This was my first NAMM show visit. Ever.
You hear about the madness by everyone, but as Morpheus would say, no one could be told what it is – you have to see it for yourself.
The crazy crowd, the number of vendors (6000 of them, according to the NAMM website) were outstanding.
Folks such as RME, who only had rented a small booth at the AES Show in the fall, without any gear set up to promote seemingly a little disinterested, was the complete opposite at the NAMM show – huge rented booth area setup like a lounge with computers set up with the interfaces and headphones to demo. They even had a fake bar setup in the middle.
Walking around the show floor, you’d see random famous musicians/celebrities, long lineups of people waiting to getting an autograph and their picture taken with their heroes. Fans of all genres of music were there. While the large crowds of people remind me of being in the public in cities like Hong Kong, Seoul or New York, everyone one at the NAMM show was there for music. Being immersed in the positive energy was witnessing an active celebration of life.
One would walk through the show floor, through a hall of guitar vendors, thinking you have seen most of what’s available. Continuing the trek, you would find another full hall of guitar-related vendors – adjacent hall, upstairs, downstairs. Pure madness.
One would also find a small number of exotic/ rare/ experimental/ instruments as well. Those, I find, are a lot more interesting to see, because, really, how many guitar delay pedals does a person need?!
Of course seeing Ronan, Diego and Peter is always fun. Talking to Greg and chatting about geeky-recording-stuff was fascinating. He just has a unique perspective and interesting way with words on describing anything that goes into recording/production.
What’s amusing were the number of Chinese knock-off companies. These vendors sell microphone copies that reuse the exact same model names as the original counterparts from the original companies. There’s even a company that’s called “Mickie” – an obvious attempt to immitate “Mackie”. Even the font used in Mickie’s logo is the same as Mackie’s. I’m surprised how these companies aren’t getting sued.
Go upstairs and you’d find more guitars by PRS, Gibson and Fender empires, but you’d also find rooms and rooms of grand pianos. It felt like I was in heaven. From personal experience, being in a retail piano showroom has never been pleasant. In some ways, they are even worse than many guitar retailers. Piano salesmen are always unreasonably pushy, looking for a sale before you even get to try out any instruments. Well, they very much dislike like it when you try out their pianos. For the amount of money spent, a customer can’t even try out the touch or get a sense of the tone of the instruments – not the greatest people on earth.
Side story – One example was the Fazioli company in Vancouver Canada, who decided on their location to be in a retail mall. It was an expensive location and one would assume that their choice of location was to bring brand awareness to the folks that have never heard of them before. However, the store was always empty whenever I passed by. I was in the market of a piano at the time and was doing personal research, walked into the shop at this particular location. The sales person/ store manager was reluctant to allow me to try out their floor model and hardly even half welcoming. Within 2-3 minutes of playing, I noticed through the store window that I was drawing a decent crowd. The store manager, still visibly uncomfortable of the piano being played, ordered me to stop. That’s how they treat a prospective customer, trying out the instruments, giving a free performance and drawing a crowd the store.
Things were very different at NAMM. Fazioli, amongst all other vendors, such as Kawai/Steinway, Young Chang, Schimmel, didn’t care one bit about their grands being played. They were there to be played, as long as you want. No sales person to constantly haggle you. Plus even seeing the abundance of grand pianos just makes things seem like heaven.
Every year during NAMM, artists would perform here in town during the evenings. Saturday night was the X-JAMM event at M3 Live, a venue not far away from the convention center.
This was the lineup:
Travis Larson Band
I finally got a chance to meet my friend Anthony from Make Weird Music in person. Make Weird Music was one of the sponsors at the event, and Anthony was graciously kind to invite me to the VIP section, which granted me close access to the stage.
Players with ridiculous talent filled the stage.
Andy Timmons’ playing was emotional, had such great tone with ridiculous passages (as always). Mike Keneally and his band was powerful. Bryan Beller was playing new basses after his were stolen recently and Bryan still sounded like bad-ass awesome Bryan. Andy West from Dixie Dregs on stage trading solos with Andy Timmons (who was also in Dixie Dregs before), Mike Keneally, Travis Larson on stage was fun to see. Cameron Allen had some very interesting composition and ridiculous crazy chops. Teddy Kumpel, improvising with his band on stage with fun sounds were extremely fun to see. Looking over my shoulder, I could see Mike Keneally cracking up at the fun quirky parts Teddy was coming up with. The entire crowd seemed to agree as well. Travis Larson Band was great, as I remember them when they opened for The Aristocrats a year or so ago. Jennifer Young from the band’s such an amazing bass player. Mark Lettieri was great and the band’s rhythm section was extremely tight. If I remember correctly, I think Tony MacAlpine played his entire set without stopping at all between songs and managed to end the show before the Anaheim curfew at midnight.
The energy was very positive in the room amongst the audience and the performers. Everyone was having a great time. It’s nice to have like-minded fans of this type of music all in the same place.