The full title of the event is the Orlando International Guitar and Music Convention, but, um, it’s not really very international and it’s not really about anything but guitars and guitar-related stuff. But I can’t fault the convention for using some marketing in their name – it’s a great convention, it’s a lot of fun, and I look forward to attending every year.
This year’s convention was as fun as always, despite some very un-Floridian like weather. Inside the hall it was pretty toasty, but outside it was 48 degrees with a bitter wind blowing through. I felt bad for any northern travelers hoping for a swim in the pool and maybe a trip to the beach while escaping to Florida, but not at 48 degrees. Still, while I bitched about the cold wind at the convention, Winter Storm Jonas was hitting the east coast and a quarter of a million people were without power. So I guess I don’t have much right to complain about the weather.
I went to Orlando with my wonderful wife, Holly. Who definitely would be bored out of her mind if she went to the convention with me, so instead I dropped her off at a mall. We stopped at Cracker Barrel for breakfast on the way, because that’s what you do. Love the hashbrown casserole. Cracker Barrel over Denny’s and IHOP, every day of the week. Great coffee.
The Central Florida Fairgrounds are in the middle of nowhere (meaning not on the Disney campus or in downtown Orlando,) and the same things I said last year were true this year – the food is typical chicken tenders & fries in basket type stuff, not great, but not too awful, but the parking is free and huge – no trouble getting in or out. I love the location because it’s so damn easy. The building is older and big enough to be filled with vendor booths. The show floor is nowhere near as loud as you’d think, and very few booths had live amps with people making noise – and in every case but one, the noise was a reasonable volume level.
There was one police officer in attendance that I could see, and honestly probably only one was needed. People pay $12 to get in because they love guitars. Not much trouble expected, but any time you have expensive items and money there’s a chance for someone with no morals to try to plan a heist.
But let’s talk about the actual stuff, and why you should go to this convention each year (or the guitar convention nearest to you.) The cheapest guitar I saw was $50. The most expensive was about $28,000. And there was everything in between. There were plenty of people selling amps and stomp boxes also. There were all kinds of guitar parts and pickups available, and some custom guitar and amp builders, and at least one pedal builder. Shoutouts: Twin Beam Audio (amp repair and design,) Jimmy’s Vintage Music and Guitar Shop, and The Amp Shop (amp repair and design.) Next year I need to make a point to spend more time talking to the amp and guitar builders – I love the fact that these guys are out there, doing their thing. Gary of Twin Beam Audio spent some time talking to me about what can be done to hot rod a Hot Rod Deluxe, and he gave me some good advice. I bought a junker guitar from Vintage Music (more on that shortly,) and I’d like to them, but they don’t have a website. Maybe I can build them one in exchange for gear. Hmm…
Here’s a cute little mini-Telecaster. Aw, it’s so liiiitle!
Anyway, there were lots of expensive old guitars there and I stood around and smiled and drooled like last year. I may be the Budget Guitarist, but I love guitars, period. From what I saw and overheard, I think the market might be a little down – maybe less people buying high priced guitars than the dealers would like. I’d love to hear from any vendor who was there, because they’d have a much better perspective. I think a lot of guys were just walking around and looking, though many guitars were certainly sold. I think if I had a Gibson Les Paul that was worth $20,000 I would be extremely concerned – If I could sell it, I would, because I don’t like to gamble. The market can tank and then you’re in trouble.
There was a dude who made these awesome guitars out of crazy things. I didn’t get his name, but I was watching him play them outside whilst dining on chicken fingers and fries. Here’s the state of Texas as a guitar, a skateboard guitar, a wooden briefcase guitar, and a guitar made from a toilet seat. What’s not to love?
I went in hoping to find some guitar body parts, maybe some pickups, maybe a really good price on a used pedal, maybe some neat books on Fender or Gibson. I had an amount in my head of what I wanted to spend – less than $100. Why? Because I’m the Budget Guitarist, that’s why. I’m a web developer for a large school district by day and I have two kids heading toward college. I can buy something big once a year, or I can buy small stuff throughout. So I like the cheap small stuff.
The first find was a Seymour Duncan P90 for $50. They had the neck and the bridge, but I was only interested in the bridge. If I didn’t find anything else, I’d definitely grab that. Pickups can be iffy at these things. You really don’t want to buy something with no writing on it, because it could be anything. These were the real deal, and I’m a fan of SD pickups. Who isn’t? I dunno.
Next was a vendor selling fake Fender headstock decals, among other things. This was very interesting to me. I don’t think I’d ever use a fake decal, because I’m proud when I can find a junker that’s great – to me it’s a badge of honor, if you have Gibsons and Fenders in your collection, to also have some junkers that overachieve. But they had them.
A Telecaster body for $30. Hmm, maybe. It was a butt ugly color or I’d have snatched it up. But I put it on my maybe list. Before I left I saw a guy walking around with it, so obviously he snagged it. I also saw a MIM Fender Stratocaster for around $100. Too good to be true. When I picked it up, it weighed next to nothing. Played OK. Obviously a fake, and as I just said, I’m not a fan of the fakes. I saw some guy buy it about 2 hours later.
There were some necks, but to my mind they weren’t really priced to sell. $165 for a user MIM Strat neck – not bad, but had some fret wear. That was the best deal I saw. Too rich for my budget blood. There were BOSS EQ pedals (I want one, but cheap) and they were going for around $70… I could do better than that at Sam Ash for a used BOSS EQ. One booth had several Wampler pedals in mint condition for $150 each. Ooooh. I looked at the Pinnacle long and hard. The Pinnacle is a great pedal. But I could probably get one online used for that, any time I want. Still, I almost pulled the trigger on it despite my cash limit.
The other item that seriously tempted me was a Used Squier Strat from Japan for $150. That’s a killer deal. For those who don’t know, Fender made the Squier Strats in Japan for a while, and they were shipping American parts over and having the Japanese build them. They were very good instruments – I’d put them at the same quality as a Fender MIM nowadays. They routinely go for about $350-$399 around here. This guitar wasn’t in great shape, but it was a great deal. I was tempted. But I was determined to stick to my $100 limit, and besides, I already have two Strats. Why get another one?
Famous last words. The Vintage Music booth had a Korean-made red Squier II Strat with maple neck/fingerboard for $75. I picked it up and the neck was fantastic. It had some dings, and vintage frets (which I dislike) with a lot of wear… but the feel of the thing was better than my MIM neck. To me, the neck alone was worth $75. The body had some dings on it, but I really liked the red color and white pickguard. The tuners felt cheap/old but they worked very well. I played it and really liked it. So after some debate, I purchased it. It was my only purchase for the day, so I came in under.
THIS is why I am the Budget Guitarist. This guitar, with vintage frets that are worn down, with bad electronics, shitty pickups, mismatched hardware, crap wood body with dings, this guitar is a really good guitar. I see the potential. The body is probably plywood. It doesn’t matter. It looks cool, and even with the shit pickups it actually sounds pretty cool. But the neck… the edges of the fretboard are rounded a lot. I don’t know if it was done later, but it feels very well played. Here are some pics:
I will do a blog entry or two on how I’ll turn this junker into an awesome guitar.
After the convention, Holly and I checked into the Hilton across the street from Downtown Disney or whatever they’re calling it now, and walked over and looked in the shops and ate at the House of Blues. Great Jambalaya there, by the way. Pay extra for the shrimp – it’s worth it. We also bought me a winter hat, because it was fucking cold. The wind was nasty. The hat made a big difference. We got some brownies on the way back to the hotel room. The rest of the evening was romantic. Kids, ask your parents what that means. It was a wonderful ending for a wonderful day.
I will type up a blog entry for how I make this junk guitar awesome, but that’s for another day. This guitar was from Jimmy’s Vintage Music in Auburndale, FL, by the way. I need to make a trip there to see his store. If he’s got more cool stuff like this thing, it’ll be my kind of place.
It’s always sad coming home after a vacation, even if you’re only gone a day and a night. I know I have to get up in the morning and go to work. But without pain there is no pleasure.
And I’m looking forward to next year’s Orlando International Guitar and Music Convention. 🙂