Gear shows can be funny things for a variety of reasons. At Winter NAMM in Anaheim each January, the planet’s biggest selection of new guitar and bass toys is ogled by an oft amusing-looking crowd largely composed of rockers aging with varying degrees of grace—middle-aged hair-metal fans in the same ripped trousers and high-top sneakers they wore in ’85, bearded, skinny-jean-wearing 30- and 20-somethings with drastic fade cuts and gauged earlobes, young shredders wearing the same makeup and leather Nikki Sixx wore in ’85, and everything in between. Summer NAMM in Nashville is more about blues dudes in guitar-print button-ups, and country cats in boots and hats. Meanwhile, Musikmesse—held April 15–18 in Frankfurt, Germany—has a lot of Europeans in dark suit coats, scarves, and pointy dress shoes.

Despite their fashion differences, all gear shows are similarly chock-full of guitar addicts wailing at raging volumes in efforts to impress each other. They’re also similar in that they tend to go through varying degrees of busyness, both in terms of visiting gear freaks, dealers, and distributors, and in terms of companies choosing to exhibit or sit this one out. Inevitably, lulls create concern—often leading to predictions of the demise of whichever show happens to be at the bottom of the rollercoaster hill at that moment.

For glass-half-empty attendees, this year’s Musikmesse was a bit of an occasion for doomsday prophesying—at least with regard to guitar and bass products. Nowhere to be seen were big companies like Fender, PRS, and Warwick/Framus—in years past, one of the most prominent Messe exhibitors. Further, many boutique European luthiers who typically stun us with their exquisite high-end designs opted to spend their time and money on the new annual Holy Grail Guitar Show in Berlin.

Nevertheless, the Premier Guitar crew found a lot to dig during our trip to Frankfurt—enough that we’re choosing to look at the lull merely as part of the circle of life (cue Elton John’ssoundtrack for The Lion King here). Sure, we’ve seen a bit more guitar and bass gear at Messes past, but this time we did see more boutique pedal outfits, which are often under-represented at this show. Plus, you never know how things are going to shake out for everything else going on in the gear universe—the knowns and the unknowns. Things and people adjust and evolve, new companies move in to fill voids, and the overall result is good for everyone as long as you’ve got your eyes peeled. And you can bet ours are. So, without further ado, let’s take a look at our favorite gear from Musikmesse 2015.