Another year, another trip to Sweetwater’s GearFest in the sweltering Indiana sun. This year I guess they had nearly as many attendees as Summer NAMM, which is fairly impressive. Especially considering the frequent and unpredictable massive downpours that would occasionally shutter the gear tents and send attendees running for shelter.
My agenda this year was a lot less educational and a lot more hands-on. Last few years I’ve hit a lot of the sessions and talks, but it’s gotten to the point where they’re starting to be a smidge redundant for me. I would really love for Sweetwater to add some “advanced” sessions, but that may be more difficult for them given the wide range of customer bases they’re dealing with, so if they don’t, no big deal.
I was there to buy some gear. I was there to play with some gear. And these things I did. I finally got to spend some quality time with a Shadow Hills Mastering Compressor, which is a brilliant piece of gear and SOMEDAY. I also laid hands upon a real, live Pultec EQ – not a clone, not an emulation, but the real 1950’s-spec box and…I get it now.
Strangely I spent a lot of my time hanging around Radial’s booth and quizzing Shuu (their rep) about piezo buffer DI’s and such. Super handy. Maybe not quite as sexy as Manley’s MassivePassive display or Bricasti’s reverb demos but exceptionally useful. I guess I’ve hit that part of my career, where the solid utilitarian tools seem way more important than the super-sexy shiny kit. Also Shuu is incredibly helpful.
It says something that Linda from Moog recognized me. What it says, I don’t know. But Linda’s always cool and she always seems pleased that someone wants to talk theremins instead of just minimoogs.
I also met Tom Oberheim. Which is a serious bucket list moment – I’ve owned a good chunk of his gear over the years, from a Oberheim Matrix (which I still have) to a Seasound SoloEX (his post-Oberheim audio interface) and the dude’s a straight-up genius so that was pretty cool. He, Roger Linn, and Dave Smith spoke at the “Synth Icons” panel, which was a lot of “war stories” about the classic days of analog gear and their respective philosophies about the evolution of that technology. That was a lot of fun. Roger Linn was pushing his new Linnstrument pretty hard the whole time, which was faintly amusing (and to be fair, it looks super cool, but alternate controllers, no matter how natural, are always a tough sell in a world where people grow up playing piano). Smith seemed the most circumspect, and I hypothesize that it’s because over the years he’s seen the biggest rises and falls of anyone short of Bob Moog.
A highlight for me was the talk by Sylvia Massy. She is a storied producer, having worked with everyone from Johnny Cash and Prince to Tool, and yet she’s seemingly less-publicized than some of her contemporaries. Her talk was very engaging and laid-back, and surprisingly informative. I also learned that Mojave makes the ultimate in mics for recording a squeezed chicken.
As usual I got to meet up with my sales engineer, the affable and accented Nick Church, who set me up with a good deal and answered all my questions. This guy has been my primary sales contact since…geez, 2003? He sold me Omnisphere 2, which I’ve been meaning to buy for a while. Always a pleasure to work with that guy.
I watched Dan buy a lot of gear. I always watch Dan buy a lot of gear. Then I watch him use a lot of gear, and I see what works, then I buy slightly less gear. Then I encourage him to buy more gear. It’s a terrifying and expensive feedback loop.
This year, my brother-in-law and live soundguy-extraordinaire Adam was also in attendance. We met for lunch at the pork truck on Friday. And then again for dinner at the amusingly-named BBQ restaurant “Shigs in Pit.” Mmm delicious pork products.
Apropos of nothing, I got to sit in an Aston Martin. It was entirely unrelated to music gear, but there happened to be an V12 Rapide on display, next to a Ferrari California. So I sat in each. I love Aston Martins. And this one was available for a mere $112k. I considered buying two, just so I’d have a spare. HA HA no not really.
Dan’s beautiful all-custom guitar FINALLY arrived this year, too. He’d ordered it at Gearfest three years ago, and by remarkable coincidence, it had finally arrived after a few years of miscommunications, mistranslations, and general international bureaucracy . It is indeed a beautiful instrument. Of course he was a bit paranoid about its safety for the bulk of the trip back, which meant whenever he was indisposed I would send him a photo of me doing something lewd to his guitar case…or so I thought anyway. As it turns out I had been texting said pictures to my wife, who was bemused by the whole thing.
We’ve already started planning for next year.