Recap: The 2018 Woodstock Invitational Luthiers Showcase

Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.


Don’t worry about that guy.

Why not?

Well, why worry?

I’m at the 10th annual Woodstock Invitational Luthiers Showcase in, uh, Woodstock (New York). I’ve followed the yellow brick road – well, not yellow, not a road, more like what once was a walking path, but, as always happens at the Woodstock fest, has become an ankle deep wade to the Valhalla of the acoustic guitar universe.

You know, that spot you reach by motoring down the Levon Helm Memorial Highway, cruising past the Big Pink, and sliding into the parking smear (it’s too ill-defined to be called a “parking lot”) at Albert Grossman’s estate. Yep, he who managed the likes of Bob Dylan, The Band, Janis Joplin, Odetta, Peter, Paul and Mary, Gordon Lightfoot, and Ian & Sylvia. Before entering the hallowed halls that play host to the finest guitar makers on the planet—so fine that they have to take turns appearing at this fest, you have to slip into the living room where the guitar playing clinics are held. It’s the very spot where the cover photo for Bob Dylan’s 1965 album, Bringing It All Back Home, was shot. You look around, making sure that no one is watching you, and snap a selfie. Because, well, you have to.

Yeah, this place is dripping in mojo. And, yeah, it’s the best acoustic guitar festival ever held. The host is Baker Rorick, of the local roots (roots of roughly anything you want in music) band, the Sunburst Brothers. The “Bros” include writer John Millward (author of Crossroads: How the Blues Shaped Rock ’n’ Roll—and Rock Saved the Blues, one of my favorite music-related books) and Jake Guralnick, son of Peter Guralnick (who’s written all of my other favorite music related books: Sweet Soul Music: Rhythm and Blues and the Southern Dream of Freedom, Searching for Robert Johnson, Last Train to Memphis: The Rise of Elvis Presley, etc.) “Deep” doesn’t begin to express this festival’s connection is with the acoustic guitar universe.

And, that man behind the curtain, working some Ozian magic? He’s my Fretboard Journal co-conspirator, photographer Scott Ptak. Scott has set up a photo studio in the midst of the mayhem that is the Woodstock festival. We’ve conspired to offer you photos of some of our favorite instruments at the festival. Yes, we loved every guitar that we played. And, yes, we could only select a few of our favorites. As you’ll see, we selected instruments that dazzled our eyes, but first, and foremost, they dazzled our ears.

So, please, bask in the glory of these instruments, knowing that many more of these stunning creations await you at the next Woodstock Invitational Luthiers Showcase, in … 2020. After 10 consecutive years of astonishing success, Baker and company are taking a year off (and, it had better be only a year).

In the meanwhile, and with apologies to Harold Arlen:

You’re off to see the Wizard, a Wizard of a festival of guitars
You’ll find it’s one of the Whizzes of a Wiz there are
If ever, oh ever, a Wiz there was, the Woodstock fest is one because
Because, because, because, because, because
Whenever the fest is held, it never, ever, ever commits a faux pas.

(Sorry about that! I couldn’t resist.)

So, pull back that curtain and behold the magic of the Woodstock Invitational Luthiers Showcase, and the alchemy of photographer Scott Ptak.