Kids have The Royal Melbourne Show, Shoppers have Black Friday, Foodies have The Food & Wine Show and for Guitar Nerds like myself, we wait around all year to attend the Melbourne Guitar Show.
Walking in is like entering a massive, sprawling guitar store with booths from all the major brands greeting you as you enter - Gibson, Fender, Jackson, Gretsch, Ibanez, ESP, PRS. Every major brand was there front and centre. Conveniently, Studio 19 Rentals and Afterpay also had easy to locate booths near the entrance. Ah, there is no other place where you will find addicts and enablers so enamoured with each other.
The fine gentlemen at the ESP booth deserve a special mention for their excellent customer service and even indulged me by letting me try a very rare, 1 of only 15 in the world, USA custom shop guitar. This beauty featured a wood-burned Nosferatu graphic and had a eye-watering price tag of $20,000. It certainly was tempting and had me considering ringing up my bank manager before I snapped out of my trance.
While the big booths drew the largest crowds, it’s always the small boutique builders that pique my interests. So I made my way past all the bright lights and went in search for the hidden gems tucked away in the corners of the showroom.
Mark Gilbert Guitars
Mark Gilbert makes exquisite, one of a kind guitars from sustainably sourced Tasmanian Timbers.
The level of craftsmanship on these instruments is astounding. Each instrument showcases Mark’s meticulous attention to detail and one can only imagine the painstaking hours that go into every build. It’s a very rare thing for artistry and engineering to meet in such a complimentary fashion but when it does, it certainly takes your breath away.
However, these guitars are not merely visually appealing, they are also incredibly comfortable to play. The Tasmanian wood definitely lend a unique voice to each instrument and Mark’s choice of pickups from brands such as TV Jones, Lollar and Lindy Fralin show that no expense is spared with his builds.
All of this luxury comes in at a very reasonable price, especially when you take into account the intricacies involved in these guitars. I for one am now a fan and my wish list has just gotten a little longer. A few of the other boutique brands that caught my attention were Legator Guitars, Cilia Guitars and Holdfast Guitars who do custom airbrush work that is truly stunning.
When I heard Nick Johnston was gonna be performing I made sure that I would be there early to get a good close-up view of his set. Nick is such a tasteful player that has so much intentionality behind every note. Emotion flows through every bend, every legato phrase, every trill. As he performed his song, Remarkably Human I really got a sense of his storytelling ability and there were moments that reminded me of one of the greats, Andy Timmons.
Nick Johnston evidently possesses all the techniques and guitar acrobatics that one could wish for, but it is in the way he discerns when and where to use them that sets him apart from many of his contemporaries. He would vary his touch from aggressive digging in, to a light feathering of the strings - and the notes you don’t hear are almost as important as the ones you do. He also exhibited great showmanship and his playful personality came across in his playing.
At the end of his set, Nick took the time for some questions from the crowd and stayed back after to take some photos and have a chat with fans. In the short time that I got to watch him play and have a little chat, I can safely say Nick Johnston is certainly a Remarkable Human.
So that concludes the 2023 Melbourne Guitar Show. I would like to commend the organisers and all the brands involved for putting together an excellent event. We may not have a guitar show on the same magnitude as NAMM in Anaheim but we certainly have a lot of talented luthiers and pedal and amplifier manufacturers in our fair country. Therefore, any event that gives them a platform to be known is definitely one that I cherish.
Photos Contributed by AARON MAK