The Tritone Expo, which grew from an idea by Dave Anderson and Michael Tomko, started small last year at the Metropolitan Artist Lofts in Grand Center.
“We have a private Facebook group full of guitar enthusiasts from the area, and we started to realize there were a ton of people in the group making their own stuff,” Tomko says.
The event was conceived as a mixer for those enthusiasts.
“It was totally impractical,” he says. “We did it in the community room — a 1,200-square-foot space.”
And with less than a month of planning, they lined up more than two dozen exhibitors. About 1,000 people showed up over a four-hour period.
For its second year, the Tritone Expo moves to the @4240 building at Cortex for two days this weekend.
Attendance is also expected to grow, to between 3,500 and 5,000, and there will be 70 St. Louis-area distributors on hand.
“We’re presenting handmade instruments and the things that go along with it — the accessories, parts, services, drums, amplifiers, recording equipment, music education, music photography, arts photography and video,” Tomko says. “Everything being presented is related to music. We curated the best of the best from the region.”
The Tritone Expo is Tomko and Anderson’s attempt to “take the modern trade show experience and mix it with technology. You go and you see the ecosystem, and you’re able to interact with all of that. It’s not like you’re just walking from booth to booth.”
Tomko is also the organizer behind An Under Cover Weekend; Anderson owns Tritone Guitars, a St. Louis repair shop.
The expo will be as interactive as possible, Tomko says: “We’ll let you touch it, play with it, check it out.”
Though he says guitar shows aren’t typically geared to the whole family, the Tritone Expo wants everyone to show up.
“We’re trying to be as holistic as possible and break the stigma of the male guitar show,” Tomko says. “This is a place where the family can spend the whole day and see things they’ve never seen before and get a well-rounded experience.”
One wing of the expo will be dedicated to education.
Recording workshops and beat-making stations will be presented by ex’Treme Institute by Nelly. Live performances, instrument petting zoos and on-the-spot bands of attendees will be presented by School of Rock. Group music instruction and folk-instrument petting zoos will be presented by Folk School of KDHX and Prestige Performers.
“From an educational standpoint, you will get to know what your options are,” he says.
There will be seven dedicated amp and drum rooms, where attendees can check out locally made gear at full volume.
The big move in location came about because Harry Arader, a director at BioSTL and an avid jazz guitarist, was blown away when he attended last year. He connected Tomko and Anderson to Dougan Sherwood, co-founder of CIC St. Louis, who linked them to Cortex.
“They’re all very fascinated and encouraged by innovation, and we’re bringing in nearly 100 extremely innovative companies from right outside their door.”
What Tritone Expo • When 10 a.m.-6 p.m. April 2-3 • Where @4240 building at Cortex, South Boyle and Duncan avenues • How much $10; $15 for two-day pass (free for children under 10) • More info tritoneexpo.com