For such a company with a reputation, they did a terrible job. Since i’m a San Diego native, I wanted to go to their factory and see what was happening for the 60th anniversary. Carvin has a bunch of good people under their name like Steve Vai, Tony Macalpine and Allan Holdsworth, and they were all going to be there for their anniversary. Not only that, but CAB was playing, so I wanted to be there. These are some of the most talented musicians alive, playing some of the highest quality instruments around, so I had high expectations for good reason.
I got there at 10 AM when it opened, and my friend and I took the factory tour. Very cool factory, lots of good machinery and technology for guitar building. The sad thing was that it was limited to 15 minutes per tour, and I wanted to see more. The make some awesome instruments, and it’s nice to know that your guitar is set up by a real guitarist instead of someone in a large factory in a foreign country.
We got outside, and I went into their showroom. Based on the recommendations ofguitarists and aficionados, i’ve had extremely high hopes for Carvin. So I played all of the different models; bolt ons, through necks, semihollows, Holdsworth models, amongst plenty of others. And I regret to say that based on personal opinion, not only did I find nothing special, I didn’t like any of the guitars. The holdsworth’s neck was HUGE, not to my liking, and much was the same for the rest. These were instruments built for speed and tone, yet had the comfort of a wood block. As a person who likes thin necks, Carvin is not my bag. I’d take a Jackson, a Charvel, Ibanez, or any of the others before i’d want a Carvin. They seem to tailor to the big-handed, not the small handed guys with comfort in mind. Don’t get me wrong, they look FANTASTIC, and they represent fantastic workmanship! But they don’t feel that way. Professionally set up, showroom models of their best guitars were unimpressive, at best. The reason I liked Carvin were for their beautiful carved tops, the fantastic choices of wood, and the American made quality, but when I got my hands on it, it wasn’t what I wanted. Think of it as seeing the most beautiful car you’ve ever seen, driving by you on your block every week and teasing you, only to find out that the thing drives like bread dough, and has the engine from a go kart. Sure it looks great, but it’s not something you could use.
I left the place at around 11:30 because there were only a few bad local bands playing, but I went back at 3:30 to see CAB playing. As I got there, I saw Steve Vai was signing autographs, but I wasn’t about to wait in line for 5 minutes (i’ll get to this short wait), i’d rather see CAB. I walked over to the stage, and then CAB started to play about 5 minutes later. CAB would’ve been awesome, had the sound guy not been absolutely dismal. There were no more than 100-200 at the entire place, yet they had sound worthy of an outdoor festival. Not only that, but the guy behind the soundboard didn’t think to turn down the rest of the band a little when someone was soloing, he would turn the soloist up, and that was it. So basically, the one person soloing would be turned up, and the rest would be the same, in turn making the entire place louder, instead of keeping it even. Even worse, when 2 people were soloing, they were too loud, and they clashed like neon green parachute pants and a black sport coat. When Tony Macalpine was dueling with Patrice Rushen, you couldn’t really tell what was going on due to the overwhelming sound. Carvin makes lots of sound gear, you think they could find a decent sound guy. Spectacular to see the drum mics die out right when Virgil Donati goes into his monster solo…
The only highlight of it all was having Steve Vai jump onstage with CAB, but it was ruined by the horrible sound guy who was too far away to understand what the crowd was hearing. That’s why all venue’s put the sound guy in the middle so they can get an even feel of what everyone’s hearing, not put them 100 feet from a tiny stage.
As I was leaving and LIT was playing (Yes…Lit) to a crowd of 40 people compared to CAB’s 100, I saw Steve Vai sitting there alone at a table, but felt no desire to meet him. I’m fine not meeting my idols. He was sitting with Tony Macalpine and Bunny Brunel for their signings, but for some reason I don’t really find joy in getting autographs.
Carvin should’ve gone all out for this. There were some of the best musicians alive at this place, and only 200 people were there at most. They took out a full page ad in Bass Player, and put in on their website, but made no real effort to inform the city about it. It was completely free, and Steve Vai alone could’ve drawn 500 people, but he was sitting there signing autographs to a crowd of 30 people. But it’s too late now, the whole thing was terrible. I expected a whole lot, and got a whole lot of nothing.
My apologies Carvin. Your potential is outweighed by your utter disregard for those of the people who went to your event which was a major milestone. And for that, you will not receive my business. Keep sending me those catalogs though, free guitar pornography is just fine.