The Frankfurt Musikmesse has changed a bit over the past few years. For me, the biggest change since I was last there in 2012 is the very conspicuous absence of Framus/Warwick. Back in the day, Hans Peter Wilfer and his crew pretty much owned the show, with a sprawling compound that not only housed their beautiful instruments but also provided a haus for the companies that Warwick distributes in the EU, including Dunlop, DigiTech, Seymour Duncan, and many others. With Warwick not there, some of those companies, like Duncan and DigiTech, had to find new booth space while some, such as Dunlop, didn't have a booth at all. It makes for a smaller, slightly mellower show, but a great show nonetheless.
NAMM was late this year and Messe was early, and kind of like when Thanksgiving is late, it jacked with everyone's schedules and preparations. Many manufacturers talked of shipping gear directly from Anaheim to Frankfurt, and a few told tales of woe about said gear not arriving. That was the case with Guild, who had a righteous collection of new Ren Ferguson-designed Orpheum acoustics. These guitars were inspired by the question "Guild has been around since 1952, but if Guild had made acoustics in the 1930s, what would they have looked like?" The answer is, they probably would have looked a lot like the gorgeous instruments hanging in the booth. They also would have included some 12-fret-to-the-body models, but those new Guilds never made it to Musikmesse. Oh well. These guitars seem like they have the potential to be the finest acoustics Guild has ever made.
Guild Orpheum Rosewood Orchestra
Because Messe followed hot on the heels of NAMM, there wasn't much new gear that wasn't new at NAMM. A notable exception was the Amp 1 from BluGuitar. The company is the brainchild of Thomas Blug, of Hughes & Kettner fame and also such a great guitarist that he is known at the show as the Strat King of Europe. His brilliant device is a 4-channel, 100-watt amp in a floor pedal whose footprint is no bigger than a small Boss processor. It features an analog preamp, with the only digital part being a chip for the reverb. It contains a micro-tube in the power section that works in conjunction with a class-D power amp. It weighs nothing, is flexible and customizable, and sounds absolutely great. I got the demo from the irrepressible Mr. Blug himself and was mightily impressed.
The disembodied head of Thomas Blug floats next to his new Amp 1.
Other things of note at this year's show were some acoustics from the Fender Custom Shop that looked like they were straight out of an Elvis movie. But these beauties, unlike the guitar from Clambake, feature top-notch construction. Not for everyone, but somebody is going to love these guitars.
Acoustics from the Fender Custom Shop
The most interesting acoustic story of the show came from Tom Bedell of Bedell guitars. He showed us a guitar with a metric ton of Brazilian rosewood on it. I know what you're thinking: That's illegal, and even if he could have that guitar in the states, how could he possibly bring it to Europe? Well, apparently a Spanish wood buyer bought up a bunch of Brazilian logs, not planks, way bak when. The trees were old enough to get grandfathered in and were not considered contraband when the laws recently changed outlawing Brazilian rosewood. This wood recently became available for purchase, and Tom Bedell bought it all…the largest tonewood purchase in history. He jumped through about 1,00 hoops to get all of his documentation in order right before Messe and had this instrument, priced at 19,999 Euros, at the show. Unreal.
The 19,999 Euro Brazilian Rosewood Bedell
Tronical made a typically big splash at the show. Inventor Chris Adams is something of a German celebrity and he took home a MIPA Award for Most Innovative Product for his awesome motorized tuning machines, TronicalTune.
Tronical's Chris Adams with his well-deserved MIPA Award
All in all, it was a great show that was very well organized and expertly run, even if the noise is maddening and the cigarette smoke is incredibly carcinogenic. If you ever get a chance to see this show for yourself, you definitely should, because it's all it's cracked up to be. If you've heard so many great things about Messe that you find them hard to believe, just remember the words of that famous German songstress, the Teutonic Titwillow Lily Von Shtupp from Blazing Saddles: It's twue, it's twue.