I've been to quite a few of these shows, I think my first was in 2013 when I left with an L2k G&L.
This year's wasn't the best in my experience but I really liked it, here's why:
I started to play guitar last December (this time properly, or so I think :D) so to be able to also check out guitars and especially the effects, heaven! I tried a PRS through the neunaber effects, incredible stuff from neunaber, the guitar wasn't too shabby neither (although I tried a different set of effects next day with a different PRS, and it was just nowhere near as good as the previous one, no idea if it was a more budget version or what); lots of cool and crazy sounds from Walrus and Beetronics but the Shergold guitar they had there was something else, never knew about the brand, fell in love; beetronics Overhive was a damn fine stompbox too. Really liked how musicman guitars were there hooked up to an array of mooer effects, got a chance to try most of the effects and guitars, felt like a kid in a playground there. I have to say that the guitar stands seemed better prepared with headphones and readiness to just plug and play. which brings me to
Chowny basses - I met Stephen years ago helping out at his first time at the show, in Olympia, was great to see him now and his extended range, and he was ready for the show: a markbass amp and headphones, I sat down and played through all of his gear couple of minutes each bass, really nice and punchy pickups in his basses, nicely put together, great finishes, thoroughly enjoyed the double humbucker one in red, good comfy neck too.
opportunity to see and play stuff that unless you go to bass direct, you can't try anywhere else - to my utter despair as I can't afford it I finally had a chance to try a Vigier bass, and even though the amp was a crackly one (the guy who plugged me in was very apologetic about it) I fell in love there and then, that neck, those pickups, weight/balance, sublime. Also, tons of guitar effects (another lesson reinforced: 90% of them are sort of meh, good GAS killer, they sound sooo much better in the youtube demos :D)
opportunity to speak to the makers, the builders, the sellers - once you cut through the marketing spiel, some people were utterly fun to chat with, dry humour, silly anecdotes, intriguing insight into how they came up with stuff, etc.
John Patitucci - what a legend, what a nice guy, humble, funny, his duet with just a piano was jaw-droppingly awesome; he was visibly touched at the receipt of the lifetime achievement award, you'd think it wouldn't matter to him much, or that he shouldn't be too surprised, well he held back tears trying to say how grateful he was.
the venue - I loved it, not only it was so much easier for me to get to it, the area around it is so much nicer than around Olympia, and Olympia always seemed a little claustrophobic, this is good, I will be gutted if it moves back to west London
Ok, so what I'd like to see improved:
clinics/masterclasses need to be in rooms that are not disrupted by performances in the Auditorium (John P first found it amusing, then annoying, then just gave up and laughed - really should not have happened), these could also be bigger as on Saturday (I didn't even try attending these on Sunday) not only were they packed, the aircon was not being turned on, stuffy and just downright smelly, had to leave one as was feeling nauseous;
luthier/tone zone talks need to be inside rooms, geez, I tried 'attending' three different ones, just could not hear anything or focus on what was being said;
more interesting/varied live line-up in the Auditorium - much as I like Ariane and Cody, their solo sets of looped tapping were just not that interesting (I still stayed, the room was air-conditioned and dark so a good rest from the noisy main hall) - another musician, preferably a drummer should be the law for auditorium bass player performances - remember that year when Trujillo was there..? (Ok, Michael Manring may be exempted from this law.)
Why do people slap at the show - we will never know, it shall remain one of life's great mysteries. As much as why guitar players can't play chords or riffs all of a sudden but can shred mindlessly up and down the neck like there's no tomorrow.
I will be attending the show next year, hopefully it stays in the same venue and remains a guitar and bass show.