Holy Grail Guitar Show

- a spectacular success

I have attended 30 Frankfurt Messe, 10 Winter NAMM, 5 Summer NAMM, 6 FUZZ Guitar Show and a number of other international shows. So when Juha Ruokangas sent me a mail regarding the Holy Grail Guitar Show (HGGS) I was both curious as to what they wanted to accomplish that the other shows didn't cover. But mostly I was amazed that they wanted to take on the challenge of organizing a show of this magnitude. As Juha told me, it was no easy task and there were many moments of doubt before the show opened its doors at the Estrel Hotel and Convention Centre in Berlin on the morning of November 15.

When I spoke to Juha and Michael Spalt later that day they were relieved that the visitors came in an amount exceeding expectation.

As a visitor I must say that the show itself also exceed my expectations. There was so many wonderful instruments, the builders were there and their generosity was simply astounding both regarding their knowledge and their stories, the location was very good with good food and clean bathrooms and Berlin in general is a fairly inexpensive place compared to other European cities. Even the weather was nice!

I offer my sincerest apologies to the luthiers I may have missed but time is limited and there is so much to see, so many people to talk to and so very many guitars to play so I had to prioritize my time.

Worth mentioning is that the show floor was a silent floor, i.e. you could try guitars but only unamplified. In the rooms there were headphone rigs so you could try amplified. If that wasn't good enough for you, there were two rooms where they had built small sound booths. One room for acoustics and one room for the electrics. The electric booths were each equipped with a Fender style and a Marshall style amp with the exception for one booth were I spotted a Vox.

There was a room where there were demo concerts. I saw three shows and the they were uplifting top notch musical experiences as well as product demos.

I usually have a disclaimer here in order not to offend anyone and this year is no different so please read.

This personal report should bee seen as my very own point of view and does not reflect the wiev and/or opinions of any other person or company of which I may be associated either through my work or in these pictures. If you find any faulty information in this report please e-mail me at mats.n[at]nermark.com.

I have placed the products in alphabetical order for your convenience. I also have divided the report into 5 sections. Otherwise the load times would be problematic.

Please also accept my apology for any language errors as English is not my native language.



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AJL Guitars


First out in this report is AJL Guitars from Finland. They more known for their Django-style acoustic but I was intrigued by this steel string for silent playing/recording. Very comfortable to play. Unfortunately, I didn't get a chance to hear it in action with the electronics as I would be very interested in one for my home studio.


Alquier Guitars

Jean-Yves Alquier is a very interesting builder. This Yorktown model sounded excellent and very responsive at the demo concert. I didn't get the name of the demo player but he was such an expressive musician.  



According to many of the displaying luthiers, the construction of the Alquiers Cencept guitar is very interesting. To me it looks cool and sounded very good.



Andy Manson Custom Guitars

Andy Manson is a well known British luthier and after seeing this three neck creation I can see why he commmands respect. Six string, 12-string and mandolin in one. Need a big gig-bag for this one.  



Åstrand Guitars


Swedish luthier Ted Åstrand came to the show with three guitars and they all sold at the show. Looking at them I felt a stab of envy towards their new owners. Very nice work from this young Swede.

This parlor size guitar has very nice and sensous curves to it and sounded heavenly.  



A nice flame maple back with inlays of darker wood. Understated and elegant.

Headstocks and logotypes are always difficult for a luthier. I like Mr Åstrand's choices.  


Barrilon Guitars



The French luthier Stefan Barrilon displayed an archtop that had a number of construction details that I haven't seen before. An intriguing instrument!


In order to let the top wood vibrate freely, the oich guard extends to the top as an arm rest so the arm doesn't touch and dampen the top.  



The soundholes are located at the sides and to strengthen to body to keep the tension with a thin top there are two bottoms. One hidden maple.


The cutaway extends behind the neck to allow easier access to the upper frets.


Bassart Guitars

Matthias Meyer of Bassart Guitars holding of a race car inspired Filtertron equipped electric.  



This Bassart doublecut has an interesting bridge as well as a very nice top.



Beauregard Guitars

A beautiful arch top from Canadian luthier Mario Beauregard.  



At first it seem like the top was somehow folded before assmbled but it is very intricate carving.


Art Deco style headstock is what I like on this kind of guitar.



Cardinal Instruments



Cardinal Guitars owner and luthier Sam Evans explains to Ulf Zachrisson of Fuzz, the mesquite top guitar with the slightly unusual pickups. Sam also told us about the great living in Austin, Texas. Now we can't wait to go!



In the neck position we find a Lollar gold foil pickup and at the bridge, surrounding the strings, there's a Lollar version of the old Supro steel pickup. According to Sam, this guitar can do anything.


Danou Guitars

Need both an electric and an acoustic on stage? Look no further than the Danou flippable double neck. Go from a passive electric to an active acoustic with half a turn.  



This Bassart doublecut has an interesting bridge as well as a very nice top.


This description was part of the display at Danou. Looks very easy. No owner's manual needed.


De Gier Guitars & Basses

De Gier displayed both guitars and basses. The offset shape set-neck come in many configurations. The basses are available with a special active setup suitable for people who want passive electronics.


Here's Sander De Gier with a guitar that I couldn't resist trying. The Firebird pickup in the neck position gave me new tonal colors and it was a superbly dynamic guitar. The offset shape and a neck profile like a Collings made this a very comfortable guitar to play.


Deimel Guitarworks

A very interesting mix of different classic design elements. And you don't see bass trems very often either.  



I personally enjoy this kind of graphics so I was happy to see it on a guitar at the show.



Dorian Guitars

Dorian Guitars have a very interesting feature. It's totally symmetrical. This mean that you can change it from a "rightie" to a "leftie" in 20 minutes or less.


What about the bridge intonation? The bridge is flippable so you just remove the strings and turn it over. Even the electronics can be flipped so you have your choice of where you want to have the volume and tone controls.


The pickups can be adjusted in a number of way to change the tonality and the pole pieces are sunk into the wood cover so the strings don't slap against the poles pieces if you pull at the strings as part of your playing technique.

This is obviously an interesting choice for south-paw players as well as for us right handed folks. A very interesting aspect for lefties is that if they want to sell this guitar they can sell it to both right and left handed players. A substantially larger market than the left handed only market.  



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