Musicians came with gig bags and road cases, carrying special effects in small boxes and looking for amazing deals on gear Saturday during the first Kentucky Guitar & Gear Show.
“Everybody behaved themselves. I was just worried about the guys with me,” joked Nick Carr, one of the show’s organizers, who estimated a couple of hundred musicians from throughout the area participated throughout the day. While Carr and fellow planner, Jason Kiser, both members of the band Mad Dog Mean, had planned a small event, at the end of the day they agreed the response was almost overwhelming.
“We need a bigger venue. There was a lot of trading going on and a lot of great deals. They were actually filtering in before we opened at 10. It was steady all day until around 4:30 and the Ale8 was flowing free,” Carr said, adding they hope to host a second show in Ashland in April.
Often pierced by the sound of an experimental instrument, effect or amp, the show seemed to lean more toward electric than acoustic models, although everything from semi-hollow and formica-topped instruments were well represented alongside authentic vintage and reproduction solid-body instruments by makers including Hamer, Fender and Gibson among others. Among the dozens who arrived early and stayed late was guitarist Taylor Virgin of Greenup County, who attracted a tight circle of admirers as he plugged into a big amp by Dana Hall of Ashland’s Hall Amplifiers.
“I just came to check everything out really, but the Hall amp ... that’s been the highlight of the day. And, he’s a cool dude, too — super genius,” Virgin said.
Hall used the day’s event to debut a new line of “Microplex” guitar amps which get their groove from a type of vacuum tube which was designed for a far different purpose.
“These tubes were designed in the 1950s to go into guided missile systems,” he said with a grin, explaining the military-spec grade tubes were made to withstand more G-force and time testing than even a heavy-metal guitarist could throw at it. The small tubes at the heart of the new line of amps were impressive, he said, although almost immediately made obsolete by the onset of transistor technology.
Wearing a Yngwie Malmsteen T-shirt from the 1980s, guitarist Kyle Ingle of Ashland worked his way from table to table seeking someone interested in buying his guitars, or a bass amp in his car, so he could generate enough cash to buy a Seventies-tribute Les Paul on the other side of the room.
“There’s a lot of people bargaining today,” he said with a grin while still feeling the warmth from his test drive of one of Hall’s larger amplifiers. Ingle advised Hall he was already a fan of his work, explained he was extremely impressed after playing one of the local manufacturer’s first amps, owned by Rodney Crisp.
Keith Harmon of Mountain Music Exchange in Pikeville said the show exceeded his expectations.
“It’s doing great and there are tons of people,” he said as an elbow-to-elbow crowd slowly worked its way around the conference room at Best Western River Cities. “We’re selling and buying and people are just going for it. There’s all kinds of cool stuff.”
As the day’s vendors packed their unsold instruments back into cases, Carr said he heard of several outstanding bargains being struck during the day, including the barter of an antique Gibson guitar amp, as well as a “Black Beauty” Les Paul guitar.
TIM PRESTON can be reached at email@example.com or (606) 326-2651.