Strings Attached: Guitars Take Centre Stage in Margaret River


Strings Attached: Guitars Take Centre Stage in Margaret River

Stars from across the world gather to honour the humble guitar

Western Australia’s first ever Strings Attached Guitar Festival is landing in the Margaret River region this October, and as Tom De Souza discovers, there is plenty in store for guitar enthusiasts.  

This October will see the launch of WA’s inaugural Strings Attached Festival, a weekend immersion in the world of all things strings: guitars, basses, banjos, ukuleles, mandolins, and everything related.

“The guitar community is a diverse and multi-tiered cultural phenomenon in itself,” says Festival Director Dan White. “Guitar enthusiasts branch out into hundreds of different subcultures based on instrument choice, musical genre, and all kinds of combinations of the two. And this festival is the first time in Western Australia that all those people will be brought together under one banner,” says Dan.

“While there is an amazing guitar community in WA, until now there has been no event like this, on this scale, in our state. We wanted to put something on that would bring everyone in that community together to innovate and froth over guitars and all things strings,” says Dan.

“There are so many different kinds of stringed instrument players, and they’re differentiated not only from the kinds of instruments they play – electric, acoustic, and mandolin, – but beyond that there are styles within the instruments. This festival will be showcasing blues, jazz, world fusion, country, folk, rock, metal, gypsy, classical and more. It’s pretty diverse. There is something for everyone.”

And the medley of events across the three-day festival reflects the diversity of WA’s guitar community, with everything from a presentation on Persian instruments in Western music to songwriting with Kav Temperley (Eskimo Joe). Headlining the main event is world-renowned guitarist Larry Mitchell, a Grammy Award winning musician fresh from performing the headline slot at NAMM, the biggest guitar convention in the world. Larry will play at The River on Saturday October 12 with Australian blues legends Ash Grunwald and the Dave Brewer Band ft. Lucky Oceans, plus up-and-comers Kat Wilson Trio and Ben Catley.

Strings Attached will see more than 50 other performances over the weekend, featuring a host of guests including Yorgos Bechlivanoglou (Greece), Alex Hooi & Danny Loong (Singapore), Kimberley singer-songwriter Stephen Pigram, power-woman Abbe May, blues-rock-roots trio The Swamp Stompers (NSW), shredder Graham Greene and many more.

The festival is not just for seasoned musos either, and includes everything from workshops for kids to masterclasses for advanced players, along with panel discussions, Q&As, and presentations from guitar makers and innovators around the country. A free exhibition at the new Margaret River HEART will showcase a radical display of everything guitar related – instruments, amps, pedals, tools and artwork, including sculptures made from offcuts of guitars. Festival-goers will enjoy a discussion on tonewoods – which woods to use for specific tones – and the sustainable sourcing of timbers in the guitar making industry, and another on the history and innovation of the ukulele. And don’t miss a conversation between John Butler and Lucky Oceans on John’s guitars, songs, touring and his new album.

“And,” says Dan, “there are things for people who don’t even play an instrument but just love music. There are plenty of live music performances, and we’ve tried to make this as accessible as possible and bring all kinds of people to Margaret River for a wonderful event.”

Strings Attached has been a few years in the making, and formed in the collective genius of local bureaucrat and mad keen bass guitarist, Mat Lewis, leading WA luthier Scott Wise, and tourism industry professional Leon Ryan. The group are a key part of Margaret River’s thriving stringed instrument community, and, with the backdrop of world-class food and wine, Mat says they saw it as the perfect place to establish this innovative festival. “Music is a great form of healing, and in a country town it gives a vibrancy, and there is an appreciation here of a vibrant music scene,” he says.

“It’s not just about the music either, but the scene and all of its art as a whole. This festival brings the art and craft of actually making, playing, and all things guitar. The majority of the artwork in my house is of guitars. I view instruments as being symbolic collector’s items. There is a massive appreciation for the collecting and playing of handcrafted, even manufactured instruments.”

The format of the festival is engineered on the success of other guitar conventions around the world, but with a few twists that make it uniquely Western Australian, says Dan. “On the Sunday morning we’re orchestrating a paddle-out, so anyone who wants to bring a board and paddle out from the White Elephant, we’re going to go out into the Bay at Gnarabup and make the formation of a massive guitar in the water and capture it on a drone while a live concert is offered up for breakfast-goers,” he says. “That’s pretty different. The guitar is such a popular instrument the world over that there are so many sides to it, and thus so many different angles to approach it from. I’m really looking forward to all the workshops and lectures on offer. It’s really broad, from using the guitar to writing scores for movies and video games, jazz improvisation hacks and fingerstyle techniques, to instrument construction from recycled materials. It’s cool. The real value is getting to meet the makers and the players and get a bit of insight into how they do what they do.”

“The festival team are all really excited to offer up as much as we can this year, and bring like-minded people together to Margaret River region to enjoy a good bit of music.”

Get Uked at JahRoc Galleries

Visit JahRoc Galleries during the Strings Attached Guitar Festival and groove to some live blues guitar by Graeme Dickinson with a glass of Margaret River fine wine, while perusing an exhibition of artistically embellished ukuleles, an enviable private guitar collection that dreams are made of, and some groovy designer timber guitar stands.

Twenty five of JahRoc’s artists have embraced the challenge to each paint a ukulele for the galleries’ inaugural Get Uked exhibition. Their philosophy is; “If we can’t play a ukulele then we’ll decorate one, and let those who can play it enjoy it even more for its artistic style.” These fun little instruments truly are functional pieces of art – play it, then display it for all to admire. The only dilemma is choosing your favourite one – or two.

A showcase of some very special high-end guitars from private collectors will also be displayed at JahRoc during the festival, including a custom-made Casimi and a Mark Mainguard acoustic guitar. It is a truly unique opportunity to see these finely crafted guitars close up, a wish come true for many admirers of these musical works of art.

JahRoc’s Gary Bennett and David Paris are renowned for creating artistic furniture of heirloom quality, and have designed a fabulous collection of wooden guitar and ukulele stands to entice the Strings Attached crowd, alongside many more of their fine furniture pieces. Designer Gary Bennett will be available to discuss custom orders as well.

Strings Attached: The West Australian Guitar Festival is coming to the Margaret River Region 11-13 October 2019
Further Details here

Want to find out more? Head over to the Strings Attached event page

Photos provided by Festival Director, Dan White. 

This article was first published in Your Margaret River Region’s Spring 2019 Magazine and has been updated for web

Tom de Souza

Author Tom de Souza

Tom de Souza tells stories. He has dedicated his life to the written word, spoken idea, and captured image, seeking personal and professional freedom in pursuing a different kind of life along the road less travelled. Tom believes story telling has the power to change the world, and he travels regularly to seek unique stories that inspire us to consider our relationships with one another and the world we inhabit.

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