The Audio Cynic

What the Hell is Going On?

Back in my school-days, I found the subject of history completely boring. I realize now that it wasn’t the subject itself that was boring, but the way in which it was presented. Any story is boring if it’s linear and predictable: “A happened. Then B. And then C, because A and B.” Gripping stuff, no?

That’s how school textbooks conveyed critical events of the past. The upheavals and side-trips that always always always occur in life were (and presumably still are) glossed over, making outcomes seem inevitable. ” Yeah, we won the Revolution…was there any doubt?” The tensions and interplay that make life both gut-wrenching and emotionally involving, simply weren’t there. Fait accompli don’t make for great story-telling, unless the storyteller has a masterful command of foreshadowing and the creation of tension. If there were history textbooks written by master storytellers, we sure didn’t have them. Damn it.

I will kinda-sorta make excuses for those textbooks, as a major part of being human is that we try to make sense of things, to construct a coherent big picture. The textbooks exemplified that tendency. The problem is that there are times when things just don’t make sense. And trying to MAKE them make sense…becomes nonsensical.

Which brings me to today. I don’t pretend to have any understanding of the state of the world, and I’m sure you’ll be relieved to know that that’s not my subject. However, I have attempted to make sense of a situation in our little world of audio, and have reached the point where trying to make sense, makes no sense. Let’s see if you do better than I did.

I’ve mentioned my late friend Richard Beers several times. Richard ran THE Show in Las Vegas, and in 2011 he started a Californian spin-off in Irvine. Being a natural marketer/huckster, Richard labeled the show “THE Show-Newport” because, let’s face it, Newport Beach sounds a helluva lot more appealing than Irvine (even if you gift-wrap it and pronounce it “er-VEEN”, as a pretentious desk clerk at the Hotel Irvine did). We’re talking about a town where the college mascots are Anteaters. My son, then in college in SoCal, visited an early Newport show and said, “Congrats, Dad. You’re in the most boring town in California.”

Which is why it wasn’t called “THE Show-Irvine”.

Anyway: Richard passed away in 2016, and THE Show that year muddled along without him, and even had a memorial with a military color guard. Richard’s staff and his heirs pulled off that show, but the future of the show—that is, THE Show—was unclear.

What was perfectly clear was that thousands of slow-walking audiophiles with gimme bags were not a crowd that appealed to the snooty Hotel er-VEEN. Shortly after the show, the er-VEENers exercised an exit option, meaning they would no longer host the show, in spite of a multi-year contract.

Haters.

What then? Nature, and apparently the audiophile world, abhors a vacuum. Shortly after the show, rumors circulated of a mysterious group planning a “THE-killer” show in the LA area. They were supposedly backed by the LA-Orange County Audio Society (LAOCAS), which had supported THE Show-Newport during Richard’s tenure.

Then in September of 2016, an uncredited  press-release hyperbolically announced, “EXCITING NEW AUDIO SHOW COMING TO LOS ANGELES SUMMER 2017″. The new LA Audio Show (LAAS), targeted at  June, 2017,  would be held at the Sheraton Gateway Hotel near LAX, which years earlier had been the site of a Stereophile show. What the press-release didn’t mention, but which quickly became known, was that the show would be managed by Marine Presson, formerly Ricahrd Beers’ assistant and largely in charge of the recent THE Show. The “mysterious group” was identified as “the Orion Group, a private investment firm”—which wasn’t terribly informative.

What, then, of THE Show? It was announced that the 2017 show would move to an Anaheim hotel in September—right after the CEDIA trade show and perilously close to RMAF. The general reaction in the industry was dismay at the prospect of dueling west coast shows, especially ones bracketed by the Munich show and RMAF.

Fast forward to 2017: the first LAAS was held, with generally lukewarm press and comments from those who attended or exhibited. For a variety of reasons,  THE Show was cancelled on short notice. Industry reaction was immediate relief: perhaps now there would only be one west coast show to plan for.

At the beginning of 2018, the LAAS announced that  the show would be held June 8th-10th at the Hilton Irvine, a hotel that had been one of THE Show-Newport’s original venues. Confused? Just wait.

If you recently heard a wailing sound like a tornado-warning siren, it was likely the howls of disbelief from dealers, manufacturers, and industry press at the announcement that the 2018 THE Show would also be hosted at an Irvine hotel…on June 1st-3rd. That’s right, a week before LAAS. THE Show would end the 3rd, meaning that there would only be four days of rest (HA!) until LAAS.

How all this will work out, no one knows.  I guess I should be grateful that this series of events wasn’t boring and predictable. It does take us back to the title of this piece, however:

What the hell is going on?