The Woodstock Invitational Luthiers Showcase is serious business. Big names like John Monteleone, Linda Manzer and Ken Parker make the annual show (which dropped last weekend at the Bearsville Theater) a genuine destination for guitar geeks with more money than sense.
It also gives actual musicians a chance to touch and feel and maybe even drool on the museum-quality boxes that they only get to read about in the six-string stroke books.
Thankfully, though, show promoter Baker Rorick (a surf musician at heart, god bless him) has a sense of humor, too.
That meant that at this year’s edition, best-in-show booth honors went to Palenville weirdo Peter Head. And when we say weirdo, we mean it with love.
Head – a “redneck artist, poet and musician” – is guitarist in Apocabilly band Pitchfork Militia, where he still straps on a ’71 Telecaster when it’s time to get it on.
At home, however, he sticks to his own creations, which, when gathered together on a table, look like an explosion in a lunchbox factory.“I keep everything,” he says, as though onlookers haven’t already figured that out. “I have more tin cans in my shop than anybody should ever have.”
While other luthiers at the show do math in their free time, determining the eternal mysteries of proper scale length, Head determines the stretch of his necks by “what looks cool.”
The result – sticks with strings attached to candy boxes, gas cans and suitcases – aren’t really guitars or ukuleles or mandolins. They’re what you make of them.
Head calls them fretless guitars but admits, “You have to get know the individual instrument because all the notes are different on each one.”
He usually tunes his funky machines to open chords and then whacks away at them with a certain maniacal glee. But then, for his real gigs, he plays that Tele with a toy firetruck instead of a pick, so go figure.
Cool factor ten? Oh yeah.
Story and photographs by Bokonon