HOMEPAGE Visit to Frankfurt - Music Messe April 2005
Well, this was an adventure in many ways, not least because Paul - a Muso friend - and I decided to go - in an almost hurried decision one evening. Paul has UK connections with another Swedish excellence in music - that of EBS Bass amplification and pedals. He also collects Bass Guitars as a hobby, and keeps asking if I can find him a good Hagstrom Bass... leftie (oh-oh, difficult eh?)
We flew out of Heathrow at 7.30am on Thursday 7th April, filled with anticipation as we had made little or no preparations for our time in Germany, deciding to "just see what happens" when we get there. With all the security measures and the journey by car this meant leaving home at 4am. Now some of you know I'm a late bird anyway, so going to bed early was not a realistic plan. I slept absolutely zero hours prior to leaving home and commencing this journey!
The BA flight came with free car hire in Germany, so if nothing else, we would have somewhere to sleep! Making our way to Music Messe was made easier by the GPS system, although we had to work out how to change the language to English. Once this was achieved the 15km journey from the airport was easy.
We managed to find a car park close by the arena area of Frankfurt Messe, and started out on foot toward the first entrance we could find. This was the first bit of fun. This place is massive, and we had managed to find a car park completely round the wrong side of the complex, and without pre-purchased tickets we could not go in through this entrance.
Although we travelled light, a couple of kilometres walk soon makes that attaché case a heavy load. We finally managed - with more directions - to enter the show via a light railway system entrance then in through a variety of staircases and, escalators.
Paul had his agenda for the visit, and I had mine, so we soon split up to find our own reference points, using EBS as the base to meet up again. The first thing that hits you on arrival is just how big this event is. We had given ourselves two days to take in the sights and investigate various questions, meet as many people as possible, and for me, get to see those Hagstroms!
It didn't take me long to find the stand. It stood out from the crowd. Not by being massive, or loud, or adorned with people trying to beckon you in. By contrast it stood out for its almost understated nature. You were presented with a semi-sheer net drape which in itself beckoned you inside to explore the secrets. You could see the familiar, and the fabled. You could feel the inspiration and sincerity. It epitomised the typical understatement of Swedish inspired quality and pride.
I was brought back down to earth by a youngish American guy who kept leaping in front of my phone-camera, just as I was trying to get a decent shot of the Hagstrom Stand, calling "Hey! Hey!" and smiling in a broad smile that opened up below his wavy black hair and black sunglasses with yellow tint lenses. "What you looking at?" he continued. "Hey my name's Jim, take photo of me eh?" Clearly this guy was a bit bored. He was at a stand full of accessories of all kinds and shapes and colours, and wanted people to take more notice of him and his lady assistant.
The banter ensued in a typically friendly USA-UK kind of way with me being polite and ignorant of who he is, him being bold and big, reminding me of a boxer warming up for the next bout, half jumping, half dancing around with some kind of anticipation of what might happen next. Clearly he was going to win the attention if not the contest, so I responded with "Hi my name's Dave..." and put out my hand in gesture to shake his. Before i could say anything else "Hey Dave, Are you pointing at me? You givin' me the finger eh? (smiling all the time) Nah! how you doin'? What do you think of my stand? Boy it's boring here, seen any good stuff? Complete lack of women here don't you think?" All these were rhetorical questions of course. There was no time or opportunity to give any kind of answer, and so the banter continued.
During this opening exchange I had realised that maybe this Jim was someone quite well known. He was after all a fun kind of guy, and despite my early start this morning, a good light relief for the next few minutes maybe. But how to continue the interchange without losing my English understatement?
"Oh you are that Jim?, my son uses your picks sometimes...." Again my attempt to have a conversation was thwarted, but this time by his generosity and enthusiasm. "Which ones? Which Ones?" came the response - almost like a panther pacing back and forth along the restraints of his enclosure boundary and waiting to pounce on any prey that came too close.... "Well, usually 1.0mm" I replied, trying to think on my feet, not remembering whether they were nylon ones or solid ones or whatever, and considering which ones to buy from him - just to appease this enthusiastic selling technique. Before I could say another word, Jim's hand thrust towards a section of his display, tore open a pack of black nylon 1.00mm picks, grabbed a handful, (the remainder falling to the carpeted floor of his "virtual cage"), and almost in gentle reflection, handed them over to my top pocket in what seemed to be slow motion. Well, anything would have been 'slow motion' after the previous minute or so's encounter.
So Jim Dunlop was bored. He wanted glamour, and all he had was rows of picks, straps, cleaners and other accessories of the well loved and respected brand he created. He took to his own pocket, and produced a passport, flipping open the cover with all the panache of a western cowboy spinning a Colt 45 into action. "See, I'm Jim this proves it". I didn't need convincing of course, I was just a bit English maybe...
"So where's the women and interesting stuff" he repeated. "Well", I thought, "there's the Carlsbro stand... well worth a visit in it's own right of course, but there may be someone there you'd care to meet." Smart move, I thought, as soon as he meets this lady I'll be history, and maybe I could get back and take that photo after all!
Well now he was a man with a mission. "C'mon then, show me the way!" So I found myself leading a path through various serious demo sessions - not quite parting the seas, but just as dangerous at times, followed all the time by this wild-man of musical accessories who needed to see a woman - hopefully just see... after which I would blend back into the arena background, maybe go and get a coffee or something.
We finally got to the Carlsbro stand and this fabled beauty was nowhere to be seen! With a leap and a turn Jim thrust his pointing finger.... towards the bar at the end of the hall. "Let's get a beer".
I did notice by now that quite unlike myself, there were a whole host of people calling out, almost falling at the feet of Jim, wanting to shake his hand, maybe get a personal response from this demi-god of the nylon guitar pick and cleaning solutions.
So I realised that 'this beer' was going to be more like a walking (maybe running a bit too) type mobile party once we arrived at the bar. I was not wrong. The queue for the bar seemed to melt away just as the "pack" approached the lady serving beverages of various descriptions. A well rehearsed and polite follow-up of "Danke" was the normal response to payment by someone who made no attempt to speak the local language.
"What beers and wines you got here then" was the opening statement, and in (now) usual style before the answer was possible... "Lets have six beers, and two bottles of wine, how much do you need?"
Soon we all had nice cold German beers in hand. There was a short discussion about little plastic tokens to get your deposit back for returned glasses, but it fell on completely deaf ears. "I'm collecting them" was the retort, and within a split second we were off again in another direction.
Clearly Jim was enjoying himself now, and with the entourage in tow, he declared we must all visit the Hi-Watt stand. Turning to me he made some comment about English heritage and the like, in return I was thinking I'd better stick around at least while I'm drinking his beer, and we all swept forward to find the stand in question.
We were greeted like long-lost friends at the Hi-Watt stand, and with a swift leap Jim had managed to mount a sixties Lambretta (or maybe a Vespa) scooter, another icon of the British mod-era, The Who and Quadrophenia. In the process a Gibson Les Paul went flying, but I managed to catch it and place it back on it's stand. The beer was by contrast well controlled and not a drop was spilt. So now I thought I'd better take a photo, and kindly Jim was in just the mood for a pose.
Within another minute Jim was away again. He'd met some new friends and with great relief I received the "V" sign and a big smile. I think he was still happy - you just couldn't tell. I just wanted to catch my breath, find out where I was now, and get back on track... now where's the Carlsbro.... No, Hagstrom Stand, dear me, what's happening to me!
Actually there is more to say on the Carlsbro Stand. I had enjoyed a discussion about youth music, introduced myself to Jon who had a good Hagstrom story too. Devotees of the site may have read about Bill Nelson (Be-Bop-Deluxe etc) and his former interest in the Hagstrom Swede, The Patch system and the like. Well he still has his Hagstroms, and more over, he's designed a very retro amplification system (shown on the Carlsbro site). This system which at first sight resembles a kind of upright Wurlitzer, has all the sound style he'd been missing. There will only be 50 of these made. If you want to see his drawings and other stuff check out the Carlsbro stand at a show, or see the website... PS either way you also meet a certain young (damn it Dave, control yourself...)
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