One of the liveliest aspects of the annual gathering in Anaheim of musical equipment and accessories makers and dealers known as the NAMM Convention is Deke Dickerson’s Guitar Geek Festival, which takes place Friday and Saturday.
It’s the 10th year for the event, and the final one, Dickerson says, at least in its current incarnation. He’s lost money on it every year, but has continued to stage it as a labor of love, and it’s clear in talking with Dickerson that that attitude hasn’t flagged regardless of the financial picture.
“I might do a smaller version up in L.A., not NAMM-connected in future years, but this will be the last ‘big’ one,” Dickerson tells Pop & Hiss.
He’s pumped up about this year’s lineup, which is topped by Los Straitjackets, Texas blues pioneer Barbara Lynn, the surviving members of the Bobby Fuller Four, “Conan” house band lead guitarist Jimmy Vivino, Bakersfield dual-neck guitarist Brian Lonbeck and a West Coast reunion of Man or Astro-man?.
With the massive coming together of virtually all those who make all the gear, Dickerson salutes those who use it. Vivino is psyched to be bringing his own trio in for Friday night’s show at the Anaheim Plaza Hotel.
“He’s been trying to get me since I came out here,” said Vivino, who relocated from New York to L.A. about four years ago when a previous incarnation of Conan O’Brien’s late-night talk show moved west. “He’s legendary too, and one of my favorite guitar players. So this year I’m staying in town at least until Friday so I can do this thing.”
This “thing” celebrates instrumental whizzes across a wide variety of styles: Lynn, whose 1962 hit “You’ll Lose a Good Thing” went to No. 1 on Billboard’s R&B chart for three weeks; the surf-punk instrumentals of Los Straitjackets, rockabilly guitarist Ashley Kingman of Big Sandy & His Fly-Rite Boys, and Chris Sprague’s British Invasion-inspired band.
For most of his multifaceted career, Vivino has kept his focus on elements of his craft that connect directly to work, more than techniques that might enhance his ego.
"Whenever kids ask me a question, I tell them, 'There are so many virtuosos -- let me give you some advice on how to work.' I’ve been working since I was 12 years old; anything new I learn I always think, 'OK, how does this fit into working?' Some guys think, 'I’m going to sit in a practice room forever and go above and beyond.' I never got to that Danny Gatton level, so I don’t know what to say other than 'Wow.' I tell people to be as versatile as possible, and learn to read [music].”
Vivino also finds his craft endlessly expanding.
“It’s an ongoing process of learning,” he said. “It’s like yoga or mediation -- it doesn’t end. You never reach the point where you say, 'I got it.' There’s always going to be some kid who comes along and plays something that makes you think, 'I never thought of doing it that way.' "
Vivino is slated to play Friday at 9:45 p.m., following Dickerson’s own set. A full schedule of the two-night run is available at the Guitar Geek Festival website. Tickets are $50 per day or $90 for a weekend pass.
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