Hi guys and gals in AudioLand.
With all these show reports contained within the Enjoy the Music.com
pages, i felt you would be interested in what it takes to cover shows as
a humble writer looking to get scoops on all the groovy gear. First comes making
all the arrangements. The airline tickets, the hotel reservation, the rental
car... Nothing hard with that except being a bit strenuous on your wallet. Have
you seen what these hotel rooms cost? Almost 300 sheckles for the 'phile New York
City show... each night! Hmmm, being short on cashola i guess it will be fun
staying at the YMCA for me again this year (i hear you out there singing that
Village People song). Ok, so now you’re all set for the show, if a tad bit cash poor... and the show is
now only a few daze away.
Check all your gear. Batteries for your portable CD player all
charged up for those Rush and Neal Young interludes between listening to Gwendolyn
DePré and Her Magic Singing Lute audiophile music (yep). Digital camera
works (yep). Are both the laptop and handheld computers working and backed up
(yup). All reservations confirmed (yep). Got enough clean underwear (ummm). So it is laundry time to remove those skid marks from two weeks ago. Ok, so I need
to do laundry more often. Once everything is set you pack up and drive to the
Check all your gear. Batteries for your portable CD player all charged up for those Rush and Neal Young interludes between listening to Gwendolyn DePré and Her Magic Singing Lute audiophile music (yep). Digital camera works (yep). Are both the laptop and handheld computers working and backed up (yup). All reservations confirmed (yep). Got enough clean underwear (ummm). So it is laundry time to remove those skid marks from two weeks ago. Ok, so I need to do laundry more often. Once everything is set you pack up and drive to the airport.
Now I must tell you there is always something that is gonna go wrong at the airport. The E-Ticket did not register, the arriving flight is late so you inevitably miss your connection flight, bad weather conditions, or the usual equipment failure suddenly came about and now all your plans are pushed back a day with eight glorious hours at the LAX/Boston/Chicago/Cincinnati airport. As a well-seasoned traveler, I have successfully reported "virtually live" on over 30 shows. So you break out the laptop and find a pay phone or wireless access point and surf the web and harass the ABX/DBT guys on the RAO Newsgroup. Hmmm... Maybe a great game of Donkey Kong or Defender on your laptop computer is in order to sooth away the hours? It is amazing the fun you can have while waiting for your plane to arrive. Just remember, when they say it is an overnight lay over it is just that. A lay over. Eh hem, anyway...
So you finally board the plane, eat something onboard that makes dog food seem like a gourmet meal and eventually arrive at your hotel after a taxi ride from hell. (Note to self: No matter what languages one speaks, the taxi driver most certainly speaks none of them no matter what country you may be in.) While in the lobby checking in to your hotel room you run into a Head Cool Dude from the local audiophile scene and you both agree that in one hour's time it will be cigar smokin' for you both. Entering your room you discover the bed is lousy and they only gave you these two apologetic thin pillows. No biggie as calling room service for three more pillows makes up for having some real pillows available. The great news is that your computer network is all up and running and the digital camera works fine. Your gear survived yet another abusive handling by the ape-like airline baggage handlers. A modern miracle! Once all is said and done, you check your day's e-mail and get a good night's sleep.
After waking up and enjoying a shower you are now all dressed up with somewhere to go in your battle gear. You wisely remember to arm yourself with the digital camera, handheld computer and enough smokables for the day. A hit n' run breakfast of watered down orange juice and super extra crispy bacon capable of doubling as a letter opener, then off to the showrooms to report on what you see and hear.
What? You though this was all fun and games? Ok, so there is some fun in seeing manufactures you saw only two months earlier in the show at (insert name of country here). Off to the rooms to scout out the new gear young man! No long talks allowed! Entering a room you see Joe all hung over from setting up his gear the night before and with only two hours of sleep (and on his fifth cup of coffee that morning)... you walk in. Of course I ask "So Joe, anything new at this show?" Joe replies "Nope, same stuff we had at the (insert same country name here) show." So you talk with Joe for a few moment about how the rooms are too small at this venue. Then Joe gripes about how they want $7,000 for the room this year and that the show employees do not help out with his company’s simple needs in a timely manner (as Joe points to the offending bed mattress propped up against the wall that needs to be removed). You both comment about the awesome live band you both saw in (insert name of country here) just two months earlier. Then a couple of quick photos of the same gear you photographed just two months earlier and off to the next room.
The great things about going to twelve shows all around the world in a year's time is the really unique gear you get to see, feel and hear. In one of the rooms you see the grooviest lookin' vacuum tube amplifiers you have ever laid eyes on. An Armani garbed man, speaking broken English of course, asks you to come in. While the music does indeed sound good, you are caught like a deer in the headlights on these tube amps. Oh the glow of the Type 45 tube, the Mullard new old stock GZ34 tubes are looking ever so fresh while some other tubes you forget about elude your eyesight as the hand crafted exotic wood enclosure begins to make you drool. Mr. Armani says they are the Onna-Matta-Peea Seductress Valve Amplifiers named after the mystic nymph Goddess of Erotic Poetry from his country's heritage. So you ask him to spell the name of the amplifier out to you while you type it on your handheld computer frantically like a psychotic madman on furlough from the insane asylum... which incidentally may not be too far from the truth. I mean, have you ever spent time in a room filled with Super High-End Audiophile reviewers? But I digress.
So you go from room to room gathering photos and information to realize that $25,000 seems to be the key pricing at this show. You start noticing everyone is using the Super Plazmatic Electron Alignment Power Reconstructor. Interesting, as word on the streets are that this thing is nothing but a resistor, two power capacitors and a lead brick in a big fancy brushed aluminum casing. A real-world high-end audiophile bargain at only $1750 said the reviewer of The Fantabulous DioPhi!e in their most recent edition. You start questioning your sanity (for the third time that day) as you consider finding the Plazmatic Electron Alignment Power Reconstructor distributor's room and ask for a reviewer sample to be sent your way. Successfully resisting the urge you move onward to cover as many rooms as possible before the show closes for the day. Whilst schmoozing with a manufacture you hear about the free party that night for members of the industry and look forward to attending it to see all your old friends in one place and time. After all, no self-respecting reviewer would ever pass up a free meal, free gear or anything that is free. Remember: Free is the key word. This is especially true with food it seems as the more important the U.S.-based reviewer, the larger his waistline.
During the first day you bump into more friends from the Internet who enjoy your postings on (fill in the Newsgroup or Internet forum here). You share some advice on cheap tweaks, laugh at that guy who plugged in his loudspeaker wire into the electrical outlet almost burning his house down, and later share notes on the really cool goodies one of you saw two floors down. Being the guy of Free Stuff myself, before we say our final goodbyes I hand over one of the many chachkies that will hopefully help my Internet friend achieve audio nirvana. With a handshake and smile this brief relief from hearing yet another system playing Gwendolyn DePré and Her Magic Singing Lute has come to an end.
Once the show closes you grab the largest sugar and caffeine filled beverage you can find. Why? Because now comes the brief hour between the show's closing and that free party. As a diligent self-proclaimed professional reviewer you never, ever, under any circumstances forget about the free party. It is Verboten! So off you go to photo edit the pictures you took earlier in the day as you frantically type in each and every product's description to have it all web-ready for an upload only moments later. Realizing it is impossible to do all that work in an hour, you do what you can and save all your work. Then you freshen up to go to the free party.
Arriving at the party you realize, well, they do not let types like you in. Seriously! At the recent Las Vegas CES/T.H.E. Show I never made it much passed the door of a party. Guess they know about the likes of me. Well, maybe them and Canada, but that is another story now isn't it? Hey, so I write for a different 'phile magazine than that Stereo magazine that did not let me in the door don't cha know. Still, some Big Guy comes towards you at the free party and advises you that you are not welcome. You almost want to put up a struggle and consider making a Big Scene, but then you recall the party is lame with huge butthead overweigh ego-driven know-nothings and barely warm food from some Discount Catering Service and wisely bail to the Burger Thing down the street for their $6.99 flame broiled bacon double cheese burger meal special. Yummy! Being the nice Jewish boy that you are, your mind wonders as you try to think about any other fast food sandwich that breaks as many Kosher laws as this flavorful and satisfying burger.
Following your scrumptious dinner it is once again back to your $300 a night room to finish up the photo editing and website work in your hotel room. You post all the day's work on your website and then let the Newsgroup and forum folks know about the awesome products you just uploaded. Of course by now it is 1am and you have been awake since 4am. You think to yourself "Thank goodness this is only a three day show". After smoking a nice cigar and congratulating yourself for a good day's work you pass out and get four hours of restless sleep struggling with those five pazny-ass hotel pillows that equal one real pillow. Then the whole Carousel o' Fun begins again.
Now before you begin to feel that shows are all work and no play, let me let you in on a few secrets I have learnt over the years. Do not under any circumstances post everything you saw that day on your website. Hold back a bit so that you can take a day off to visit the obligatory Adult Show or rent that Ferrari from the Luxury Cars place in town. While the Milan Italy show is five days long but only takes two days to cover, you have two days to eat all the food you can in Milan's center of town and chase Italian girls all the while enjoying wonderful cigars and Italian coffee. That last day is to say goodbye to all your Italian friends. Remember, there are many glories in shopping for more cigars, fine Swiss made mechanical timepieces and basking at all the splendor that is Italian. If you find yourself in an Asian country, remember not to eat any raw seafood. Your stomach and bowels will thank you later for thinking wisely now. Also, just because you are some self important, self-proclaimed professional audio reviewer the Ferrari manufacturing facility and test track that is only two hours away in Italy will not let you take a private tour and drive their new F1 car for a few laps no matter how profusely you beg and grovel at their feet. Be happy with the Ferrari museum and lovely restaurant across the street. Me amoré! Lastly, you must remember to bring gifts for friends. "Gee, this naked female lighter with glowing LED nipples and a flame coming from her lower private part will look great on editor of Positive Feedback David Robinson's desk" so you buy it and send it to your friend when you arrive home (right David?).
Of course virtually all shows have live music so enjoy it! There are usually some great bands playing around town as well so make sure you scout out all the great ensembles in town that week. All the above are just a very teeny tiny fraction of what I personally have been through over the past many years of attending well over 30 shows worldwide. There is much fun to be found at local supermarkets and nightclubs. Pay attention! Just remember that in the end what really matters is that you...