Sweetwater’s Heartland Homecoming

Sweetwater Sound launched its GearFest in Fort Wayne, Indiana 12 years ago, and aside from a break while the company’s new headquarters was being built several years back, the event has been held annually since, each year setting new records for attendance.
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The Producers’ Panel at GearFest featured (l-r): Bob Clearmountain, Fab Dupont, Ross Hogarth, Mick Guzauski, Bil VornDick, Ed Cherney, Richard Chycki and Bruce Swedien. Sweetwater Sound launched its GearFest in Fort Wayne, Indiana 12 years ago, and aside from a break while the company’s new headquarters was being built several years back, the event has been held annually since, each year setting new records for attendance. The 2014 event was held June 6 and 7 on Sweetwater’s expansive (and expanding) campus.

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The cost of attending GearFest, aside from travel expenses, is zero. That’s true for the representatives of the 200-plus exhibiting brands and for attendees. Attendees are welcomed with an amazing variety of opportunities, from the 185 workshops and seminar sessions to sale prices on everything in inventory, killer deals in the “open box” area and an attendee-stocked and -manned flea market. The Deal Zone, made possible with the cooperation of Sweetwater manufacturer partners, offers onsite-only heavy discounts, ranging from amps to mics to cables to mic stands to instruments. The exhibitors also provided over $72,000 of gear for hourly giveaways. Outside, 20 huge tents (four for pro audio) housed table-top displays and demo systems from the exhibiting manufacturers. Always nearby were Sweetwater sales engineers to process purchases by attendees.

From the music production side, the June 7 Producer’s Panel roster gives an overview of the industry stars attending GearFest— Bruce Swedien, Bob Clearmountain, Ed Cherney, Mick Guzauski, Ross Hogarth, Richard Chycki, Bil VornDick, and Fab Dupont. The panel was moderated by Sweetwater’s own (and former EQ Magazine editor) Mitch Gallagher. Many of the producers’ and engineers’ attendance was sponsored by manufacturers with individual sessions also presented, like Bil VornDick’s acoustic miking tutorial, Ed Cherney’s recounting the secrets to his success, miking techinques by Ross Hogarth (with Kenny Aronoff), live performance recording and mixing with Bob Clearmountain, an Anatomy of a Mix session with Richard Chycki, and mixing with Mick Guzauski.

Musician presenters included the previously mentioned drummer, Kenny Arnoff, drummer Jason Bonham (whose Led Zeppelin Experience performed to cap the event), bass player Billy Sheehan, guitarists Jason Hook, Shaun Hopper, Don Carr, Devin Townsend, Emil Werstler, Carl Verheyen, and Brad Davis and keyboard player Larry Dunn.

Presentations during GearFest occupied a number of meeting spaces, such as the technologically impressive main theater and new spaces included in Sweetwater’s latest expansion (that expansion also creating a near doubling of warehouse space—where better than $20 million in inventory lands and departs every 20 to 30 days—and also near doubling the space for the beehive of activity that is the hang for Sweetwater’s sales engineering team, complete with a spiral slide to bring them down from the second floor).
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