The bass jam at the Elixir Strings stand drew a big crowd. People were queuing up to see top player Yolanda Charles who was on her Levinson Blade bass, as well as artists such as Dean Mark, Michael Mondesir and dubstep maestro Chris Hargreaves.
In the main auditorium bass legend Jah Wobble thrilled the audience as he talked about his signature bass sound and played some classic Public Image Limited bass lines as well as newer material. His stories and humour were revealing, from how he taught himself to play, through to the influence of disco and congas.
“I always try and play behind the rhythm”, was one of his insights.
Jah Wobble played his customised Ovation Magnum bass, and got a huge sound with an Ashdown rig - the ABM-900 and ABM-810. He’s an Ashdown artist and uses a BTA-400 and 2 x ABM-410s when touring. Jah uses Rotosound Swing Bass strings.
Ashdown were showing off their new Dr Green range of pedals that have been getting a great reception, and were selling the first production models - all handmade in the UK. The range includes Bass Verb (reverb), The Aspirin (compressor), Bearded lady (fuzz with vintage tones) and Octadose (octave).
Vintage bass dealer Andy Baxter Bass was exhibiting for the first time and getting loads of attention for his selection of amazing basses. They included this valuable 1958 Fender Precision, Gretsches, Rickenbackers and more.
He also had two basses from the estate of The Who’s John Entwistle - a Warwick headless bass and a Lakland Hollowbody bass.
Back to the new and two MXR pedals had their UK debut - the Bass Overdrive for warm tube-like overdrive, and the Bass Chorus Deluxe which features separate Bass and Treble controls plus Flanger and X-Over.
We were also introduced to the Jim Dunlop Volume (X) - smaller than a Wah, it works as an expression pedal, you can control the settings inside and even use it for keyboards.
Acclaimed solo bass artist Steve Lawson was weaving his bass magic on his Modulus bass at the Markbass stand, using the Markbass amps, and Markbass pedals - the Mini Dist (distortion) and the Bass Tube Marker (amp-like distortion).
He told us about the exciting new ‘toy’ - the SoftStep from Keith McMillen that he was using. It’s a lightweight pressure-sensitive foot controller that can be used for stage, studio, MIDI, even lighting, and he said it’s great for touring.
There was a big range of Yamaha basses at the show including the latest Billy Sheehan signature bass, the ATT LTD3. Special features include two outputs, pickups designed to Billy’s specifications, and scallop frets for better note bending at the top. Check our Billy Sheehan interview for more about him and the bass.
TC Electronic told us about their super compact BH250 bass head, that has their signature TonePrint feature for easy effect and tone-swapping, plus a built-in tuner, coming in at a lightweight gig-bag friendly 1.8kg. You can get TonePrints from bassists such as Divinity Roxx (Beyoncé’s bass player) and Andrew Levy - check out our Divinity Roxx interview.
TC were also showing their new mini looper - Ditto. An ultra compact pedal, it can do five minutes of looping, and unlimited overdubs all accessed through one button.
Status graphite revealed that their LED basses are really popular at the moment. First designed in the 80s, the LED function has been discovered by newer bass players since Chris Wolstenholme from Muse started playing a signature custom designed bass.
Of course there’s more to music than kit - the Musicians’ Union was also at the show highlighting the benefits of membership (including insurance, advice and rights protection) and talking about the Work Not Play campaign to combat ‘low or no pay’ for musicians. You can’t beat a good badge for getting a message across!