Canadian Guitar Festival 2009

Saturday (August 1) proved to be one of the best live shows for talent that I have ever been to. I was in awe pretty much the whole day through. I have seen people play guitar before but never quite like this.

I stayed for the majority of the Saturday show, but bringing my ten month old son with me proved a little challenging into the night time concerts. I was able to catch a couple of the shows at night but being there all day I was still left in amazement. During a couple of the performances you would swear that there were at least two or three different guitars that were being played on stage, and at the speed that a couple of the guys could play at, was also an eye opener.

I got to the event just as Micheal Manring was about halfway through his workshop. I found it interesting with his style of playing. He plays a very alternative bass guitar, A Pink Floyd style. He partially described what his Bass was comprised of and all the different keys that he uses. He didn’t really go into great detail about all of the different sounds that he has thought to create. I have never heard or saw a bass guitar being played as he plays. I was intrigued by all the different tapping motions and techniques that he uses. His workshop was definitely different as I watched him play and explain his works and the different names that he has come up for his songs.

Next up for the workshops was Kelly Valleau. Kelly started off his workshop dissecting different Beatles songs which is his favourite songs off all time to listen to and to play. He went on to talk about every show that he does play there is not a show where he doesn’t squeeze in at least one Beatles song. His dissecting and fingerstyle just simply blew me away. With most of his playing he adds in the extra bass sound into his playing. He also went on to add that he really isn’t a fan of jazz playing but he will add a few notes and style into his music every now and again. When he did add Jazz into his music it was a little difficult to pick it out, I probably wouldn’t have noticed it if he didn’t point it out himself. Kelly started out playing and talking about While My Guitar Gently Weeps and then moved on over to Black Bird. I knew heading into the show not to bother even bringing my guitar out of the closet and after a couple of minutes watching people throughout the audience try and follow along they probably were thinking the same thing. You could see people at the exact point where they were upset with themselves or just gave up trying to follow along with Kelly. Kelly also played one of his own tracks entitled “Miss You”. Kelly went into detail about his song and talked about most of the different chords that he plays and the specific finger placing during the chords. After his own song Kelly went into dissecting a little bit of David Gilmour. He described the tapping and finger placing that is involved in a couple of tracks, the tapping is what I found interesting the most. Along with the tapping he also described the beats and a little bit of the vocal arrangement. Now for what really blew me away during his workshop was his version of Queens We Will Rock You. Kelly can play the song without strumming the string and just play by tapping and playing the beats on his guitar. This I thought right there was going to be the highlight of my day, this just blew me away. I really wish I caught this on video for people to see what I am talking about. Kelly played about half of the song before ending his workshop. Head to his website to watch the video.

I didn’t make it to the competition the next day but during the open mic session you could get a feel for what the competition was going to be all about. The open mic started off with everybody getting to play two songs each but due to the fact that there were so many people signing up the players were put down to one song each. There were not that many people who sang but merely blew everybody away with their guitar skills. The first guy up came all the way from Hawaii to play at the festival; this is when you know that your festival is well known. There was a couple from New York that came up just for the open mic experience, and only getting to play one song. During the competition there were just as many people from the States and there was from Canada which made it a little interesting. At one point during the open mic one guy played who I believe won the competition “Ewan Dobson” played and just made everybody in the audience stop in awe, he must have played for about ten minutes for his one song, and I have never watched someone shred on the acoustic guitar like he did. I felt bad for the next guy up because there was no way he was going to be coming close to playing as good as he did. The open mic finished off with a group from Kingston comprising of two females one playing a violin and the other playing a guitar.

Don Alder was next up onto the stage and was received a very warm welcome from the audience. He played for a little over an hour. As he started to play his techniques and sound was very strong, he even pulled out a few moves which surprisingly were still yet to be done during the open mic session. After a couple of original songs he invited Michael Manring back up onto the stage to play along for a couple of songs. The collaboration between the two was a interesting sound, it was hard to choose who to listen to the most, because of the different techniques and sound the choice became rather difficult to do. In all Michael and Don played five songs together. At the end of Don’s set he received a standing ovation from everyone in the audience.

Next onto the stage was Richard Smith. He flew all the way from Nashville to play at the festival, which I thought was amazing trip to make. Richard added more vocals and talked into the mic a little more then Don did. Richards’s second song of the night was written for the Watkins Man. This song was very catchy; he also helped out the song with his stage presence as well he seemed to play more into the song. After The Watkins Man song Richard played a Beatles song, and you would swear that there were at least three guitars playing at the same time. He started to play a blues number and then stopped and talked about how blues is mostly about the faces that you can pull off. The song that he played was entitled “Happy Blues” which in turn was a toned down blues number. Richard then began to play the classic British songs which had the entire audience clapping along with. Richard then played into a Terry Reid song which he wrote for Johhny Cash, this was one of the few songs that he did along to, and his British accent gave the song a little bit of a different sound. Michael Mann made one last appearance onstage and played Sweet Georgia Brown.

I must urge anyone who is a fan of live music or just wants to be blown away by incredible guitar playing you must go to the Canadian Guitar Festival next year.