This year's Rocky Mountain AudioFest was different, to say the least. The new "Convention Resort" Gaylord Rocky Mountains, which is nowhere near the mountains, but typical of Gaylord's characteristic over-reach...I would sum up the Gaylord as a three-star hotel that thinks it's a five-star hotel and charges accordingly.
By Uber, the Gaylord was ½ hour away (please don't hate me), but in terms of overall feel, it was worlds' away from Denver...the nearest restaurant that Focal could find for an evening press dinner event was over 30 minutes from the hotel at the far eastern reaches of Denver. But for travelers coming from wherever, the Gaylord's location, nearly cheek and jowl next to the airport, made it a far more convenient venue. So, without further ado let me address the major issues, both good and bad, from the new, and in my humble opinion, improved, Rocky Mountain Audio Fest.
The elevators are fantastic. Even during the "crunch time" on Saturday afternoon when the hotel was at its fullest, the longest I waited for an elevator was maybe a minute. And going from 1 to 14 took less than 20 seconds. Right behind the elevators was the overall sonic quality of the rooms at the show. Even some of the rooms where there was no attempt to treat the room for better sound, the sonics were decent and except in one notable exception, I heard the systems instead of the rooms, which was certainly not the case at RMAF's last venue.
I had mixed feelings about how spread out the show was - I did 8.6 miles in four days. In the hotel section the rooms were spaced so widely apart (and signage was minimal) so that more than once I had to consult my show guide to see if further walking was needed on a given floor. But having the rooms spread apart meant that sound pollution from the demo next door was virtually non-existent, which was great.
Over in the convention center the large rooms were also a pleasant surprise - the smaller ones proved to be excellent sound rooms and once again the isolation from one to another was far better than I've experienced in other convention halls. And there were plenty of additional rooms to expand into...
The Gaylord had three large restaurants and a sports bar. I ate at all three restaurants during my stay. The Asian fusion restaurant was the only disappointment - it was a virtual fustercluck of plates that all, somehow, all missed the mark for me. But the Italian and steak places could very likely survive freestanding on their own in another location; they were that good. The only negative is that both, when full of dinners, were exceedingly noisy. Earplugs are recommended. I didn't get into the sports bar - some poor soul was having a health emergency when I had a notion to go in, so it was temporarily closed so the paramedics could do their thing...
Signage for the show was minimal at best. Getting to the registration desk required walking almost the entire length of the convention center to the very end to find the registration table, and since I wasn't given my room, even with an early check-in until nearly 2:00 PM, I walked with all baggage in tow to get my "filthy badges." If not for the "kindness of strangers" to locate the registration desk, I might still be searching for it.
We were told that because the Gaylord is so "sensitive" about signage, RMAF was severely limited in what they could put up and where they could put it up. Funny, but on Sunday, midday, workers were taking up two benches with their tools and supplies as they applied large adhesive signage for the next incoming convention over parts of the hallway windows...I guess if you pay Gaylord enough, they loosen up their signage specs...
Which brings me to the most unsettling part of a Gaylord interaction - you never know what the final charges will be after they add on all their additional expenses... from what I could see, any time that anything out of the usual flow happens at Gaylord, they will attempt to charge you for it. Exhibitors were dinged extra for a menu-list of small infractions such as moving furniture or unusual drayage. My advice to exhibitors is to add at least 15% over all the spelled out expenses to cover for "the Gaylord factor."
Imagine being woken up from a deep sleep at 2:00 AM in the morning, the night before your early morning flight...that was what happened to Jeff Joseph of Joseph Audio on the last night of the show. A "manager" (one of many in the hotel) decided that it was "illegal" for Jeff to repose in the adjacent sleeping room attached to his demo suite. Instead of calling the front desk to confirm, the manager decided he needed to stand inside Jeff's room and refuse to leave until Jeff presented papers verifying his right to be in the room. It required a wake-up call to the RMAF's head, Marjory Baumert to finally sort things out in Jeff's favor.
The the vast majority of Gaylord employees, from front desk, to maid-staff, to waiters in the restaurants, that I met were superp. This episode stood out in sharp contrast to the rest of the staffs' demeanor. In my humble opinion his attitude would have been more appropriate for a bail bondsman than a hotel employee.
The Wrap -up
Next year RMAF, which hopefully will be back in the Gaylord, should be a monster show. No Denver-based CEDIA show one week later, no IFA show happening almost simultaneously, and a hotel that is a known quantity and can expand to hold as many new exhibitors as RMAF can throw at them... next year I hope that RMAF will be THE show that you don't want to miss...