A friend recently started working in the new, lavish Gibson Flagship store, and as part of his nefarious media pimping drive, he invited me down to see probably the most expensive guitar available for purchase in all of China: a 59 Les Paul Custom VOS (Vintage Original Spec) priced at 45,999rmb.
It's pretty bitchin'.
The sunburst Standards, built between 1957 and 1960, are considered by many to represent the definition in what an electric guitar is supposed to sound like: sharp high-end tone, with a full lower end and warm treble. Here are some famous guitar dudes that use this particular '59 Les Paul to channel Satan's message: Billy Gibbons, Duane Allman, Jeff Beck (Yardbirds), Peter Green (Fleetwood Mac), Gary Moore (Thin Lizzy), and Jimmy Page.
To back up a bit, this Gibson store, opened in June of this year -- their "Flagship store" -- is the first one outside of the U.S. Gibson has been active in China since the early '00s, working in local, and particularly the Beijing, music community to promote their brand. In earlier years they had their own stage at the Midi Festival. For their first Flagship store, they opted to open up shop in Shanghai, and the Gibson store officially opened with an in-store performance by Global Battle of the Bands winner, Rustic (Gibson was a GBOB sponsor).
In addition to being a guitar store, the management is hoping to turn it into a multi-concept space with a professionally equipped stage (from Sennheiser) and a fully stocked bar. They're seeing it as a place where people can come and hang out at and see a show. They're also working on a VIP program for musicians, suppliers, and very important customers.
But if you're looking to buy an axe, the flagship store currently stocks over 200 guitars -- Gibsons, Epiphones, Kramers, and Talents -- with more on the way. Prices are high-end because you’re getting the real thing, obviously. The full range is 700rmb to 46,000rmb, but the majority of prices are in the 10,000rmb to 20,000rmb range. Their main stocks so far are Gibson and Epiphone guitars. Epiphone is a subsidiary of Gibson, and often seen as the more economical version of the gold standard Gibson guitars. There is, of course, much debate on how much you're loosing when you go with the usually cheaper Epiphone, and Epiphones have their fans in their own right -- they're usually seen as more "blue collar" and "edgy".
Here's a random guitar nerd discussing the difference -- he purports to embody the general sentiment:
"Gibsons are just Epiphones on steroids. Better quality of materials, and more attention to detail, better craftsmanship, blah, blah. You get more guitar for your money with an Epi though. They're great for what they cost."
But yeah. I definitely covet the '59 Gibson Les Paul. It's super nice. Sounded great when I was playing "Smells Like Teen Spirit" and that first little bit of "Today" by Smashing Pumpkins. But that's all in the past...
Here's the future: the Dusk Tiger.
This is a ROBOT GUITAR. Serious. It's basically a Gibson Les Paul, but all sorts of zany, futuristic technology has been installed into this thing, and here's the cool bit: you press a button and the guitar tunes itself! You hit a preset, like a synth preset, and the machine heads twist and turn to match previously determined digital specifications. It also comes with Ableton Live (a digital audio workstation), and some other software with which you can replicate all sorts of guitar models and tones. Like all of them. Read more about this thing here. Only 1000 of them have been made. There's 8 or so on display at the Gibson store. They cost 31,499rmb.
I want that one too.
But I digress. Gibson Flagship, if you want a guitar. And keep an eye out in the future for their in-house events and things. Venue address here.