A Guest Post by Lakerwade: Welcome to the NAMM Show!
Posted February 13, 2015on:
Good afternoon, Widdershins. Today we are treated to a guest post by Lakerwade, son of our own Socalannie. Their family is in the music business, and this post takes us behind the scenes into the products that take great music and make it wonderful. The products sound magical, and the musicians that they met have me green with envy. So buckle up, we’re headed for a tour of NAMM.
Every January, the National Association of Music Merchants puts on their gigantic music industry trade show at the wonderful Anaheim Convention Center. It’s one of the largest conventions on the west coast, with around 100,000 attendees and more than 1500 exhibitors. While it isn’t open to the public, we have been among the lucky ones to get passes. So, on January 22nd I found mhyself walking with my folks through the giant palm trees in the courtyard, with thousands of other music lovers. We waded through the crowd, presented our passes and ID to security, and dove headfirst into this crazy circus dedicated to all things musical.
NAMM bombards all of your sense. Your eyes are riveted by every conceivable bright color and every inconceivable sight. The bold displays, the beautiful instruments, the strobe lights, stage fog and even people’s hair – sometimes standing straight up from their head like peacock feathers, and colorfully dyed. And the crowd! Hippies, punk rockers, bikers, metalheads, people in hilarious costumes from clowns to demons. Men in suits with briefcases, pushing through to get to their booths. Then there are the old guard classic rockers, the baby boomers, casually dressed in jeans and tees, sometimes with family in tow. When you walk into the convention hall itself, you are hit with a blast of noise from virtually hundreds of musical instruments being played at once at deafening volumes in order to be heard by onlookers who surround the different booths. Even the smells are powerful: hot dogs, tacos, and beer to name only a few.
There are booths and exhibits for everything to do with the creating, playing, recording, filming, and marketing of all kinds of music. Every type of instrument, every type of technology can be found at NAMM. My Dad, who was acting as a buyer for a music school, had various appointments throughout the day, so Mom and I visited our favorite booths. There was the Ernie Ball booth, which was a carnival complete with clowns, bean bags, and ring toss games where you could win free strings or tee shirts. The Marshall and Orange amplifier booth is always impressive with giant walls of stacked amplifiers of every imaginable size. The Dunlop booth, famous for the their pedals such as the “wah-wah” used by guitarists such as Hendrix, Clapton, Page, Santana and Van Halen. The Peavy amplifier room had Blue Oyster Cult and three members of Lynyrs Skynyrd (Gary Rossington, Rickey Medlocke and Peter Keys) hanging out. Dad turned up in time to get autographs on an old Skynyrd album that he brought from home. At the larger Fender, Gibson, and Taylor exhibits, we played fabulous guitars with hundreds of other enthusiasts. It sounds insane, but you can actually hear yourself play, as well as those around you. Instruments are traded around, and you have some nice conversations. There’s a lot to be learned from these informal playing sessions. You can also play pianos that cost six figures as well as almost every Other type of instrument. Then you can go and make a music video ain the John Lennon Education Tour Bus which parks outside every year. Yoko was there a couple of years ago.
Another thing to do is stand in line at various booths to get an autograph (and usually a photo) of various musicians.
This year, we got autographs from Robby Kreiger (The Doors), Albert Lee (Everly Brothers to Clapton), Steve Morse (Deep Purple, Dixie Dregs), Walter Trout (Canned Heat, John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers), among others. In previous years, from Donovan (he was amazingly nice and spent extra time with me), Peter Frampton, Joe Bonamassa, Tom Johnson and Pat Simmons from the Doobie Brothers, and players from a lot of other groups you wil remember: Jefferson Airplane/Starship, Blue Oyster Cult, Deep Purple, Toto, Journey, and more. There are performers from many genre: Country, Pop, Classical, Jazz, Flamenco, Hip Hop and ma others as well. The exhibitors sponsor some nice little performances during the day, some inside the large upstairs rooms of the big guns like Gibson (where we saw Robby Kreiger) as well as some of the smaller booths on the main floor. You usually have to stand and the aisles become packed with people trying to see and hear the various artists perform. The best of these miniconcerts is to be found at the famous Seymour Duncan’s booth. Easily the coolest booth at the show, it is huge, complete with Persian rugs and plush furniture all around. Seymour makes guitar pickups, and was a friend of Hendrix, Clapton, Beck, etc. Every afternoon he has great performances on his little stage, so we try to get there early to score seats on the sofa and rest our tired legs.
At nights there are concerts on the two outside stages, as well as in the lobbies of the Hilton and Marriott hotels.
The night concerts have a party-like atmosphere and are a lot of fun. Although we have seen lots of famous performers at these concerts – this year Felix Cavaliere (The Rascals), Yes, Greg Rolle (Santana, Journey) and Blue Oyster Cult played – we tend to enjoy the less known bands even more. Tis year we saw great shows from the Mike Frost Band (they have an amazing female vocalist), rising blues star Jonny Oskam and the band Venice. Venice is a California-style soft rock band composed of young brothers and cousins of an old group called the Lennon Sisters, which my parents think that you guys will remember. They recently toured the world with Roger Waters (Pink Floyd) “The Wall” tour. There are also some parties at the hotels, and we have attended a few. One that we had been invited to but missed because the folks were too tired had Stevie Wonder jamming with everyone for four hours! I will never permit them to live that down..
Well, so far I have just described the fun aspects of NAMM, but it is about business, and orders are placed for everything from instruments to stage paraphernalia, and a thousand oddities as well. Deals are made, contracts are signed. Funnily enough, I got an offer this year. I was playing guitar in one af the booths, and demo-ing the pedals. Some man approached my mom and asked if I were her kid. Seems he was interested in signing me up for a punk rock band that he is producing! I’m flattered, but not interested.
Just about anything can happen in the four exhausting, exhilarating, fun-filled days and nights at the NAMM show!
Let’s give Laker a hand for this great post, and feel free to post any questions that you might have for him. Otherwise, it’s the usual thread.
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