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Monkey Fest - “The Monkey Lord” or Rob “Chappers” as he's also known, managed to pull it off this year with some help from his manager, Dan Davies, and several generous sponsors such as Marshall Amplifiers, Blackstar Amps and Andertons Music. The festival, which is the first of its kind, was held at the Bisley Pavilion, near Guildford in England, and features: a camp site, a hall (where the stage was set) and several shooting ranges that provided us with an early wakeup call each morning. Over 250 people attended - some coming from as far as Denmark and Canada to gorge themselves on the endless supply of tasty notes coming from the jam-packed stage. Several artists shared their musical knowledge with the audience, not something that you come across often at festivals, but this festival was about learning and interacting, and not just about watching and idolising. There are too many talented musicians for us to mention them all but we'll do our best.

The stage

 

DAY 1

Opening the Jam

The first day was pretty straight forward - 'Chappers' opened the evening by performing with his own group, 'Monkey Lord', which featured 'Stick' on drums, followed by an epic jamming session where Chappers invited several people up on stage, including the L4G crew. This drove everyone into a shredding frenzy - readying them for what was to come for the rest of the weekend.

 

DAY 2

Tuition and the Opening Act

VIP ticket holders were treated to a morning of tuition by Chappers, whilst Fred Brum (who we'll talk about later on) and acoustic maestros, Mike Dawes and Amy Turk ran master classes for the rest of attendees.

Mike Dawes & Amy Turk are a world-class acoustic act performing their own material at festivals and private functions across Europe and provided the perfect start to the day. One of the “festers” had this to say about them: “Mike Dawes and Amy Turk showed that boundaries-to-be-pushed lie not only in how loud you can crank an amp or how many effects you can use to tweak your sound or how many strings you can combine to create magic!”

Probably not what people were expecting but the audience seemed pleasantly surprised – it's great when that happens.

 

Familiar Faces

We were pleasantly surprised to bump into our friend Laurie Monk who accompanied us throughout the evening. Laurie is a well known blogger and guitar-music promoter and is more famous amongst guitarists than most of the guitarists out there but has never been seen playing a note on the guitar. If it wasn't for Laurie most of us wouldn't even know about lots of the guitarists we listen to today. Laurie's site can be seen at: http://www.truthinshredding.com/ Check out and subscribe to his site – endless amounts of content and information for guitarists on there.

Laurie Monk

 

On to the first guitar show of the day: Andy James, a metal guitarist and regular contributor for Lick Library, is known for his ability to combine fierce technique with great feel and melodic note choice. Andy's style is purely instrumental-metal and delivers typical detuned, tight, rhythm parts combined with overdriven harmonies that would please anyone's ears. ESP guitars are Andy's preference, loaded with humbucking EMG pickups and lots of gain - he showed us how tidily one can play despite having all that gain greasing his fretboard. About to release his 3rd album and working on an album with the band 'Sacred Mother Tongue' who performed as the last act of the evening.

 

Why We Might Give Up the Guitar

The most mind-blowing part of Monkey Fest was watching Jess Lewis playing through several Alex Hutchings and Guthrie Govan tracks to note perfection. Most people would think Jess is just a copy cat and can't improvise or play anything original, but they would be very wrong. Jess not only gets every note technically perfect, she also captures the feel and tone of the players she's recreating with her own added touch.

Guthrie Govan signing Jess's guitar

 

Jess Lewis and Guthrie Govan

 

So as you've already guessed, Jess is a girl, but you probably didn't realise she's not even 18 years old yet and almost everything she has learnt has been done so by ear. Jess is the best female guitarist we've ever seen and to add to it she has many years on most of her male counterparts. Jess should be seen as an inspiration to many young, female and male guitarists out there and we look forward to being traumatized further by her talent – as Guthrie put it “We'll all be working in McDonald's soon, thanks to Jess” - I don't think you could get a better compliment in the world from one of the world's best guitarists.

 

West Country Gent

One of Jess Lewis's main influences, Alex Hutchings, performed with his own fusion band, featuring his brother on keyboards and second guitar. Most people are accustomed to watching Alex play over Jam Track Central backing tracks on YouTube and demonstrating Boss and Roland equipment at trade shows so it was quite refreshing to see Alex performing and interacting with a band. Alex is a fast-rising fusion guitarist, hailing from the West Country (land of cider and tractors and stuff) and has a distinct style that is easily recognisable by his emotive fusion phrasing, combined with Gamable-esque sweeps and fast picking. Alex adopts the method of tuning in fourths (so that would be: E, A, D, G, C, F) which helps him to sweep through patterns with ease, compared to the way it would have to be done with a standard tuning. Another well-known guitarist that used this tuning was Stanley Jordan, who applied a two-handed technique, sometimes using 2 guitars simultaneously. This tuning is said to make more sense visually and intervallically and even though it took Alex many, many hours of practise to make the switch from standard tuning to fourths, it seems to have paid off. Jess Lewis has also adopted the same method of tuning and soon joined Alex on stage to play one of his tracks alongside him. Aurally, it was like listening to Alex in stereo – the pair bouncing phrases off each other but visually your eyes just didn't want to believe your ears were telling them. Hopefully we'll get hold of Alex and Jess for an interview soon.

 

The Reason Why We Practise So Much

'The Fellowship' (not of the ring), featuring Guthrie Govan on guitar, was the instrumental peak for Monkey Fest. The musicianship that the quartet created wowed the audience from start to finish and it was evident that fusion-foursome had been playing together for many years. The band consisted of some extremely talented and dedicated musicians who also performed on Guthrie's album 'Erotic Cakes' - musicians like Pete Riley on drums, and Guthrie's brother; Seth Govan on bass (you can just imagine what it's like to have two Govans on stage at the same time). Guthrie has been the guitarist for many famous bands and artists that range from old-school rock bands like 'Asia' to rap artists like 'Dizzee Rascal', but on this occasion he really had the chance to show us what he likes to do best. Guthrie's performance with 'The Fellowship' demonstrated every technique imaginable from alternate picking to 8 finger tapping – not just for the sake of being able to do so but to create textures and accompaniment which complimented his fellow band-members' playing. I'm not sure how to describe Guthrie's playing or his style to people that have never hear him - some would say fusion best fits the description but you really have to listen to him for yourself so you can make up your own mind – after-all how do you describe all the colours of the rainbow to someone that has been blind all their life? Guthrie was kind enough to endorse Live4Guitar by wearing one of our fine t-shirts and posing for some photographs with his fans (L4G included) and proved to be an incredibly humble and supportive person. Unfortunately Guthrie had to dash off with his fellowship so we weren't able to interview him, although we intend to catch up with him soon!

Guthrie Govan & Emir Hot

 

Guthrie wearing Live4guitar t-shirt

 




Feeling Puny

Now for a band that couldn't be any bigger: 'Godsized' - and they really lived up to their name too. 'Godsized' are a British group of  mammoth “metalers” who have played some of the biggest festivals around – including Download, Hammerfest and Bloodstock. Glen Korner heads up the band as the guitar wielding vocalist, accompanied by Neil Fish on guitar and both provided some ripping solos whilst in the power stance and maintained their trouser integrity at the same time. Despite the fact that they are walking demi-gods of rock they still found the time to hang out with some of their “mere-mortal” fans and discuss their experiences, such as touring with Zakk Wylde's band 'Black Label Society' and drinking very strong tea. These guys really showed us that the stage is their true home and simply blew the crowd away - as their biggest fan put it: “Their stage presence is just immense! Their riffing, soloing, basslines and drumbeats just make this brilliant wall of metal - the 'Godsized' machine is simply made to blow the mind of every metal fan.” And it did just that.

That was about all we could take for the second day so we went on to do more important things like drinking, jamming, talking bollocks and trying to swing guitars around our neck without decapitating the people around us – it was time to call it a day really...

 

DAY 3

8am (way too early)

The previous day was so non-stop that I had forgotten to set-up my tent and paid for it by having to do so in the dark, whilst wavering about from intoxication. As if that wasn't bad enough, the morning “gunfire-wakeup-call” was kicking off and just as I was getting used to that the sun started to roast me alive in my tent – I suspect this was carefully planned to make sure you couldn't miss any of the events at the festival, and why not? You should've been glad that you were getting more than your money's worth. After-all £50 was all you needed to experience Monkey Fest, and those that paid £70 were able to have the full experience of becoming “festering-monkeys” from all the on-site camping and lack of “showeriness” – not that there weren't ample facilities for everyone to use - I just wished I had found out about them a bit earlier. But hey at least there was no mud or extremist hippy groups smoking the place out – we were peaceful enough.

MonkeyFest guitar camp

 

Early Afternoon (still feeling the night before)

By the time I had emerged from my tent and prepared myself for the final day two bands had already played their sets – with plenty of acts to go it was time to get into the performance hall and check out what was on the cards for the day.

 

First Act of the Day

Adam Ironside was giving us everything he had by performing over some original guitar-instrumental tracks he had composed that reflected influences like Joe Satriani, Andy Timmons and most importantly, Shawn Lane - probably Adam's biggest influence – not so much technically but definitely compositionally. Adam appeared confident on stage and never forgot to acknowledge his audience with sincere eye-contact and facial expressions – making it all the more enjoyable. It was like he was having a musical conversation with you except instead of words coming out of his mouth notes were emerging from his amp that said more about his music than words could – and that's why we've provided you with this snippet of Adam's playing so you can see exactly what we mean:

 

Adam is known for his gear reviews on his YouTube channel and has recently been endorsed by Rob Chapman's guitar company 'Chapman Guitars'. You can check out his stuff here: http://adamironside.com

 

Fred “The-Shred”

Fred Brum was something that a lot of “festers” were looking forward to. Fred plays 7 and 8-string guitars exclusively – mainly so he is able to compose and play songs that would otherwise not be possible on a 6-string – even if re-tuned. Fred, from Portugal, started off as a pianist in his earlier years and switched to guitar with great enthusiasm. Since doing so Fred has been a session guitarist and a member of several metal bands which is the style of choice for his own instrumental music. Fred “The-Shred”, as he's also known, is endorsed by Jaden Rose Guitars and could be seen demonstrating them in between jamming, teaching and performing. Fred gave us a good taste of some quality shred-metal and he made sure that every note was intentional and not just “mindless-fretboard-wanking” which is something that he opposes strongly. As Fred is a rather knowledgeable chap, we think it'll be a good idea to try and get him on-board with L4G as an instructor – here's hoping!

 

Those Sons of...

By this time I had left the festival as I was not able to function any-more, having absorbed too many notes most probably - I met these guys only a few weeks before the festival occurred at a pub in Guildford (where else would you meet a bunch of students?). In the final years of their degrees at the Academy of Contemporary Music, in Guildford, 'The Sons of Icarus' are a group of young old-school rockers – fronted by vocalist Andy Masson – whose voice was just raw power and could hit notes that I could barely find on Fred Brum's 8-string (the high ones that is). On Andy's right, Steve Balkwill accompanies him with nothing but a Fender “Strat” between him and the crowd - and he isn't afraid to use it. A humble bunch, the group have already played at Download Festival and Sonosphere in such a short time and can be likened to bands such as: Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath. The guys invited our main man, Emir Hot onto the stage for a jam – check out the result:

 

It's definitely worth keeping an eye on these guys - they'll either burn-out within a year and end up like Amy Winehouse or launch into the stratosphere – let's hope that 'The Sons of Icarus' can spread their wings and fly high – not like Icarus himself who clearly should have used some sort of heat-resistant treatment on his.

 

To Conclude

All the people that attended were Rob's fans and it's amazing to see how one person can create such a large community online and bring so many of them together in person – all this thanks to the power of YouTube and guitar. Overall the event was a success and although small in comparison to other festivals our there it seemed more intimate – almost like everyone knew each other but had never met. This is something you don't see at guitar shows that are housed inside nice air-conditioned buildings that have well-groomed people pointing decimetres at you and telling you to turn down all the time – we came for a rock guitar tuition festival and we got one. Everybody expressed their gratitude towards the artists and Rob himself and will definitely be up for the bigger, better Monkey Fest in 2012.

 

Thanks to Rob Chapman and Dan Davies for having us and supporting our site – always a pleasure.

 

Chris Geden

http://www.youtube.com/user/ChrisGedenGuitar

 

For more info about MonkeyFest and Rob Chappers network, follow these links:

http://www.monkeylord.co.uk
http://www.facebook.com/robchappers

http://www.facebook.com/officialrobchapman

http://www.facebook.com/chapmanguitars

http://www.facebook.com/monkeyfest

http://www.twitter.com/themonkeylord

http://www.twitter.com/chapmanguitars

http://www.twitter.com/monkey_fest