The Guitar Gods disaster in Miami

As always, when there is TONS to write about, I never have TIME to write. Since my last post, I’ve been to the US for the Guitar Gods festival in Miami, the Monsters of Rock Cruise to the Bahamas, to Hamburg, Germany for Avantasia and right now I’m in Nashville relaxing for a change (although there will be a gig tonight).

So, I’m behind with the updates, but since I finally have lots of time and no stress (wow, I almost forgot THAT feeling…) I thought I’d try to go back to where I left off and see how much I can remember of this past month’s adventures!

Going back to my trip to Miami…

The Monsters of Rock Cruise was planned a year in advance, so I already had my flight tickets, hotel arrangements and everything taken care of. But then, about two weeks before departure, there was an announcement that there would be a Guitar Gods festival on Miami Beach, featuring Yngwie Malmsteen, Steve Vai and Gus G, among others.

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It sounded like an absolute DREAM! Three monster guitarists on stage together, I was super excited! So, like I mentioned in my last post, I had to buy a new flight ticket to make it to that show. The original ticket was non-refundable and couldn’t be changed, and I would never have made it if I had chosen that flight. But – I thought it would be worth it. Wouldn’t miss this for the world!

After a comfortable flight with Austrian Airlines, I landed in Miami at 3.30 PM and breezed my way through customs and immigration. I even got a laugh when the immigration officer asked the standard question: “So, what brings you to the United States?” and I said that I was there for the Monsters of Rock Cruise.

“Monsters of Rock Cruise? I believe that is the cruise where last year they ran out of beer! Why would you want to go on THAT?” He laughed, gave me my passport and wished me a good stay.

I had a reserved cab that was waiting for me to take me to my hotel. On the way there, I saw the venue and people standing in line outside.
Got to my hotel, I checked in and just threw in all my stuff in a pile on the bed, quickly put on some extra lipstick and ran out the door.

There was a long line of people alright, but not nearly as long as I had expected. And what the heck was going on, why were they late? The doors were supposed to open at 5 I think, but it took more than an hour before they started letting people in, no explanation or apology, no nothing. Well okay…

Once I got in, it looked like some weird sort of cabaret/family fair with clowns and unicycle acrobats or whatever… Just not at all what I would expect to see at a rock event.

The cause was great, I liked that it was to benefit the April Malmsteen Foundation, a foundation that works to protect endangered species and their habitats around the globe. I’m all for that, anyone who actively works for animal rights is in my good books. But quite frankly – my impression of this event as a whole was… “WTF?”

It was a pretty small outside venue, the stage looked like someone had just thrown everything they had off the truck, on stage without any thought whatsoever. The visual impression was anything but impressive. It looked like the work of total amateurs, like there was some sort of local talent show for the neighborhood, not something that was going to feature some of the most amazing musicians on the planet!

Seriously, it was embarrassing.

There WAS a talent show. It was the worst thing I’ve ever seen. Not the contestants, they were all pretty good actually, but the organization of it was nonexistent.
People were running around on the stage like headless chickens, nobody seemed to be in charge of anything. It was as if they didn’t even know who was doing the presentation of the players – or when.

The backing tracks that the contestants brought on their iPhones or tablets, was the source of major confusion. It took several minutes between every contestant, to figure out the technical issues (=how to plug in an iPhone to get the sound through the PA… Very advanced stuff apparently).

And the worst part was when the poor guy who WON, was handed over the microphone by the host so he could say a few words – but next thing he knew, the host was gone. Just wandered off the stage and the guy just stood there with the microphone after he was done, wondering wtf to do with it. Nobody there to grab the mic and go: “Thank you, let’s hear it for xxxx and congratulations!”. The winner was left alone on stage with a microphone. Lovely.

You get the picture. A total freaking disaster.

But the disaster wasn’t over.

Now it was time for the actual GUITAR GODS. First one was Gus G, one of my favorite guitarists. He walked out on stage and played flawlessly, like he always does. I heard people behind me and beside me talking, they were hoping he would come back and play more, cause he only did one song.

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I was waiting for the JAM! The one I’d been looking forward to since the damn thing was announced. The JAM that made me buy another flight ticket, cause I wouldn’t miss it for the world. Yngwie, Steve and Gus, what a treat! But… I’ll get to that.

Next up was Steve Vai. I think that guy can play in a shed somewhere and still be brilliant, make people forget about the circumstances, and he almost did just that. Steve Vai is pure CLASS.

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Last up, the “god” himself, Yngwie Malmsteen. Anyone who knows me or is reading this blog, knows that I’m a huge Malmsteen fan. I always have been. Last year I saw him at the Monsters of Rock in Brazil, then I travelled to Bucharest, Romania to see him, and years before that I saw him in New York City at the Gramercy and now this, I just try to see him anywhere I can, since he’s decided not to play in Sweden for whatever reason (I’ve heard a few explanations but it’s all just rumors).

But seeing him run out on that “kid’s dress rehearsal for their school play for their parents“-stage was a bit sad.

He’s supposed to be larger than life, a guitar god. The setting was for anything BUT.
Again – embarrassing. The crowd was…not huge, and that’s an understatement. I had expected this to be the event of the year, kind of. Instead, it was… THIS.

All that aside – I love his playing, I love his old-school rock star antics, his posing, his music…. I enjoyed THAT, and tried not to think too much about everything else. I will always be touched by his music, there’s no getting around that.

I was STILL waiting for that Yngwie/Steve/Gus jam though.

Then FINALLY, after all the mess inbetween songs and artists, it looked like it was time for THE JAM. That was going to be worth the flight ticket, the time, the money, the badly organized event, everything. So I was bracing myself for that, woo-hooo!

Yngwie started introducing his guests. Steve Vai, his “brother”, Rudy Sarzo, the one and only, Nicko McBrain on drums yeyyy and…. no Gus. Okay, well, maybe he’ll make an appearance in another song or something.

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The jam session included Ain’t Talkin’ ’bout Love by Van Halen, played by Steve and Yngwie. It was actually so bad that Steve Vai had my YouTube account locked down till August for sharing the video.

Quite frankly, I had a feeling that somebody would get the hickups when they saw that, but I hadn’t expected it to be Steve. He did just great. In fact, he was the only person NOT slaughtering that song. I don’t blame him for panicking and wanting that video off YouTube right away.
The reason why I shared it was because of the unique mix of artists playing a VH song, at this last-minute event. It was newsworthy, I always think in those terms. Even bad PR is good PR sometimes.
Blabbermouth had already shared it – like they do with all my videos – so thousands of people had already seen it and reacted in the usual Blabbermouth troll-manner…

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Sorry Steve, and Yngwie for that matter, I love you both, but I suppose that was proof that even “gods” fuck up sometimes. Probably made a whole lot of aspiring guitarists out there feel better about themselves for about five minutes, before the clip was removed. ;)

Gus G however, had nothing to be ashamed of though, so I’ll just share his performance instead:

Speaking of Gus, I was STILL waiting for him to get on stage with the others. He never did. I’m not the only one who was pissed off about that. I heard people in the crowd talking as well, where is Gus? Why isn’t he up there?

One of the main reasons why I even wanted to see this gig was cause I’d get to see a cool jam with these THREE guitar gods. Instead, there were only TWO.

Frankly? I think it’s the most unclassy thing I’ve ever seen or heard of. If you’re organizing a festival event, and you invite guests, then the crowd will EXPECT ALL of those guest musicians to be on stage for a final jam.
Excluding someone is something that only an asshole would do. I don’t know who that asshole was, so I’ll leave that unsaid, but someone was responsible and I hope that that person realizes how unprofessional it was to do something like that.

On the other hand, the jam was so bad that not even Steve himself could stand it, so Gus was probably lucky for not having to be associated with it.

The guy who won the guitar contest was really good though, and I hope he does well in the future. :)

And the “custom made” pizza that I got at the venue after the show was good. So, it was not a complete disaster. I hope next time they’ll hire professionals who know what they’re doing.

Rant over.

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