Supping from the Holy Grail (Act 3)

By Massimo D'Angelo

A few days have passed since the 3rd edition of The Holy Grail Guitar Show that took place in Berlin the weekend of the 8-9 of October, and we're still feeling the 'intoxication' left over only after a great party.

Whereas in the first edition, back in 2014, one could feel the tension of the opening, and in last year’s there was more confidence in the direction the EGB (European Guitar Builders) had decided to take in order to become the most important event of the year, in this 3rd edition, one can see the thought gone into getting things right. Not only for an impeccable organisation, nor the considered selection by the management of the luthiers invited to show their work, but also because we take part in an event that celebrates the fantasy, the art, and the profound know-how of the best in the world.

The magnificent Estrel Hotel was filled with 135 luthiers from over 35 countries with their splendid instruments, colours, shapes, inventions, all types of wood (local and exotic) and materials that would be unthinkable had we never participated in this fair.

Some examples of these are the surprising Malinoski guitars (USA), the impeccable ones from Nautilus de Seth Baccus (Portugal), the Sauvage (France)- made of just one piece of wood-, the marvellous Archtops de Pagelli (Switzerland), the IHush Guitars (Japan) and their engravings, the conceptual guitars of Enrico Di Donato (Italy) -that manage to unify past and future, metal and wood put together as real works of art-, the Zerberus de Frank Scheucher pieces (Germany) with their marble tops, the instruments of Michael Spalt of Spalt Instruments (Germany) and their stories immortalized in resin, the Sankey Guitars (Canada) and its respect for wood, or the futuristic Lava de Rapolas Gra
žys guitars (Lithuania).

In addition, we were dazzled by Jens Ritter’s authentic gems (Germany), creations of William ‘Grit’ Laskin (Canada) and his unique necks,  Pablo Massa’s guitars (Argentina) - who, from only one piece of wood manages to make 3 models, the ‘family’-, the Ergon Guitars of Adriano Sergio (Portugal), authentic ‘dancing wood’, Ivan Mulia’s guitars and dobros from Ivee Guitar, (Indonesia), the ‘insane’ ones from Giulio Negrini (Switzerland) like his 'The Beast' or the double-necked guitar of Daniel Cabezas of Bacce Guitars (Spain).

This is just to cite a few of the luthiers that show us that, from George Beauchamp to today, the long road they have taken with the sheer will to keep researching and creating objects of desire.

Beyond the fair itself (which apart from the exposition, offered us more than 40 ‘demo concerts’ and a dozen seminars, in the hands of professional guitarists and experts from the sector) and the beauty portrayed in the guitars and basses on display, the EGB is, year after year, getting seriously and humbly to bring lovers of the genre closer to the world of excellence in the making of instruments. Not an easy thing, given that when we speak of excellence, what comes to mind is the unreachable and its ‘star’ characters, whom it's almost impossible to see up close. This world is something else: to come in contact with the excellence of guitar-making means to know folks in love with their work, accessible and anxious to tell their stories and the road taken to get this far, a hard road, often not well appreciated.

Let’s make things clear: we are discussing these guys who make guitars for the best in the world, for the Keith Richards, Pete Townshends, Billy Gibbons, Jimmy Pages and the likes, that fill our pages, and articles from Guitars Exchange as in many other publications. But the big difference between this trade and others is that for them Keith Richards is just as valued as any other no-name guitarist: each luthier we came across at this or other editions of The Holy Grail Guitar Show makes it his mission to make the best instrument possible, regardless of  the surnames belonging to those who play them.

However, we mustn't forget that we are talking about excellence, about totally hand-made guitars, the 6-string Rolls Royce…for which you pay dearly. But it is also true that we often find ourselves with instruments much more affordable than we thought: it's not uncommon to find luthiers that make ‘base’ models of a quality far superior to the high range of ‘factory made’ series at a price, sometimes more competitive and economical.

Once again we are convinced that there is no more worthy event than The Holy Grail Guitar Show: a unique experience in the context of pure love for the instrument that drives us crazy.
Until next year...and party on!

Massimo D'Angelo

(Banner image: Di Donato Guitars)