By Kate Stow
If you didn’t make it to the Dallas Market Hall May 5-7, you missed the biggest party in Dallas. The 45th Annual Dallas International Guitar Festival was held the first weekend in May, with a record number of Buddy Tornados blowing through the building – end-to-end.
Buddy Magazine was there in full force with no less than four photographers to capture the sights. Enjoy this visual tour!
A grand total of 52 performers were spread across three stages over the three-day festival weekend. This year’s headliners boasted an international lineup: Australian guitarist Orianthi, Texas native and 1978 Tornado Eric Johnson, and Canadian Phillip Sayce.
Plagued with technical issues that disabled her amp, Orianthi (born Penny Panagaris) blamed it on the weather. “This Dallas weather keeps knocking my purple beast out of tune,” she said, in regard to her custom PRS electric guitar.
Despite several breaks to re-tune, Orianthi got a standing ovation for her Saturday show – her first in the Lone Star State. For all the trash-talk about the Texas weather, she had two tornados on stage with her: 2022 Tornado Neal Swanson and Johnson, who stepped in for a couple of numbers.
Deep Ellum native Swanson has been the guitarist for Orianthi for 11 years now and was happy to be playing back home. “We get along like brother and sister; it’s a lot of fun,” Neal said about touring and playing with Orianthi. (See live interview with Swanson below)
Austin native Johnson was back with Virginia (his 1954 Fender Stratocaster) on Sunday for a double-header, that started with Sayce on the outdoor stage. 2017 Tornado Rosco Beck joined Eric for some bass support, and 2017 Tornado Wes Jeans cheered them on, along with Tommy Katona and Grammy winning producer and engineer, Larry Mitchell.
The festival started on Friday with performances by: Jay Cober and the Backline, Darren Wise, 1980 Tornado Alan Haynes, Ariel Posen, Monte Montgomery, Petty Theft, Triple Forte, Matthew Scott, 2016 Tornado Quinten Hope, 1980 Tornado James McIntire, Denny Jiosa, Nathaniel Murphy and Greg Koch – who also joined Orianthi on stage.
The Jimmy Wallace All-Star Jam on Friday night included: Derek St. Holmes, Rachel Stacy, Chris Rodriguez, Kara Grainger, Chris Duarte, Tommy Taylor, 1978 Tornado Rocky Athas, 1987 Tornado Mike Gage, Michael Holmes, Nathaniel Murphy, Giacomo Torra, 2016 Tornado Quinten Hope, Danny Ross, Tone Summers, Artur Menezes, Nili Brosh, Arnie Newman, Andrew Supurco, 1996 Tornado Van Wilks, Forrest Lee Jr., Darren Wise, Sadie Johnson, Denny Jiosa, Nicole Cermanara, Anthony Cullins and Ariel Posen.
The doors opened Saturday morning to another day of stellar performances. Sprinkled throughout the day were: The Boogie Men, 1996 Tornado Van Wilkes, 1978 Tornado Rocky Athas, Artur Menezes, Rockin Robert T, Greg Koch, Johnny A, James McIntire, Denny Jiosa, 1991 Tornado Andy Timmons, Nathaniel Murphy and Larry Mitchell.
The Saturday afternoon showcase was “Girls of Guitar” on the outside stage and included: Nicole Cermanara and Jin, Sadie Johnson, Nili Brosh, and ended with the final performance of the day by Orianthi.
Taking it inside that night on the Category 5 stage was an opening performance by a new young band – Black Rock Candy from Los Angeles. Immediately following was the Jimmy Wallace All-Star Jam, part two. Before starting the Jam, Wallace asked for a moment of silence to remember his fellow Stratoblaster, 1990 Tornado Randy Cates, who passed away earlier this year.
ENJOY THE SOUNDS OF DIGF 2023! https://open.spotify.com/playlist/3uZCbiaQMkBXVmIxCJoNSL?si=5d9a9057684b4cb8
Sunday – the final day – started with the annual “10 Under 20” contest, which was won by Izzy Jennings, the female guitarist for Black Rock Candy. The last performances of the weekend were by: Jesse Spradlin, 1990 Tornado Buddy Whittington, Chris Duarte, Nate Gregory, Anthony Cullins Giacomo Turra, Nathaniel Murphy, Larry Mitchell, Johnny A, Denny Jiosa and 1980 Tornado James McIntire.
As far as the trade show, there was any and everything a musician could need – from instruments, gear, strings, jewelry, and clothes – some old, some new, some borrowed and some blue. 1993 Tornado Brian “Hash Brown” Calway had a booth; 1989 Tornado Jim Suhler and 2017 Tornado Patrick Smith were caught browsing the aisles.
There were even vendors that catered to the ladies. One vendor – RubyRibbon.com – encouraged ladies to “ditch their bras” at the guitar show. The enterprising ladies repping the vendor – Laurie and Gypsy – said they were staying busy selling shapewear to women whose husbands were buying guitar gear. “One lady said her husband spent $5,000 dollars on a guitar, so she bought a drawer full of our stuff,” exclaimed Gypsy.
Texarkana luthier Bryan Jefferies introduced his handmade guitars to the Dallas crowd and explained the unique story behind his “Mutiny” series. “There was this huge water oak tree in Texarkana that a man was hung from about 500 years ago,” he said. “Fernando DeSoto had stopped there while looking for the Fountain of Youth. He drank from Spring Lake, hung a man for mutiny, then moved on. When the tree was felled five years ago, I bought the timber to make the guitars.”
One of the most popular corners of the floor was the Heritage Auctions booth. They had on display, among other things, a Stingray guitar owned and autographed by Kurt Cobain – complete with authentication and photo.
Cobains’ guitar was encased behind glass with one of six Rosewood Telecaster prototypes built for George Harrison to play on the rooftop for the Beatles last performance together. The one at the show, however, was gifted to none other than Elvis Presley, who decided it was too heavy for his taste and sent it back to the company.
Another great eye-popping, jaw-dropping guitar they had was the Guild 12-string guitar that Stevie Ray Vaughan played on his MTV Unplugged special. The guitar was taken out of the case so that Tommy Katona – guitarist for the SRV Tribute band Texas Flood – could play it for a minute under the watchful eye of Aaron Piscopo, Director, Vintage Guitars & Musical Instruments for Heritage Auctions – Dallas. Three days later the guitar sold at auction for $225,000.
For these performers, it may have just been “another gig” in another town; to the exhibitors it may have just been “another trade show” and another opportunity to make bank. But to the attendees, it’s the greatest music festival of the year, and the best place to find a special guitar for their collection.
For Jimmy Wallace and his staff, it’s now time to rest and recharge – but not for long. “We’re already planning next year’s show,” he said.
Keep your eyes on www.buddymagazine.com for all the latest DIGF 2024 news!
More live interviews from the 2023 show, below: