Cafe Corner on the ground level. It’s here where I Heart Guitar blog editor and international music scribe Peter Hodgson will be hosting five great interview sessions over the weekend featuring; Phil Manning, Kirk Lorange, Michael Dolce, Mike Elrington and Bob Spencer. In these casual sessions, not only will Peter be asking the musicians about their careers and gear, he’ll also be taking questions from the floor, so if you have a burning question you’ve always wanted to ask a professional guitarist, come along and be involved. You’ll probably get a tune or two out of the guests as well.

Peter Hodgson is no stranger to the Melbourne Guitar Show himself, having performed on the main stage in 2015 with his trio then presenting a session of his own last year. It was a no brainer when seeking someone to host the Up Close & Personal sessions this year, that we got in touch with Peter. He can also attest to the value of sessions like the guitar show’s Up Close & Personal spots, he recalls being inspired by similar forums when he was younger.

“I grew up in Wodonga and when I was about 17, Virgil Donati came to town,” he recalls.  “I thought that’s a great opportunity to learn from a master, even though it wasn’t my instrument.”
In that workshop, Donati not only spoke about motivation and the importance of warming up but he also offered a neat tip in regard to creating a musical illusion. “He would establish a hi hat pattern and then he’d play something else on the other drums and fake you into thinking you were still hearing that hi hat pattern,” explains Peter. “He’d let go of one hit and whack a tom instead on that beat but your ear still perceived the hi hat. I thought that was really cool and it’s something that I have built into my (guitar) playing.  I do a lot of percussion, picky, chunky sounding things in between notes and chords and I can directly trace it to the influence of things like that. The other thing that was really pivotal for me was when Tommy Emmanuel came to town. I was about 14 and I went up to him afterwards in the lobby where he was signing autographs and I asked him how he does those really cool harp harmonics. It’s a method where you use your right hand index finger to touch the harmonic point and then you pluck it with your thumb behind that. I asked him to explain and he came out from behind the desk and mimed how he did that. So little things like that really had an influence on my playing and future as a guitar teacher and as someone who writes guitar columns.”

It’s gems like these that Peter hopes to uncover in each session when he chats to his cast of quality guitarists. On the Saturday at noon, Phil Manning will be a fascinating interview subject. Phil helped pioneer a local blues scene with his band Chain and has since become one of our most respected guitar players. Following Phil at 3pm will be Kirk Lorange, one of the sweetest slide players going around. Kirk has played with Richard Clapton, Marc Hunter, Marcia Hines, released his own acclaimed albums and is now a popular YouTube guitar educator (47,000 subscribers and over 14 million views).

Bob Spencer at MGS 2016 by Jason Rosewarne
Bob Spencer at MGS 2016 by Jason Rosewarne

Come back on the Sunday and Peter will be chatting with highly regarded session guitarist Michael Dolce at 11am, blues troubadour Mike Elrington at noon and then legendary Skyhooks and The Angels’ guitarist Bob Spencer at 2pm.
“I’m looking forward to talking with Bob Spencer,” Peter tells me. “I remember getting the vinyl single of Let The Night Roll On by The Angels and seeing him on the cover and thinking, that guy’s cool. I’d love to hear about what that time was like for him, joining this huge band. He’s done a lot since too and he has a new solo record coming out. There’s lots of stuff to talk about with these guys. Everybody’s story is different but they are all relatable.”

In his capacity as assistant social media co-ordinator for Seymour Duncan, Peter has attended many NAMM shows in the USA (the biggest of the annual music product trade shows) but it’s the Melbourne Guitar Show that he has the softest spot for.
“I love it,” he says.  “You know I am a regular attendee at the NAMM Show and I think I enjoy this more because it’s not industry only, it’s much more interactive and it’s more of a celebration of the instrument. It’s such a communal event and I think that is really important to guitar players. We’re really big on sharing information with each other. You think of the blues, I liken it to an oral tradition that is passed down through generations. You don’t get it out of a book, you get it from talking to other musicians and you get it from playing with other musicians. It kind of expands on that too … you can also talk to the builders, you can talk to some of your favourite players, you can learn stuff, see great performances and it’s all centred around the social aspect of being a musician as well. I am really excited to see Nick Johnston who is a buddy of mine and I know he’ll be floating around with the Schecter team throughout the show. He is a phenomenal player with great technique but he has a lot of heart in what he does. I’m excited that Diesel is going to be there because he was always a hero when I was a kid. It’s going to be great. Every year the line up seems to get bigger and better. I mean Steve Hackett, that’s a great get. It’s going to be so much fun.”

Peter Hodgson hosts the ‘Up Close and Personal’ sessions at Cafe Corner on the ground level

Saturday August 5th
Noon: Phil Manning
3pm: Kirk Lorange

Sunday August 6th
11am: Michael Dolce
Noon: Mike Elrington
2pm: Bob Spencer

Triple M & Australian Musician presents
Melbourne Guitar Show
August 5&6
Caulfield Racecourse
Tickets online : or at gate on the weekend

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