2009 GPL!

It has been 40 years since the Altamont Rock Festival took place in the hills east of Livermore, California, but the rock spirit descended here once again as Guitar Player Live! invaded this city of 78,000 on September 11-13, 2009.

The performances started Friday night and continued on through Sunday, with dozens of bands playing on four stages in the downtown area, and numerous manufacturers—including DigiTech, Mesa/Boogie, Taylor, and the event’s co-sponsor, Voyage-Aire Guitars showing their wares to the throngs of music fans who showed up for the fun. Sadly the Rolling Stones couldn’t make it this time, but Friday night’s concert at the spankin’ new Bankhead Theater featured ripping performances by Michael Lee Firkins, Chris Duarte, and Richie Kotzen. Jason Becker (Cacophony, David Lee Roth) also appeared on stage to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award from GP. Though paralyzed by ALS (a.k.a. Lou Gehrig’s Disease), Jason delivered a moving speech to the packed house that was read by his father Gary. 

On Saturday night, the Guitar Superstar concert drew a standing-room-only crowd back to the Bankhead to watch ten top-notch guitarists step in front of the powerhouse Thud Factor band and play their asses off in hopes of wowing judges Steve Lukather, Jennifer Batten, Earl Slick, Elliot Easton, and Greg Hampton. When the dust settled, it was Steve Senes who took the Guitar Superstar title, with Krisz Simonfalvi and Brian Davidson receiving first and second place runners-up awards. All said, Guitar Player Live 2009 was an amazing event that brought music and people together in best way possible. We look forward to doing it again next year, so stay tuned in the coming months for details on Guitar Superstar 2010. If you love guitar, it’s something you won’t want to miss!

Stay tuned to guitarplayer.com/live for exclusive photos and video of the event, and check out the upcoming “13th issue” of Guitar Player magazine for a full report. —Art Thompson

For more details on Guitar Player LIVE! 2009, CLICK HERE.

Guitar Player's Guitar Superstar 2009

Guitar Player's fifth annual Guitar Superstar competition was the centerpiece of Guitar Player LIVE!, a 3-day celebration of guitars, music, and gear presented by the Livermore Valley Performing Arts Center in Livermore, California, September 11-13, 2009.

Ten finalists battled for the international title of “Guitar Superstar” at Guitar Player’s Guitar Superstar 2009 competition Saturday, September 12 at the Bankhead Theater in Livermore, California. Steve Senes of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, captivated the crowd and the judges with his fierce technique to emerge victorious in Guitar Player’s Guitar Superstar competition.

Ten finalists were selected from among hundreds of entrants—who posted their best performances at sonicbids.com—to perform onstage in front of a live audience and a panel of world-famous guitar stars that included Elliot Easton (The Cars), Jennifer Batten (guitarist for Michael Jackson, Jeff Beck), Steve Lukather (Toto), and Greg Hampton, (producer of Alice Cooper, Ronnie Wood, Lita Ford). Host of this year's event was Brendon Small, (co-creator of Adult's Swim's Metalocalypse animated series). The celebrity judges evaluated each original performance, and rated each contestant on technique, creativity, charisma, and overall vibe.

Vicki Genfan, the Guitar Superstar 2008 champion, performed at the competition before handing over her crown to this year’s winner Steve Senes.

The ten finalists, who represent a wide range of guitar styles ranging from rock to country, were: Dave Benzinger, Brodie Cumming, Brian Davidson, Hercules Castro, Danny Jones, Steve Langemo, Steve Senes, Krisz Simonfalvi, Doug Towle, and Jeff Zampillo.

All ten contestants received an all-expenses paid trip to the San Francisco Bay Area. The winner, First Runner-Up and Second Runner-Up of the event received custom trophies and complete gear packages. The champion received a feature article in Guitar Player magazine and prizes from event sponsors—including Mesa/Boogie, Harmon, Line 6, Peavey, Sennheiser, GHS Strings, DR Strings, and U.S. Music.