Strung Out

Guitar shows and sci-fi conventions always bring out a special type of person. One wouldn't think guitars could be lumped in with tri-corders, but the difference between a sci-fi convention and a guitar show is not as great as you might think. The genetic pool that created the person wearing the "I grok Spock" T-shirt is not that far removed from the one that spawned the person wearing the one reading "I (heart) Floyd Rose tremolos."

The guitar is an instrument of individual personal expression, versatile and open to limitless style variations, but gatherings such as Dallas' Greater Southwest Guitar Show bring out a select audience that usually falls within one of a few different categories. (We won't even mention bass players because, well, no one ever does, do they?)

First are the working musicians. They've done everything they can to leave behind their nerd past by drowning it in amplifier volume and substance abuse. These are the kinds of players who get more beer on their instruments than they do in their mouths and who leave their guitars under piles of dirty laundry when not in use. You'll see fewer of these types at a guitar show because they have no money and can't be bothered getting out of bed before 6 p.m.

The second types are the "collectors." They can actually buy the instruments on display at the show but don't have the skills to play any of them because Mommy didn't like noise. They have no skill at playing the instrument but do have an encyclopedic storing of trivial knowledge they'll use to annoy you with absolutely no prompting. These types have made no effort to change their geeky ways and miraculously have reached adulthood with no social skills whatsoever.

The third types are the "shredders." These were the folks hanging out in the smoking area of any high school across America. They spent time making fun of nerds but were woefully unaware that their outsider status was really just geekiness thinly disguised by denim jackets covered with classic-rock patches. They think engaging conversation is discussing Yngwie Malmsteen and his use of the G harmonic minor scale or the pros and cons of a scalloped fret board. The members of this group have at least one thing going for them--they have a real job, probably at a guitar store. They must, because the alternative is achieving some sort of success playing music, and this is Dallas, remember, so that's not very likely.

The Greater Southwest Guitar Show with its ample supply of rare, vintage, or new amplifiers, basses, banjos, and mandolins and featuring performances by Eric Johnson and Alien Love Child, Phil Keaggy, The Stratoblasters, Andy Timmons, Maylee Thomas, Holland K. Smith, and the Diggs is Mecca for people in all three categories--and, um, for me, too. You see, I've been looking for this vintage 1973 Taurus Moog pedal board, and...