Axpona: We Sing Together in Atlanta

On Saturday night, after a long day of listening, writing, and chatting, I couldn’t force myself to enjoy another dinner or even have a beer. Things come to a dull end where all systems sound the same, I forget what it is I’m supposed to be listening for, I can’t give the exhibitors and attendees the attention they deserve. So, instead of pushing myself further, I decided to head back to my room and post a few blog entries before packing my bags and going to bed. Earlier in the day, I had already begun to regret my decision to leave the show on Sunday morning: There were rooms I hadn’t visited, people I hadn’t met, songs and stories I hadn’t heard, and now I had run out of time. Nevertheless, as I succumbed to sleep, I could hear myself singing.

From many angles, this most recent version of Axpona, held in warm and friendly Atlanta, Georgia, appeared fraught with compromises and confusion. As I arrived at the hotel, I immediately learned that several exhibitors had been up until the early hours of morning dealing with troublesome rooms, a frustrating consequence of the extremely late delivery of their demo gear.

For my part, upon checking into the hotel, my first move was to lock myself out of my room; and, once I got back into my room, I was embarrassed to discover I had forgotten the two most important assets to any journalist covering a show: my toothbrush and deodorant. During the event, some attendees (including myself, at times) were wearied by the long hotel corridors which seemed sometimes to go on and on forever or simply end, suddenly, in dead silence and darkness.

Where am I?

But, when looked at from above, the Atlanta Axpona was a great success. In the end, we see that none of these difficulties made much of a difference because, through it all, attendees, exhibitors, and press alike, joined together to make and enjoy some very beautiful music.

Though it seems painfully obvious, it’s important to remember that we do all of this for music. A hi-fi system should be a catalyst for the discovery and appreciation of more and more and more music. As one exhibitor told me, the problems he faced at the show didn’t bother him at all. All that mattered was that he was able to create music.

And I want to emphasize the fact that we joined together. While at the show, the editors and contributors of Stereophile magazine received many kind compliments from readers and exhibitors, but what delighted me most was being told that we were so approachable, so easy to talk to, “just regular guys.” Every day I remind myself that I cannot take this thing for granted. It is a privilege to receive new music, to test the gear carefully created by people who love music, to share my passion for music with you. I think I can speak for the entire Stereophile team when I say it is our job, but it is also a privilege, a pleasure, and an honor. Even at the end of the longest day, we are still singing.

We take the example of the exhibitors who stayed up late attempting to make magic in rooms that were too small, too large, corrupted by whirring fans and winding corridors, or whose ceilings were falling apart; we take the example of the attendees who drove many miles each day to see and to hear in person the gear they normally only see in magazines; we take the example of the members of the Atlanta Audio Video Club who volunteered their time and their smiles to help make the event a more pleasurable one for all; we take the example of the manufacturers, distributors, dealers, and educators who work to make high-quality sound and recorded music available to everyone, everywhere; we take the example of the musicians who treated our ears, minds, and souls to the real thing.

The real magic of shows like Axpona is that they remind us to be thankful. To everyone who found the energy and took the time to stop us in the halls, either to ask a question, make a comment, or simply to say hello: Thank you. It’s true that we are just like you. We do this for the music, too, and we will not let anything get in the way.

If we couldn’t speak, we would sing.

John Atkinson's picture
The Atlanta Downtown Sheraton is a large rambling hotel and it readily swallows crowds. Even so, attendance seemed lighter than I was expecting, especially on Sunday. I asked Axpona's Steve Davis on Sunday afternoon what the official figure was. "We pre-sold 1750 tickets before the Show and there were about 700 walk-ins," he answered. But when I discussed attendance with exhibitors, several emphasized that they were very happy with the quality of the audiophiles who came to Axpona. Visitors were knowledgeable about audio and music and were very enthusiastic about what they heard. It was a fun Show.
soulful.terrain's picture

Looking forward to next year. This was my first show and it was amazing. The exhibitors were very congenial, and were readily available to answer questions on the spot.

The attendees at the show were some of the nicest people you would ever want to meet.

deckeda's picture

It was my first show of any kind and I had to cram as much as I could in only one day. At first, seeing all the audio "porn" had me calling my wife on the phone, "I might as well have gone to a strip club---I can't go home with anything HERE either ... !"

And that was before, just like Stephen, I walked into the Vincent room and um, stayed a little longer than originally anticipated. Ahem.

The missus laughed but got my meaning: There's more than a little untouchableness to it all, a polite distance if you will, particularly as so many vendors displayed what seemed to be primarily their priciest stuff. "Honey, if in a fit of pique I throw my wallet down on the floor in the YG or mbl rooms, know that I'll always love you and the kids. Tell them to study, work and play hard in their lives, for I might not be coming home tonight."

But yeah, later, every room demanded more time than I could give, as I had no specific agenda other than to taste stuff I'll probably only ever see in magazines. Still referring to audio here. I didn't spend as much time in the Vincent room as Stephen probably did. (Can't blame him though. Why am I thinking of a popular ZZ Top song from the early '80s right now? Nevermind.)

Everyone from vendors to Stereophile staff was at all times polite, professional and yes, approachable. I hope our paths cross again one day.

Greg's picture

I loved reading your account of the event and the honesty of how tired you were. I am sure that there will be another opportunity for you to hear what you didn't and meet who you missed.




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audiocaptain's picture

I really do respect all the time and energy that goes into these writings but sometimes things need some clarification. This event was started as a Three Day show with Thursday as setup day. When we decided to offer some additional viewing of equipment for trade and press a full day for setup was still available with opening at 4:00 on Thursday.  We paid for an extra day at the hotel to begin move in on Wednesday night. We had viewed the best case to be all exhibitors with equipment no later than 9:00 am on Thursday morning. I know this was meet with hours to spare. Also the exhibitors were crowded around AFC freight the entire time they were trying to stage and deliver the equipment to the rooms. This caused major congestion and slowed things down by a magnitude. Many requests were made for special care and the wonderful staff from AFC tried to please everyone. As we go forward we are developing, with the help of all concerned the best methods and means to present a truly new and unique Audio show. I believe if you look at the overall event, as Stephen wrote, "But, when looked at from above, the Atlanta Axpona was a great success. In the end, we see that none of these difficulties made much of a difference because, through it all, attendees, exhibitors, and press alike, joined together to make and enjoy some very beautiful music."

We at AXPONA want to thank all who contribute so much and ask so little for the love of music and those who try to create it under less than perfect conditions.

Steve Davis  

audiocaptain's picture