GEAR GALORE: Even late in the day at GearFest, eager attendees clustered at the manufacturers demos to ask questions, lay hands on hardware and software, and snatch up bargains.
Ft. Wayne, IN–Sweetwater customers took full advantage of the opportunity that was GearFest ’08 to explore the new corporate headquarters, take in a few tunes, learn a little and to test drive and buy specially priced software, hardware and instruments. Sweetwater reports that more than 4,000 individuals took part in GearFest ’08 on May 31, with teeming crowds finding a variety of experiences available across nearly every square-inch of the spacious new HQ and campus.
FORTY YEARS STRONG: Tower of Power’s Emilio Castillo (right) puts down his sax and takes the mic for a tune. Fellow TOP co-founder, Stephen “Doc” Kupka, is on baritone sax (far left).
GearFest ’08 was the first of the quasi-regular events series held since Sweetwater began construction of its new $35 million campus, and the company’s most ambitious event to date. Attendees, mostly Sweetwater customers, traveled from far and wide to participate, and both exhibitors and attendees alike were enthusiastic about the day’s activities.
HARMAN ON WHEELS: The Harman Pro Group rolled into Sweetwater’s GearFest ’08 in strength with mobile displays and a mobile stage.
“GearFest was awesome this year! It was really fun to see everyone supporting Sweetwater as they opened up their amazing new facility to the public,” said Erica McDaniel, directress of sales for Universal Audio, who took advantage of the event to debut to the U.S. market its 710 Twin-Finity dual-tube/solid-state path mic pre and DI. Scott Haas, VP of sales for Hear Technologies, agreed, “Gear Fest, once again, was a wonderful experience. The attendees were knowledgeable and ready to see new products. We showed the new Freedom Back wireless in-ear monitor system and got rave reviews.”
THEN AND NOW: Legendary engineer Bruce Swedien’s GearFest ’08 keynote address recounted lessons learned from sessions beginning in the ’60s with Count Basie (on screen, at Chicago’s Universal Studios) to Michael Jackson’s Thriller to more recent studio escapades.
Individuals with gear to sell or trade could set up in the Flea Market tent where deals were to be found on used, rare (and sometimes obscure) audio hardware and instruments. Over 140 manufacturers exhibited at GearFest ’08, with a Guitar Tent completely full of guitars and guitar-related products, including the Peavey OC chopper periodically fired up to produce enough throbbing low end to make all the bass players jealous. Crown, Studer, Soundcraft and Digitech rolled in a semi trailer with demo stations, the Digitech trailer including a stage put to good use throughout GearFest.
THE DUKE: Bruce Swedien’s journey through his life’s work began with his early work with Duke Ellington circa 1962 (on screen). Swedien exhorted the audience to remember that what’s important is not the technology, but rather “communicating emotion.”
The Gear Tent full of reps from audio equipment manufacturers was a hubbub of activity, with innovation on display ranging from instrument-related products like the clever N-tune guitar tuners (with models for Fender and Gibson axes that replace the volume knob with a custom switched volume pot, illuminated bezel and associated circuitry that function as a precision guitar tuner when the player pulls up on the knob) to the Plugiator from Use Audio (a hardware standalone synth engine for use as a plug-in with DAWs or with keyboard controllers), to Genelec studio monitors, to Monster Power line conditioners, to Neumann microphones–a full palate of hardware and software.
Sweetwater Sales Engineers were on hand at every turn to offer discounts on everything in the Sweetwater inventory. “The heat and humidity didn’t make the crowds any less active or interested,” opined TechRep marketing president and exhibitor, Jeff Mac. “We had tons of interest in Tascam, Sennheiser and Neumann, and it was great to see Sweetwater doing what they do best: making happy customers!”
THE TEEMING MASSES: Hordes of attendees fill Sweetwater’s main mall on their way to lectures, demos and the exhibitor’s tents.
Inside, legendary producer Bruce Swedien kicked off a day full of educational seminars with a retrospective keynote address to a crowd that filled the Sweetwater auditorium, with an overflow audience watching a video tie to the conference room across the hall. Swedien proclaimed, “Of all the arts, music is the most glorious…music touches the heart of every human being.” Appropriately, for a day dedicated to music making and music capture, live performances graced stages both indoors and out throughout GearFest ’08.
PRODUCERS SHARING SECRETS: Sweetwater’s Mitch Gallagher (2nd from right) hosted (from left) producer/engineer/musician/author and EQ magazine executive editor Craig Anderton, engineer/producer Bruce Swedien and producer/engineer/Mojave Audio principal Dusty Wakeman in a freewheeling discussion of production issues and techniques.
Sweetwater founder and president Chuck Surack remarked, “There’s literally nothing like GearFest in the entire country that is free and open to the public, and certainly nothing this big, with so many great attractions, outside of major metropolitan areas. It’s really a very big deal for Sweetwater, and for the industry.”