Local guitarists and singer-songwriters will be center stage this weekend during LVPAC Guitar Fest LIVE!, an annual celebration of all things guitar at Blacksmith Square in downtown Livermore. Eight finalists -- four singer-songwriter guitarist and four instrumental guitarists -- will compete for exposure, applause and a variety of prizes.
Pleasanton resident Robert Sakogawa has played guitar for nearly 40 years and and will take the stage in this year's instrumental guitar competition. A member of classic rock cover band Audio Illusion, Sakogawa submitted an acoustic, flamenco piece to the competition and plans to showcase his various musical influences.
"This year I'm going to switch it up a little bit and play steel string acoustic. It's going to be an original piece in the steel string style of playing, which tends to be have more of a western flavor," he said.
Sakogawa was one of 24 contest entrants who submitted videos to LVPAC Guitar Fest. While he isn't "keen on competitions," Sakogawa said he wanted to see how he stacks up against other local performers.
"Win, lose or draw what I hope to get out of it is to go there and have a good time, to meet other musicians," Sakogawa said. "Livermore is a great arts community. When you look at the audience you see so many friends and acquaintances, it's just really a chance to just have a time of camaraderie."
Web developer Darren Richardson submitted an original composition to the singer-songwriter category and will play an as-yet-undecided song for a panel of judges.
"I've always been interested in creating music. I actually don't know a lot of cover tunes," Richardson, a Dublin resident, said. "I always had original rock bands. I like to write things that sound interesting, that make a point or tell a story."
While Richardson's main creative outlet is making comedy videos with his son, the 48-year-old thought it would be fun to perform.
"I expect to go and have fun and be prepared as best I can. I'm going to put my cards on the table and just enjoy the experience," Richardson said. "I'm not even looking at other contestants because I don't want anything in my head gainsay I have to be that way."
Recent San Ramon Valley High School graduate Nicky Moriarty entered the singer-songwriter category and said he is in it to win it.
"I don't really have expectations...but I'm definitely excited for it and hope to get some kind of exposure," Moriarty, 18, said. "Some feedback on songs that I've written from professionals would be a little jump start."
Moriarty recently completed an EP titled "The Sunset Sessions" and is still deciding which song he will perform during competition. The Danville resident said he might choose a piece on the spot and has been preparing for Guitar Fest by playing at restaurants and asking for feedback.
Eight finalists will compete before a panel of judges and live audience at 1 p.m. on Sept. 8; the event is free.
Acoustic guitar finalists are Ryan Ayers of Playa Del Rey, Calif., Rory Glenn, Saugus, Calif, Sakogawa, and Kansas resident Thomas Silkman. In the singer-songwriter category, finalists are Hayward resident Brandon Crowder, Livermore's Chris LeBel, Moriarty and Darren Richardson.
A number of winning guitarists will perform at the festival from Sept. 6 to Sept. 8. Chris Surma, the winner of last year's inaugural LVPAC acoustic guitar competition, will perform on Sept. 7, as will the winner of Hawaii's top music award for slack key guitar album, Patrick Landeza.
The weekend-long Guitar Fest will feature a headline performance by rock and roll guitarist Rick Derringer, best known for his years with the Edgar Winter Band and his hit single: 'Rock and Roll Hoochie Koo,' outdoor performances on the Shea Homes stage outside the Bankhead Theater, free guitar clinics, and a showcase of the latest guitar gear.
For more information on LVPAC Guitar Fest LIVE!, visit www.guitarfestlive.com.