They say it’s bigger and better in Texas. I don’t know about all of Texas, but one thing that is bigger in Texas is the Dallas International Guitar Festival (DIGF). This annual event draws thousands of visitors to the Dallas Market Hall to view custom made guitars, new products and gizmos, and to hear some of the finest guitar players on the planet. This year I found my way to the DIGF two days in a row. The Market Hall was packed, as usual, with guitar enthusiasts and vendors. My first day at the show was kind of a preview day, but while previewing I had a chance to hear some excellent guitar players on both the indoor and outdoor stages.
Inside the hall on the SBAL Stage, Jason Elmore played a fine set of Texas blues to warm the modest, Friday afternoon crowd. After Jason’s set I took a stroll through the DIGF before heading to the Bugs Henderson stage outside the Market Hall. While taking in all that is guitar at the festival, it’s hard to describe the amount of talent that is present in one place at one time. From the performers to the guitar builders and designers, if you’re into guitars it’s almost overwhelming. This year’s DIGF was taking place under somber circumstances as the Texas guitar community was mourning the recent loss of Bugs Henderson. Bugs was a consummate promoter of the festival and a spectacular guitar player who was known throughout Texas. Bugs was certainly in the building, in spirit, as there were many conversations overheard pertaining to Bugs' life and what he meant to the festival. On the outdoor stage, I caught the last part of Bill Ham’s performance. Bill played Texas blues as many did at the festival but his style caught my attention; a style that included various tones and picking styles. Back inside the hall, I made way back to the SBAL Stage to see another Texas blues man, Christian Brooks, demonstrating the proper way to play the Texas blues on slide guitar. Closing out my preview day at the festival were local radio personalities Bo and Jim and their band, Frontal Lobotomy Boogie Band. The band performed some long forgotten covers including a killer version of The J.Geils Band’s, “Hard Drivin' Man.”
Two performers scheduled for my second day at the DIGF had my anticipation levels at an all time high. The first being guitar great, Eric Johnson. If you don’t know the name let me introduce you to Eric with a quote from Guitar Player Magazine: "One of the most respected guitarists on the planet". With an accolade like that, no further introduction is necessary. Johnson had something special in store for DIGF attendees, an extended set of Jimi Hendrix covers, in celebration of what would have been Hendrix’s 70th birthday. Flawless, is the only word that comes to mind when describing the way he covered Hendrix. Johnson was accompanied by Chris Layton (of Stevie Ray Vaughn fame) on drums and Scott Nelson on bass. This trio played to a packed house, as many audience members had to sit on the floor to take in this special set. “Like a Rolling Stone” (Hendrix version), “Manic Depression”, and ”Are You Experienced” were just of a few of the covers selected by Johnson. While Eric reproduced many of Hendrix’s signature tones effortlessly, there were flurries throughout the solos that were unmistakably Eric Johnson. After giving many at the DIGF the thrill of a lifetime, Mr. Johnson stayed over to shake some hands and sign autographs.
The next performer to grace the outdoor stage (that was on my must see list) was Greg Martin. Many may not be as familiar with Greg Martin, but throughout the music world Martin is known as a man of man parts. I personally have been a fan of Mr. Martin for many years, as I first saw him live in the mid-90's with the Kentucky Headhunters. Martin has three items in his arsenal that set him apart from the common guitar player. Talent, Tubes, and Tone make Martin one of the smoothest guitar players on the planet. As it turned out, not only would I get to see Mr. Martin perform but value added he would be joined by Paul Reed Smith and Derek St. Holmes (see also Ted Nugent). This performance was billed as the afternoon all-star jam and this could not have been a more appropriate description. These three highly-talented guitar players played a limited set but every second was a treat to the ears. This trio could have made it rain on this sunny afternoon with a thunderous version of Ted Nugent’s “Stranglehold” followed up with an improvised blues jam, allowing everyone to show off their talents. These two days at the festival went by entirely too fast but left me with memories that will last for many years to come. Thanks to the good people of the Dallas International Guitar Festival for allowing MTC access to the show. Pictures of the festival are below:
Frontal Lobotomy Boogie Band
All Star Jam featuring Greg Martin, Paul Reed Smith, Derek St. Holmes