Deep Purple’s Ian Gillan Leads Thousands of Guitarists Through ‘Smoke on the Water’
In 2013, the inaugural Guitars on the Beach event collected the biggest single gathering of guitarists playing simultaneously in the history of Britain. For the follow-up, which was held on Sept. 6, organizer Geoff Baker set out to surpass the first year's number -- and he got some high-profile help in the form of Deep Purple singer Ian Gillan.
As he'd previously promised, Gillan took a personal detour from Purple's current tour to touch down in Lyme Regis, U.K., and lead the congregated guitarists -- all 3,325 of them -- through a live performance of 'Smoke on the Water.' As Baker told the BBC (and as you can see in the video above), it was the undisputed high point of a remarkable day. "You could have heard them roaring in Weymouth. It was like they were cheering the leader of their band," said Baker, who recalled that everyone "erupted" when Gillan appeared. "All of those 3,000 people were in the band."
And it wasn't just the guitarists who were excited, either. "The whole town got involved," continued Baker. "The local mackerel fishermen went out on their boats and when Ian Gillan played 'Smoke on the Water' they released smoke grenades, so there was literally smoke on the water."
The 2014 turnout easily bested last year's attendance of 2,267, but it's still a fair bit below the world record of 6,546, which was reportedly set during a 2009 event in Poland featuring Purple guitarist Steve Morse. Baker, who told the BBC that this year's Guitars on the Beach raised more than $10,000 for local charities, said he intends to continue pursuing the record by making the festival an annual event.