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Pic by Mark Moray
The shot of the show! Pic by Mark Moray

Report by Greg Phillips. Photos by Jason Rosewarne, Mark Moray and Greg Phillips

This time last year, we (the Australian Music Association through its online magazine Australian Musician) asked the question … was Melbourne up for a guitar show? The town’s musician community and music fans in general responded with a resounding yes, as almost 5,000 fans flocked to the Caulfield Racecourse to get their axe on. Would it work two years in a row? Damn straight it would and it did in a major way as even more people attended the 2016 Melbourne Guitar Show, presented by Triple M and Australian Musician.

The barriers at Caulfield Racecourse were open at 10am on Saturday August 6th and guitar enthusiasts continued to flow through for the entire day. With around 80 exhibitors displaying all kinds of guitar related gear from entry level acoustics to a $49,000 vintage Stratocaster (which may have actually sold. We’ll come back to you on that), there was something for everyone. On a morning when the Rio Olympics were just beginning, Shannon Bourne provided an opening ceremony of his own, when he debuted his new improvisational guitar act Whirlybird, featuring Luke Hodgson on bass and Leigh Fisher on drums. Nothing like a bit of face-melting distortion just after breakfast to get your day going!


If loud and electric wasn’t your thing, this year you could head upstairs to the two acoustic stages for some finger-pickin’ fun and also test out some cool acoustic instruments free from the force of feedback and shred. The folks at Maton, who are celebrating their 70th anniversary were showcasing some genuine historical instruments, including the oldest Maton guitar and a Maton used by Keith Richards (as shown on the Channel 9 news later in the day). A few stands down, Cole Clark had an impressive array of acoustics including a beautiful guitar featuring a huon pine top, Brazilian rosewood back and sides with ebony board and African mahogany neck. The Musical Merchandisers’ stand featured some gorgeous Barnes and Mullins banjos and mandolins including a display banjo which was more than 100 years old. The upstairs area also provided a great opportunity to experience the work of brilliant independent local luthiers such as Ben Stewart, D Hoban, Melville Guitars, Rizzolo guitars, Rick Falkiner, Shoma Acoustics, and Southern Tonewoods. It’s always nice to  Jacaranda Music’s Greg Cooper and his stock of beautiful Kala Ukes and Sigma guitars. The fine people from the Australian Music Examination Board, more commonly known as AMEB, were also upstairs informing attendees about their brilliant new RockSchool syllabus.

Megan Bernard and Cat Canteri

The format of some of the entertainment spots was changed this year to include multi-player sessions. The first of these was Fretted Femmes in Song, a session featuring, Leisha Jungalwalla, Cat Canteri, Megan Bernard and Heloise. All four artists delivered their unique perspective on music and the role that the guitar plays in their sound. Leisha exhibited her ample skills on slide guitar. Megan favoured a loop and reverb-laden approach. Heloise proved that she has developed into an accomplished singer songwriter since taking out first prize in the 2014 Melbourne Music Bank. And there’s no argument that The Stillsons’ drummer Cat Canteri is now a multi-instrumental entertainer, armed with an ever-increasing catalogue of quality songs.


Pics by Jason Rosewarne
Pics by Jason Rosewarne

There’s a core of musicians who have become part of the fabric of the Melbourne Guitar Show. Two of them, Geoff Achison and Jimi Hocking were back again this year to present their superior line of blues rock on the AON Forecourt Stage. Geoff and Jimi wore many hats on the weekend and are always welcome additions to the show. Phil Manning showed why he is so revered by the public and peers alike, when he played an acoustic set at lunchtime on the Saturday. Immediately after he joined Nick Charles for the first of Nick’s two multi-picker sessions, an idea we borrowed from Port Fairy Folk festival. The Saturday session involved Geoff Achison, Jimi Hocking, Shannon Bourne, and Sam See. As far as acoustic finger stylists go, this was rarefied air and the large audience upstairs knew it, appreciated it and enjoyed the show immensely.


Gorgeous Guilds from Zenith Music

Meanwhile back on the main floor inside, the aisles were crowded with guitar fans checking out the fabulous fare on offer. Around 80 exhibitors on two floors presented a ship load of gear. As soon as you walked in the door, you were hit by rows of gleaming new Gibson Les Pauls on the Allans Billy Hyde stand. As first impressions go, not such a bad way to start your Melbourne Guitar Show day. Further on up the road (as Eric Clapton sings), Cranbourne Music had a stylish array of Duesenbergs and Maton Mastersounds, as well as some awesomely sounding Supro and Laney amps. Just a jump to the left, Roland and Boss were displaying the slick looking, sweet sounding Blues Cube amps and the incredible new range of Waza Craft gear. Also on hand at the Roland/Boss stand was the numero uno himself, Boss Corporation President Yoshihiro Ikegami. It was great to see Yoshi getting amongst it. This is the guy who created the SDE3000 rack delay, made famous by Steve Vai and he also had a major part in the development of the BR series recording gear and the new Waza Craft products. We’ll have an interview with Yoshi online soon. It was great to see Hammond Australia at the show, adding a keyboard element but also promoting the awesome new Leslie H-02 pedal. Studio 19 were there offering very reasonable instrument hire deals. Peavey had some wonderful one-off deals on their combo amps and heads, and punters could chat with Peavey’s Global Product manager Michael Smith. Yamaha Music was visible in many areas of the show including their Line 6 product stand on the electric floor and their range of quality acoustic guitars upstairs, including the vibrant TransAcoustic guitars. D’Addario Australia was hard to miss with their wall of colourful strings and a haul of stunning Schecter guitars. Dynamic Music promoted their Supro amp range, as well as Godin and Seagull guitars. EGM always have the interesting boutique gear and this year was no different, with a great selection from Badcat, Magnatone, Fuchs, Lehle and BluGuitar, to name a just a few.  Australis Music Group had a big presence at the show and displayed an array of Japanese made Ibanez Prestige guitars, as well as some wonderful Ovation acoustics and powerful Bugera amplifiers including products from the acclaimed Infinium range.

The wall of Ibanez guitars were a show hit
The wall of Ibanez guitars were a show hit
James Ryan sparking a flame on the Fender stand
James Ryan sparking a flame on the Fender stand
Blues Cubes
Douglas Clarke (Sunburst Music) and Melbourne Guitar Show's 'Best on Ground' Shannon Bourne
Douglas Clarke (Sunburst Music) and Melbourne Guitar Show’s ‘Best on Ground’ Shannon Bourne

Elsewhere on the floor, Sunburst Music was exhibiting some gorgeous vintage guitars including a 1956 Stratocaster, on special at just $49,000! Also presenting a range of quality vintage gear were Just Guitars and Owen Ray’s International Music. At the opposite end of the technological spectrum, Innovative Music had a lot of interest in their revolutionary Kemper amp products, as did Independent Music Products for their similarly spectacular Fractal Audio Systems AX8 system. It was quite apt that Wayne Jones Audio and CMC Music (Ernie Ball Music Man) were in their own little ‘pocket’ in the middle of the room, where they both featured high end bass gear and offered onstage performances from their endorsees. Wayne has been making a name for himself internationally with his bass cabs and pre amps. CMC Music were displaying Markbass, Sterling and Musicman bass products as well as Musicman guitars and DV Mark amps.

Sales were brisk from the outset, and with some of Australia’s top retailers in attendance, crowds were taking advantage of show specials and seeing products that had not been close to yet. KC’s Rock Shop, GH Music, Pony Music, Macron Music, Evolution Music, Guitars Plus, Pat’s Music, Fine Music and The Bass Centre and The Acoustic Centre were all packed with punters checking out the latest gear on offer as well as a lot of collectables and local crafted products.

The Melbourne Guitar Show also gave many independent Australian manufacturers the chance to promote their products. Charles Cilia Guitars and George Evans amps had such a great show last year that they came back again and impressed the pubic even more. It was a similar story for Fican Guitars, DiQuattro, Custom Guitar Works and many others. Joey Amenta from 70’s rock band Taste was having the time of his life demoing for locally made Delm guitars. Aussie made Vase and Sherlock amps were making plenty of noise on their stands too.

Kevin Borich by Jason Rosewarne
Kevin Borich by Jason Rosewarne

One of the best aspects of the Melbourne Guitar Show is that once the artists have finished their shows, they find time to stalk the stands too, mixing it with the public. One such guitar hero was Kevin Borich, who found time for friends and punters inside after his killer set with his band on the main stage. And it’s not only the guitarists that are booked to play the stages who enjoy the show, many local guitar identities could be seen this year including Universal Music artist Harts, who has an awesome new album, Smoke Fire Hope Desire out on September 16. Harts told Australian Musician he was at the show to explore gear possibilities for his future live shows. Former Redcoats guitarist Neil Wilkinson was also checking out gear for his new band. It was also fantastic to see respected musicians like Chris Bekker and Michael Dolce doing on-stand sessions too.

Dean Ray lovin' the guitar show
Dean Ray lovin’ the guitar show

Rohan Stevenson was another returning artist who performed last year, but this time he brought the full I Built The Sky band. Making his Melbourne Guitar Show debut was Dean Ray, who had told Australian Musician earlier in the year that he’d like to play this event and even if he couldn’t, he’d be here anyway. Dean never disappoints. He and his band delivered a true rock ‘n’ roll show and gave us taste of what’s to come when he finally graces us with that long awaited new album. Once Dean left the stage, he was quick to rush off and check out the stands full of gear. He was also chuffed to run into his guitar hero Kevin Borich in the aisles too. Rounding off day one, prog metal act Teramaze, led by Dean Wells was shredding up a storm, playing tracks from their majestic current album Her Halo.



Pic by Jason Rosewarne
James Ryan pic by Jason Rosewarne

Sunday at the racetrack got off to another flying start, with the James Ryan Trio playing classic tunes from David Lee Roth’s Eat Em and Smile album. Joined by vocalist extraordinaire Chris Stark, who was here last year fronting Racer Axe, the trio became a quartet and pumped out some rockin’ fun. Just before she heads off on world tour, Dallas Frasca followed and was as mischievous as ever, taking her microphone into the crowd to get up close and personal with the people. Thanks to Ernie Ball Musicman, prog metal shredders The Delusion presented their acclaimed well-drilled, technical rhythms which they deliver in a very musical and melodic way.

Dallas Frasca pic by Jason Rosewarne

Meanwhile on the AON Mezzanine stage the instant ukulele orchestra was happening, a session in which punters could grab a uke and learn to play in just 20 minutes. Also on hand to entertain uke-style were Sarah Carroll, Matthew Fagan, Mike Jackson, Dan MacEoin, AJ Leonard and the NCAT Ukes.

Daniel Champagne was booked to follow the uke extravaganza, however his flight from Canada had been cancelled. Filling in at the last minute was Nick Charles, along with the laptop slide brilliance of Pete Fidler. Pete then joined Nick’s second multi-player extravaganza, along with Matthew Fagan, Sergio Ercole, Lucas Michailidis, and Jon Delaney.

Next door in the Winners Circle, product sessions included Fractal’s AX8 with Brett Kingman, Maton’s Custom Shop seminar with Andy Allen, Roland and Boss Showcase, Wireless Audio systems by PRA Audio with Wayne Jones and Jack Pantazis, and to finish up, a Line 6 demo with Jon Beckx


Pics by Jason Rosewarne

Back outside, buzz band of the moment Tequila Mockingbyrd were all smiles, stopping for a quick all-in selfie before the all-female trio hit the main stage to play tracks from their thumpin’ new album Fight and Flight. It’s only a matter of weeks before the girls take off on their first tour of the UK and Europe.

Chris Strak & phil Ceberano Triple M Finale Jam. Pic by
Chris Stark & Phil Ceberano Triple M Finale Jam. Pic by

Ending the weekend’s festivities, the Triple M Finale Jam celebrated everything that is great about the Melbourne Guitar Show. Six respected guitar players, James Ryan, Simon Hosford, Phil Ceberano, Brett Kingman, Bob Spencer and Shannon Bourne, each with much admiration for each other, came together to jam out some licks but mostly to have as much fun as possible. Shannon began the jam with a solo spot and his tune Bailing Dry. From then on, there was no turning back, it was lick after shred after riff in a tonefest to bring a tear to the eye of any half-arsed guitarist who has ever strapped on a guitar for a strum. The licks at times were sublime, the spaces perfectly timed. The joy was contagious. Unlike the athletes in Rio who will have to wait another 4 years for the next Olympian get together, you can rest assured that we’ll all be back for more guitar gymnastics at the same time next year. In our minds, we’re already there!

Here are a few more fabulous shots from Jason Rosewarne

Phil Manning by Jason Rosewarne
Phil Manning by Jason Rosewarne
Bob Spencer in the Finale Jam. Pic by Jason Rosewarne


Shannon Bourne in the jam. Pic Jason Rosewarne
Shannon Bourne in the jam. Pic Jason Rosewarne
Brett Kingman jams. Pic by Jason Rosewarne
Phil Ceberano in Finale Jam. Pic by Jason Rosewarne

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