A non-stop array of jaw-dropping guitar players and guitars rocked Experience PRS 2016 this past weekend, the eighth public event at Paul Reed Smith headquarters in Stevensville, Maryland. Over 2000 guitar gear heads, amplifier tone hounds, PRS dealers and guitar music aficionados attended this year’s gathering, nearly three times the number of the guitar manufacturer’s first Experience PRS showcase.
Besides the mind-numbing showcase of talented fleet-fingered players in full concert (and loud) mode, this event offered fascinating factory tours, interactive areas to try PRS guitars/amplifiers, wood staining exhibits, guitar clinics and plenty of PRS dealers selling gorgeous examples of PRS products. There was even an audience jam tent where you could jam with well-known players such as the very talented Emil Werstler and Dublin’s finest blues rocker Simon McBride. Of course there was the unspoken rule about no jamming to Mustang Sally, Sympathy for the Devil or Smoke on the Water! Some excellent young talent will be ready for prime time in a few years.
A charity prize wheel benefiting Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center (Baltimore, Maryland) highlighted the importance of giving back to the local community, an important philosophy of the entire PRS team.
Artists performing at this year’s event included the blues-rocking Boscoe France Band, the Southern hard-rockers Black Stone Cherry, the immensely talented songwriter John Hiatt, the politically-minded and musically-gifted Living Colour and a host of other great PRS-playing bands: Lovebettie, Bernie Marsden (credited with co-writing the Whitesnake mega-hit “Here I Go Again”), Prince’s guitar player Mike Scott, RDGLDGRN, The Kelly Bell Band and Hot Tub Limo.
Company founder Paul Smith is at heart a lover of music and all things guitar. His band, Paul Reed Smith Band, is always a crowd favorite when they take the stage. Besides Paul Smith himself (who is quite accomplished on guitar) and Mike Ault (a local studio great), their set featured a supremely speedy guitar solo from Emil Werstler, a blistering blues rock solo by Simon McBride (who seems to be destined to become the next Gary Moore) and incredibly tasteful solos from the great David Grissom of Austin, Texas.
The event showcased a new six-string addition to the world class PRS product line as well as some significant tweaks to an older, very classic model. The new McCarty 594 guitar was designed with the help of singer/guitarist John Mayer to be similar to the feel and sound of a great vintage LP-style guitar but built with modern technology and reliability.
PRS Guitars also announced some significant tweaks to their classic PRS Custom 24 called the “Experience PRS 2016 Custom 24-08”. This model features a 3-way blade switch and two mini-toggle coil split switches. This simple and intuitive switching system, also featured on the PRS 408 model, allows for eight distinct pickup combinations that offer players additional tonal possibilities. The 85/15 Multi-Tap pickups, paired with this control layout, provide a full array of humbucker tones and single-coil sounds unlike any other PRS.
The Custom 24 first officially debuted at PRS Guitars’ first NAMM show in 1985 and has been played by internationally touring artists, gigging musicians, and aspiring players ever since.
“As you might guess, we gather for a ‘listening test’ for each new instrument. My team can attest to my enthusiasm after the Custom 24-08 test. I like how usable all of the pickup settings sound, but I love the crisp clarity of the single coil mode. There is something about the recipe of pickups, switching, and the guitar itself that really stands out,” said Jack Higginbotham, President, PRS Guitars.
Additional special appointments include a Gaboon ebony fretboard with “old school” green abalone bird inlays and a Gaboon ebony headstock veneer with a “pre-factory” small eagle inlay (uniquely featured on Experience PRS limited runs). The Experience PRS 2016 Custom 24-08 is officially offered in five finish options: Aquamarine, Charcoal, Copperhead Burst, Trampas Green, and Slate Blue. Only 50 instruments will be available worldwide. For full specifications and images, see http://www.prsguitars.com/experiencelimited2016.