The 45th Annual Dallas International Guitar Festival was another unmitigated success story. Jimmy Wallace, owner, promoter, guitarist, seller, buyer, and trader, backed by an outstanding team, kept the country's largest guitar show running smoothly so that the vendors, musicians and, especially the fans, enjoyed the entire weekend.
Vendors were consistently busy as evidenced by the crowds surrounding almost every booth. Amateur musicians were able to play the guitars in the booths and drew fans they never knew they had. Some vendors had celebrities at their booths to draw even larger audiences and, hopefully, make more sales. The fans also had the opportunity to take pictures with some of their favorite guitarists, always a big part of the festival.
There were also seminars from several promoters teaching aspiring musicians some of the newest tools, as evidenced by multi-talented Andy Timmons leading "The Technology Of Jimi Hendrix." Another favorite part of the weekend is the 10 Under 20 contest, with 10 future stars of tomorrow, all under the age of 20, vying for 1st place in the competition. This years' winner, Izzy Jennings, and all the competitors, earned the chance to further their musical entrepreneurship as they strive to make music their career.
A major, although unplanned, byproduct of the DIGF is friends being able to reconnect with friends from years past. Locals meeting up with other locals they formed friendships with decades ago was worth the price of admission. Musicians are getting to catch up with fellow music masters to talk about their trade, their lives and the future. Fans getting up close and personal with local, national and international celebrities is always fun and memories are made that will last a lifetime.
As always, music permeated the weekend as Wallace brought in guitarists and bands from different genres so that every attendee had a favorite they could see. The aforementioned 10 Under 20 competition drew a large, enthusiastic crowd as Izzy Jennings, who also played at the Guitar Show Kick-Off party in Dallas, led a talented contingent of young artists that had viewers attest to the promising future of music.
Artists played on all three stages concurrently so there was rarely a down moment for the music lover. The uber-talented Monte Montgomery set the mood for the weekend, while Buddy Texas Tornadoes Rocky Athas, Quentin Hope, Alan Haynes and Buddy Whittington drew crowds and enthusiastic cheers. Other outstanding talents such as Larry Mitchell, Chris Duarte, Darren Wise, Greg Koch, Rockin' Robert T and Stone Cold Sweat ensured that great music was only a stage away at any point in time during the festival.
Orianthi highlighted Saturday's show, preceded by the always wonderful Girls of Guitars. Jin The Band began the set, with Bad Ass Rocker Chick Nicole, her brother Joe on drums and Myles on bass. They captured a classic rock vibe with emotions and feelings showing through their music. They solidified their rock standing by ending with "Red House."
Sadie Johnson, backed by Mike Gage, Michael Holmes and Bobby Sparks, was in great voice and outgoing all night as the singer/songwriter moved and swayed to her music. Sadie showed her talent on guitar and enjoyed every second onstage. She then brought out Kara Grainger to a big hand who followed a long intro into "Radar Love." Solos by both women punctuated a tremendous version of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" to finish.
Then came the multi-talented Orianthi. She immediately enthralled the venue with musical abilities, stage presence and beautiful looks. Dallas's own Neil Swanson on guitar, along with Austin on bass and Elijah on drums superbly backed up the star and then the inimitable Eric Johnson joined them for a few songs. Orianthi explored the stage while playing hard rock and moving to the top of the stage. A funkified version of "Black And White" preceded an outstanding cover of "Europa." She switched to acoustic for a country song, staying animated onstage, then brought out Greg Koch for a bluesy song with battling riffs. She channeled Jimi Hendrix for "Voodoo Chile" with lightning-fast fretting and super-speed strumming, while never looking at the chords she was playing. Her 16-song set left the entire crowd spent.
A huge crowd, including a plethora of fellow musicians, came out as Philip Sayce did much more than warm up the crowd. Sayce should be a headliner on any card, which just shows the power of Eric Johnson in the music world. He played hard and fast, but never lost his tone. Backed by Sam Bolle and Brian Head, the power trio rocked, then rocked even more.
The professional's professional, Eric Johnson, came out to raucous cheers for what was to come. Beginning with superb tone and every lick being meaningful, the music flowed seamlessly. The crowd roared for Jimi's "Drifting" and the jazz fusion of Coltrane's "Impressions." The impresario paid tribute to Jeff Beck with "Freeway Jam" before dedicating an original tribute to JB with "Open Road." A complicated solo with many chord changes led into "Cliffs Of Dover" as fellow guitarists crowded the stage with their cameras to take photos and videos of one of the great instrumental songs of all-time.
Mr. Tone then brought out another great guitarist in the person of Andy Timmons. His tight sound complemented EJ perfectly, as did bassist Roscoe Bell, guitarist Dave Sharon and drummer Wayne Salzman. The hot licks continued with a riff off between Eric and Andy and the fans were the winners.
The entire weekend was non-stop action in some form. Whether buying, selling or trading guitars, professional and amateur musicians improved their equipment so they could improve their sound. The music was outstanding as top local, national and international stars played to packed crowds. Thank you, Jimmy Wallace.