It was all change for this year’s London Bass Guitar Show – the date, the location, even the name. The show took place in late September, as opposed to customary early March, and moved to the Business Design Centre in Islington, north London. Being co-located with the UK Guitar Show seems to imply that the show’s name, while still in use this year, is likely to become unnecessary in the future, as the event hosts booths showcasing instruments and accessories of both persuasions in one single – if very large – space.
I found the building itself to be absolutely stunning, and quite the upgrade on the show’s previous, nice but rather ordinary, choice of location. The Business Design Centre offers three main areas, one at ground floor level, one in the shape of a large, raised mezzanine, and one at first floor level, comprising the masterclass rooms, the auditorium and the balcony allowing access to them (and to a rather lovely view of the whole show from above). The Victorian wrought-iron-and-glass ceiling lets in a lot of natural light, and its high, domed shape slightly reduces the ambient noise by mitigating its direct reverberation.
There were a few drawbacks, however. To start with, while it would have been a good idea to gather all the bass-only exhibitors in one area, it didn’t look like it had been possible. As a consequence, only a small group of bass companies were next to each other, while other important bass exhibitors were elsewhere on the mezzanine, or downstairs, and surrounded by guitar-only vendors. That is the normal layout at many prestigious music shows around the world, most notably NAMM, so it’s simply a matter of getting used to it. It was a bit of a shock to the system only to us LBGS veterans, used to a smaller building filled with bass-only exhibitors.
A slightly bigger problem in the Design Centre, however, was the actual position of the masterclass and workshop rooms with respect to the auditorium. The rooms shared internal walls with each other and with the auditorium. Despite the insulation work, this setup was allowing a lot of mutual sound pollution, in many cases irritating the hell out of the musicians giving the masterclasses and talks, and forcing them to volume wars, especially when a performance was in full swing in the auditorium.
Above, photo taken just before the start of John Patitucci’s masterclass.
Below, the empty cases from the equipment loaded into the auditorium next door.
The positioning of the Luthier’s Room/Tone Zone was equally unfortunate – most of the time, the only way to hear the interviewers and interviewees over the general din in the hall was by placing an ear directly against one of the PA speakers. It would have been wiser not to have the Luthier’s Room/Tone Zone in an unwalled corner of the mezzanine in the noisy main hall, and dedicate a masterclass room to it instead.
Luthier’s Room/Tone Zone
Regrettably, none of my audio recordings of the Luthier’s Room/Tone Zone interviews are publishable, for the reasons stated above. However, I did take photos!
Below, Dave Boonshoft, founder of Aguilar, is interviewed by Mike Brooks on Saturday and Joel McIver on Sunday.
Another brilliant talk was the interview with Mark Gooday, founder of Ashdown, below with Joel McIver, and holding a brightly-coloured Rootmaster 500 head.
Both in the case of Dave Boonshoft and Mark Gooday, the insights from their long experience as heads of their companies, the deep knowledge of the market and its evolution, the love for engineering and the constant desire for innovation and improvement, all sprinkled with anecdotes and glimpses of their relationships with music stars, were an absolute treat. One day I might take the time to transcribe those noisy audio recordings for all of us to enjoy…
Alex Claber of Barefaced was at the show primarily to introduce the company’s new line of Diffractor guitar cabs. Stop, don’t fast-scroll down!
As a bassist, but especially as a budding live sound engineer, I made a point of attending. Alex may have solved the problem of guitar amplification ruining bands’ live mixes by sounding loud and full of depth at the front, but thin, quiet and horrible anywhere else (including the sides of the stage). Of course that can be cured by putting the guitars on the PA and using on-stage monitoring, but if you play in pubs and small venues, space and logistics may only allow the use of the backline, with just the vocals on a small PA. So, has Barefaced just made our life easier?
The cab’s special, open design has the purpose of allowing the guitar sound to leave the back of the cab at an angle, which is an improvement in itself. If there is a wall behind the cab, the wall will reflect that sound, equally at an angle, on both sides. Hey, in the live demo it worked, and we didn’t even have a proper wall directly behind the speaker. The sound coming from the back of the cab is slightly more middy than at the front, but it is audible from the sides, and almost as loud as at the front.
Alex was interviewed by Neville Marten of Guitarist Magazine, and helped by guitar-toting Barefaced colleague Louis.
Tomm Stanley of Stonefield presented the company’s M-Series neckthrough bass. The model he’s holding here has a floating bridge which is adjustable in height, and Tomm’s own special tuning system, operated at the headstock with a standard drum key, and fine-tuned at the bridge.
Tomm doesn’t ‘do’ so-called ergonomically-contoured basses, or puny, thin necks: his basses are elegant pieces of luscious, thick wood that’s sexy to the touch and sounds superb. I tried the M-series 4-string (upside down), and wasn’t put off by what Tomm described as its ‘thicker’ neck, despite my tiny hands. It’s slightly deeper than you would expect, but its width is standard, and it’s very comfortable to play.
Below is a similar model, equipped with a ramp, on show at Stonefield’s booth.
And those Mini cabs look cute enough to eat but pack a punch!
More photos can be found in the exhibitors section further down in this document.
Former Big Country bassist – and all-round lovely individual – Tony Butler made the effort to attend the show despite the painful disability (diabetes has compromised the use of his legs) that ended his touring career. He was interviewed by Joel McIver, and showcased his new Chowny Retrovibe model, which he chose because he wanted to associate his name, as an educator, with an affordable but high-quality bass.
Masterclasses and Performances
I finally had the opportunity to meet Ariane, after following her teaching online and in printed form. Her masterclasses are genuinely refreshing, because she manages to make music theory, its application, and practising, good fun as opposed to a chore.
I also made sure to catch her performance in the auditorium. Check out the video below the photo.
Highly respected pro metal bassist Becky reminded us that, in addition to talent and chops and practice, to earn a living with music you need to be mature, reliable, organised, versatile and, well, have a professional attitude in the usual sense of the word. So she gave us advice based on her experience, described how to survive on tour, and played along tracks she’s recorded with different bands requiring different styles.
I was on my way from one important appointment to another while Nick Beggs was in the auditorium, but I did make sure to pop in for a few minutes anyway.
I think he had some of the best bass faces of the day. 🙂
Jazz megastar but at the same time nice, personable and down to earth. After both his masterclass and his auditorium performance, John made sure to talk, shake hands and take selfies with every person who was queueing to see him. Then he walked around the show, like a normal punter, mostly unnoticed. Legend.
Below, at his masterclass.
He performed in the auditorium later in the day, accompanied by Gwilym Simcock on keys.
John introduced this composition, dedicated to Thelonius Monk and Chick Corea, as ‘ChickMonk’.
Incidentally, he was one of the few performers I saw at any music show who received a standing ovation at the end of his set in the auditorium.
John was given the Bass Player Lifetime Achievement Award by Joel McIver, and despite already having a collection of similar accolades, he was genuinely moved. ‘In reality I’m just a kid from Brooklyn, NY’ he said, while fighting back tears for a few moments.
Note: not ALL the exhibitors at the show. Just those I could take acceptable photos of!
See? Told you John Patitucci could be spotted walking around the show. Here he is with head honcho Dave Boonshoft.
I do love that aqua green colour. Don’t mind the orange/red either.
This simply caught my eye. It looks like the precursor of the Beatle bass, but that F-hole is painted on.
There you are, guitar amplification bonanza, but the popular bass range is still there, and its logo hasn’t changed.
The unmistakable feast for our eyes!
Below, something I hadn’t seen before. A Saber bass by Willcox Guitars.
Yay, Dingwall, with the new, reshaped ‘D-Bird’ (or D-Roc as it’s now called)!
This looked more interesting that I thought at first, and rather busy all weekend.
Stephen Chown, his lovely affordable basses, and the GAS that never leaves.
On the right below, the new NT5 model.
There is obviously also an NT4 model, below.
Below, lefty and righty Retrovibe EVOs.
That vibrating platform was very popular, as always, and the only way to take a photo of this booth was before the doors opened…
Not only are their instruments beautifully quirky to look at, the booth also had a luthiery corner. I love watching experts create guitars and basses.
This was what their booth looked like most of the weekend!
Spotted below: new versions of the existing Gold and Kimandu bass guitar models.
Below, my favourite in the group.
Argh! GAS, GAS and more GAS. And Gerald knows. Maybe one day I will succumb.
I remember when Jim Marshall would always be at this stand at every music show, and sign posters for long queues of fans, and have a smile and a good word for everybody. Miss you Jim.
The company continues to keep up the inventive use of speaker frames, as seen below.
Best exhibitor bass face, hands down.
I made sure to play the lefty F-Series below, which Tomm had brought all the way from New Zealand for me (and for the small but proud contingent of LBGS southpaws). Just as luscious and sexy as the M-Series he showcased in his talk, but an older model with more traditional machine heads. The neck was of normal depth, as opposed to the ‘thicker’ M-Series, and equally comfortable to play. One word: GAS.
Below, the whole Mini series! Check them out online.
They mostly had acoustic guitars rather than their equally beautiful semi-acoustic basses. Despite that, they earned several brownie points for having Mr Makoto – stretching his hands in the pic below – perform precision setups on his special workbench brought all the way from Japan exclusively for the show.
What to say? We have the Elf, we GAS for the rest of the rig(s).
Keeping up the style!
The basses are highly stylish too.
MS B25 guitar (on the left) and bass rig (on the right).
Spot the Custom Shop Streamer LX on the right. Oooooo!