Rock ’n’ roll all night and support the arts every day at the Carnegie Arts Center’s new exhibit.
The Turlock gallery opens “Carnegie ROCKS!” Saturday with a fundraiser and concert featuring stars of some of the world’s biggest rock bands. KISS guitarist Ace Frehley and Dokken/Lynch Mob guitarist George Lynch will appear at the opening for the rock memorabilia show. Bay Area-based band Night Ranger also will perform an acoustic set in the Carnegie Loft for the event.
This will be the first public display of Turlock resident Matt Swanson’s collection, which will include more than 40 vintage acoustic and electric rock guitars, as well as other equipment, costumes and more from the 1930s to today. The exhibit opens to the public Sunday and runs through Aug. 17.
“I’ve been collecting guitars for 28 years,” Swanson said. “It’s fabulous to be at the Carnegie. Music is an art. And the materials and craftsmanship in these pieces are truly an art form.”
Swanson, who is president of Pet Extreme and his family’s Associated Feed and Supply Co., has been an avid musician and music enthusiast his whole life. He is a partner in the Turlock recording and video studio The Creation Lab and former president of the California State University, Stanislaus, Foundation. Recently, he became one of the executive producers of the new Corbin Bernsen-directed romantic comedy “Christian Mingle,” which was shot partially in Turlock.
His personal collection includes more than 150 vintage guitars, as well as other pieces of rock ’n’ roll history. Many of his items have been used in tours, videos and recordings by iconic hard-rock groups like KISS, Cheap Trick and Guns N’ Roses. Swanson acquired most of his memorabilia through personal connections with the artists.
Some of those friends are helping him put together the installation, which includes some pieces on loan from the artists themselves. Drum technician Ed Kanon, musician and FX artist Joe Petro and music producer and artist Frank Munoz have helped pull together the exhibit. Petro sculpted one of the collection’s signature pieces – a life-size mannequin of Frehley, which includes casts of the his arms and his costume from the 2000 KISS Farewell Tour.
The exhibit also will display drum kits used by Cheap Trick for its 1978 “Cheap Trick at Budokan” album and to record the smash hit “I Want You to Want Me” and used by Guns N’ Roses for its 1991 “Use Your Illusion” album and tour. There also will be a guitar amp cabinet from 1967 owned by Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin, an original microphone from electric guitar pioneer Les Paul and a guitar painted by Taylor Swift.
“This exhibit has really fueled me to pull my collection together and amp it up,” Swanson said. “I want young people and fans to come and feel connected with the music.”
Helping cement that connection will be an intimate concert by Night Ranger in the gallery’s 200-seat loft for the premiere event. The band had hits in the 1980s including “Sister Christian, “ “When You Close Your Eyes” and “(You Can Still) Rock in America.” The gala opening also includes a meet-and-greet, photos and autograph session with Frehley, Lynch and members of Night Ranger, and more.
“This is a chance to meet a caliber of musicians who don’t often have an opportunity to be in the same room together,” said Carnegie spokeswoman Ali Cox. “What we’re doing here has regional pull. People from Colorado and the Bay Area are coming out for this. It’s not just for art lovers but all-around rock ’n’ roll fans.”
DJ Nikki Blakk, from the San Francisco radio station The Bone, will emcee the event, which will include food and drinks as well.
Night Ranger drummer and vocalist Kelly Keagy said the band’s acoustic show will feature new arrangements of some of its biggest hits. He said he was excited to see all of the collector’s items on display.
“I am passionate about collections. I have a good collection of old drum sets,” Keagy said. “To see some of this stuff come out now is exciting; these instruments with history have helped people get interested in music. We are all going to be drooling, for sure.”