GAS PRICES STILL SUCK. THE ECONOMY is attempting to commit suicide. Storm fronts have brutalized the Gulf Coast. And, apparently, the presidential race is going to be about finger pointing. Yuck. Who wants to deal with that stuff? Thank goodness those lucky enough to reside in the San Francisco Bay Area could simply forget about all the troubles of the world, and cheer on the ten finalists competing in Guitar Player’s Guitar Superstar on September 13. The Great American Music Hall was sold out and bursting with guitar fans, and whenever one of the competitors nailed an awesome run, the roar of the crowd was deafening. I still have chills.
Extravaganzas such as Guitar Superstar and Bass Player Live! (which takes place November 1-2 at SIR Studios in Los Angeles) are wonderful collaborations between magazine staffs, event sponsors, guest musicians, venue personnel, and the audience. It’s the communal aspect that really makes these events special. Everyone works together to ensure the show rocks heavily, and, in four years of producing Guitar Player’s Guitar Hero (2005-2007), and now Guitar Superstar, there have been no Machiavellian intrigues, diva moments, or egocentric posturing. Now, that may be hard to believe, given the fact that this is a competition. But you’d never know that ten guitarists are seeking to kick each other’s ass on “game day,” by all the good feelings, support, and encouragement they share before, during, and after the big showdown. In fact, when the finalists are first announced each year, they typically check out each other’s MySpace pages almost immediately, and begin communicating amongst themselves—in essence, starting a close-knit little community long before they step onstage to prove their mettle.
To me, if you’re going to have a cage match and crown a winner, this is the most evolved and harmonious way to do it—even if GP can’t take credit for the good vibes. The chivalry was conjured up by the ten gallant 2008 finalists: Makana, Eric Brewer, Mark Christian, “the guy,” Daddo Oreskovich, Vicki Genfan, Dan Peters, Eric Barnett, Ben Robinson, and Mike Orlando. I’m not naïve enough to forget that every competitor wants to win quite badly, but the Guitar Superstars managed to put honoring the event, celebrating their fellow fretboard warriors, and promoting transcendent guitar playing ahead of self-interest. It was also a blast watching host Andy Summers and judges Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, George Lynch, Elliot Easton, and Brendon Small— as well as special guest Carlos Alomar— spending time with each finalist before show time. There was no sense of “big stars” and “nobodies,” as smiles and cameras fired off all around, and everyone engaged in animated conversation. It was like getting a sneak peek at guitar heaven long before your time.
If you couldn’t make the scene this year, please check out guitarplayer.com for videos of all the Guitar Superstar performances and the judges’ comments. In addition, a photo essay of the event will be published in our “Rigs of the Superstars” issue—featuring the setups of The Edge, Alex Lifeson, Jeff Beck, the Mars Volta, Joe Satriani, and others— that will be in your mailboxes and on the newsstands sometime in November.