The Anaheim Plaza Hotel Ballroom served as mecca for guitar enthusiasts during the 2009 NAMM SHOW, as Deke Dickerson hosted the sixth annual Guitar Geek Festival. A yearly destination for some of the world’s most extraordinary players, little-known legends, and a hardcore lot of other pick-grinders in possession of some of the weirdest instruments ever made,
the event featured Buddy Holly’s original Crickets, a special set by Dickerson himself demonstrating the lost art of "Gilligan" go-go guitar, and the Rickenbacker Bakelite Band, which performed using vintage Rickenbacker bakelite instruments from the ’30s and ’40s, and featured QSC founder Pat Quilter on his bakelite lap steel. "I started fooling around with lap steel over 30 years ago," says Quilter, who was joined onstage by a luminary cast of other players including fellow lap steel fanatic D.B. Berzansky, 84 year-old sensation Travis Harrelson on his Rickenbacker electric ukelele, and Dickerson on his ungrounded bakelite Spanish electric, which caused quite a buzz when it gave the evening’s host an unexpected 110-volt jolt. "We had at least a dozen players in the band, which proved to be a notable logistics challenge. Deke issued practice tracks, but we had limited pre-show rehearsals. As a result, launching into the first number, "Steelin’ Home", was rather a leap of faith. This incredible wall of sound poured out–almost in tune–and afterwards we all looked up and agreed it was like being in a high school horn band." Quilter admits that his regular lap steels of choice are a National Tricone and mid-’50s Fender double-neck eight-string, but for this gig he dug into his Rickenbacker collection and chose one that still had fairly intact tuning keys. "Rick steels have a short scale, which drove me to trying a higher tuning," he adds, revealing one of his performance secrets. I moved my normal ‘Dobro-G’ tuning up to C, which endlessly confused me on neck position, but rang out loud-and-clear through my specially-built Quilter amp." Having made quite a name for himself over the years within the world of amplifiers, Quilter also supplied the Guitar Geek Festival’s house sound system this year, which was assembled on-site by an audio crew including QSC Sr. Manager of Concert Solutions Brian English. Comprised of loudspeaker components culled from QSC’s HPR Series, the rig included a pair of 18-inch subwoofers supporting 15-inch two-way enclosures for the center seating section, all of which were flanked by 12-inch two-ways for seats on the side. Four more HPR cabinets additionally provided onstage monitoring. "I had a lot of compliments on the sound," Deke Dickerson reports now that the fallout of yet another NAMM has passed and he begins to gear up for next year’s Geekfest. "The system worked great, and unlike in previous years when we used other PA systems, the QSC self-powered rig just plugged together and instantly worked with little or no tweaking. I was super-pleased with it." While legions of the guitar faithful have indeed come to feel that Dickerson’s Geekfests represent a higher order of musical attainment not readily available elsewhere in this or any other life, one member of the mainstream press attending a past event disrespectfully wrote that guitar geeks are "only slightly cooler than Trekkies and Dungeon & Dragons nerds." "Guitar nerds simply can’t help being who they are," Dickerson says in response to such heresy. "It is therefore my job to service them with the entertainment they desire, because I am one myself. The Guitar Geek Festival is open to everyone, but for the true guitar geek, it’s just like Woodstock, but without the annoying naked women everywhere."
Originally posted 2009-02-03 20:59:14.