T.H.E Show 2021 Exhibition Room Report
I find myself deleting the opening sentence of my piece, "It's 7am and I'm drinking coffee in a veritable ghost town." No sooner had I settled into my choice table and chair, in the lobby of the Hilton Hotel, Ralph Sorrentino of CH Precision popped up out of thin air. I swear that man is a wizard!
My second sentence was lined up. "A blazer? Can a blazer style with yoga pants? This is the first time I'm faced with wearing 'real clothes' in over 14 months."
You see, I am the Director of Marketing for T.H.E. Show and we are (now were) the first show in the US to open after the pandemic shut down and, if I understand correctly, the first audio show in the world to complete its run from start to finish (Guangzhou did launch before us but we understood it, unfortunately, closed after the first day.) On Wednesday, June 10th, after more than a year of sleepless nights, I packed up my suitcase with - gasp - real pants and shirts, and double gasp - drove down to the hotel where T.H.E. Show 2021 was about to kick off.
That 90-minute drive gave me pause to run through the myriad of emotions I had been thus far subduing, save for keeping focused on planning T.H.E. Show. Excitement. Trepidation. Concern. Celebration. Could we celebrate? Would we celebrate? It's no secret that 2020 was a landmark year for so many reasons most of us would care never to relive it again. Forced shutdowns. Family separations. Economic uncertainty. And the ever-looming threat - nay - the reality that the pandemic would leave none of us untouched. If it hadn't visited us yet in one way or another, we could be sure it would.
Even so, there was always the voice in the back of my head … "T.H.E. Show must go on...but when? How?" So, we got creative. We launched the T.H.E. Talk, our weekly online branded interview series to spotlight dealers, manufacturers, designers, and audio experts of note. We started planning T.H.E. Group and T.H.E. Council (more on those later). And, yes, we started planning T.H.E. Show 2021.
For months, T.H.E. Show was the boulder and the pandemic was the eternally inclined hill. My team and I looked at each other and we knew we had to push. The questions, criticisms, the cataclysmic opinions disguised as staunch, unwavering "Biblical facts" came at us like siege barrages one only sees in video games or war movies. "It's too soon." "You're wrong for doing this." "You don't know what you're doing." "Everyone else is holding off. You should, too." Anyone who knows me personally knows I've never ascribed to being like everyone else, and to say our team at T.H.E. Show is aligned with that would be a gross understatement.
Besides this, so many reached out to offer their support and excitement. "Sign us up!" "We are in!" "So glad to know you're coming back!"
One by one, signatures appeared on contracts and our media team started pushing out exhibitor spotlight graphics. Email blasts started being written regularly again, and we all started to remember having the phones ringing off their hooks. Before we knew it, we were back to pulling 15 hour days, though Zoom meetings took the place of in-person team meetings. Ne'ertheless, it was clear T.H.E. Show would go on.
Back on the 710 South, I was blasting my favorite Rolling Stones songs trying to picture in my already overloaded mind what this year's show would look like. We were committed to following health and safety guidelines, including the mask mandate, having people show their vaccine card or negative Covid test, social distancing, and so much more. Our team had strict protocols we were to follow and we knew it. Would people show up prepared? Would there be protests outside? Or worse?
It turned out there wasn't time to answer that. No sooner had I posed the question to myself, I had arrived at the hotel and my brain snapped into show mode.
As the first show to open in the US post-pandemic shut down and the first show in the entire world to be completed (it's our understanding that the Guangzhou International Audio Show was sadly forced to close early after just one day), our team knew exactly the pressure we were facing. But we have always been keenly aware of the fact that T.H.E. Show does things differently with our award-winning documentary short, our forthcoming feature film, exclusive studio events and more, so "going first" seemed apropos.
The motto for us this year, as many know, was "small but mighty." As the only show in the US to launch pre-state opening (California opened on June 15th and T.H.E. Show was held June 11th through 13th), we had strict health and safety guidelines to follow. This meant we were limited to three floors instead of the usual six or seven. But make no mistake, as small as that sounds, it was indeed a mighty show. With no less than nine premieres (some world, some US, and some were people's first-ever audio show exhibitions), we had the distinct and great honor of being the show they chose.
So, the exhibitor spotlights started rolling out. Tickets started selling. Texts and calls from the press, dealers, and manufacturers started coming in … "So … T.H.E. Show IS happening?" "We just heard from so-and-so they are showing with you. Do you still have rooms available?"
Ultimately, after a somewhat arduous process, it's with great delight that I can say this about T.H.E. Show 2021:
Our team banded together and we SOLD OUT all the exhibit rooms we were allowed to have.
We outsold (specifically early bird tickets via our online ticketing platform, ) the 2019 and 2018 shows.
We kicked off a fantastic streaming sponsor partnership with Qobuz.
We launched our Ambassadorship program (more on this later).
We had over 40 esteemed press covering T.H.E. Show 2021.
We even had to move some interested exhibitors over to the 2022 show.
And we ended up having quite a few more premieres than the nine for which we originally planned.
While it would be a major conflict of interest for me to offer a proper journalistic review of my own show, I can present for you, beloved reader, the "vibe" of each room along with some very tasty and mouth-watering photographs. So let's begin!
As far to the end as one could go on the Mezzanine level of the hotel, was Sunny Components' room featuring a massive event - the US premiere of the Stenheim Ultime Reference 2 Loudspeakers. Sunny brought nothing short of his A game to T.H.E. Show 2021, pairing and powering these with CH Precision and Wadax, support from MoFi, Audience, and Audioquest.
Ralph Sorrentino of CH Precision and Lenny Mayeux of MoFi were both on hand to assist while Sunny's team was busy setting up appointments for auditions. Every time my team and I walked by, there was a very orderly, socially distanced line out the door. And on a personal note, each time I saw the same line remain excited and responsible, I'll admit it - I exhaled a little more.
Sunny's room brought big audio energy and big audio education. Their entire team deserves utmost congratulations on an exhibit room well done!
ATC Loudspeakers, presented by Lone Mountain Audio based in Las Vegas, NV is always a big hit at T.H.E. Show. And their 2021 exhibit was no different. This year, they landed in a much larger room than in 2019 so it stood to reason they brought in a US premiere - specifically SCM100ASLT Active Driver Tower speaker. With some serious mood lighting and the eclectic playlist always going, it's no wonder people were leaving the ATC room with such smiles on their faces!
Ah, our "First Human" a la our award-winning documentary short, "T.H.E. Human Side." Wayne Carter always has something special and unique up his sleeve and this year was no different. He put together a one-of-a-kind vintage mastering system (yes you read that correctly) to give listeners a chance to be as close to the original music as possible. This featured Lazarus H-1A and 200/200s, Waveform Mach 13 loudspeakers, JBL Atmos and a Nikko Alpha 1 amp, and Vandersteen crossover from the 1970s. This room was MUSCLE.