Rocky Mountain Audio Fest 2018 Part 1

The biggest news of the 2018 Rocky Mountain Audio Fest was, oddly, about the 2019 Rocky Mountain Audio Fest. After 15 years at the Denver Marriott Tech Center, the show is moving to a giant new venue, currently under construction near the Denver International Airport. Gaylord Rockies Resort and Convention Center will provide more exhibit rooms, more BIG exhibit rooms, and pretty much anything you can imagine under one roof.—as you can see here.   Given that this is the company that built and owns Opryland and several similar mammoth properties—well, it should be interesting.

Another plus will be the avoidance of lengthy rides in the Blue Vans of Death down always-under-construction I-25. The hotel is also on Denver’s new light rail line, so coming from the airport or going downtown should be straightforward and inexpensive. For those with favorite dining or drinking venues, it remains to be seen how accessible those places will be from the Gaylord: out of necessity, DEN is out in the middle of nowhere, and well, you can see nowhere from the Gaylord.

On the whole, this all has to be considered good news. The last few years at the Marriott have been a succession of challenges for show organizer Marjorie Baumert and for exhibitors. The massive remodeling of the hotel resulted in Can Jam being held in tents two years ago, and once completed, formerly-okay rooms had their acoustics hopelessly mucked-with by the insertion of massive, immovable cabinets, credenzas, and light fixtures, and by HVAC ductwork that now mysteriously had to intrude several feet into the room.

Really. An extra guest could sleep in some of those things—assuming they could sleep, with noise levels 6 dB or more higher than before.

I was involved with the process of vetting hotels for an audio show in NYC, way back in 2011. I know that finding a place with the right facilities, the right available dates, the right price and management that doesn’t respond to an audio show’s requirements with, “we have to move out all the furniture? Why? Are you square dancing?”—requires luck and the occasional act of a benevolent Providence. Ray Kimber—a seasoned exhibitor and recording engineer—took a hard-hat tour of the Gaylord, still under construction, and pronounced it nearly ideal for RMAF’s needs. As far as I’m concerned, that seals the deal.

So—what about the show itself, this year? General consensus was that traffic in general was lighter, although Friday seemed awfully busy, with registration lines winding around the lobby. By the way: that whole “press hours” thing didn’t work. There were regular ol’ attendees all over the show by 9:30, while press-only hours were 9 to noon. If press or trade times are to work—they have to be enforced. Other than that: general mood was upbeat, despite the usual kvetching  over business, or lack of it. There were plenty of new exhibitors with plenty of new products, with Eastern Europe rising in prominence, yet again.  I need to do the show in Poland, for sure….

One last note—every year I apologize for not getting to enough rooms. You guessed it: that was true this year, as well. Damn it.

Pre-show hilarity with Three Brits and a Canuck: Andrew Jones and Alan Sircom in back, John Darko and Lionel Goodfield in front.

Calm before the storm—the Can Jam area at the beginning of set-up day. Not shown: the first-time exhibitors freaking out. “Where is everything?!?”

The traditional pre-show cocktail party in the Atrium area, where…

…show organizer Marjorie Baumert announced the new venue for next year’s RMAF.

An upbeat John Atkinson and Paul Miller, distracted Jason Victor Serinus, a serious George Counnas from Zesto, and a locked-out Frank Doris in the back. Oops.

With one of my absolute faves in audio, EveAnna Manley. Despite appearances, I am NOT old enough to be her father.

Registration on Friday, the first day. The show officially opened at noon; this was about 9:20.

The vendor area in the Atrium got busy, fast.

And so did…

…Can Jam, with Head-Fi guru Jude Mansilla in the center of things.

Two audio legends and old friends, Bascom King and John Curl. Ah, the stories they can tell….

Paul McGowan and John Atkinson, picking out music to play.

The first night of the show always features the International HiFi Press Awards, organized by Roy Gregory—here with Marjorie.

An unexpected guest at the Awards was the recently-retired Tyll Hertsens, formerly of Inner Fidelity—here with old boss John Atkinson. John kept popping up everywhere.

Musician Anne Bisson is a gracious presence at many audio shows.

From Beauty to the Beast: Copper columnist Roy Hall manned a booth just down the corridor from Anne.

Nest time in Copper, we’ll get away from all these pesky people and focus on the important part of RMAF—the gear!