The NAMM Show
Anaheim Convention Center, Anaheim, CA
January 22-25, 2015
The NAMM Show Blasts Off 


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Writing and photograph y by

Every year, the days after NAMM cause “Astronaut’s Syndrome” – you know, the feeling those moonwalkers must get when they return from their adventures in outer space:  Sure, they come back down to earth, but everyday life from that point forward must seem, well, just a little bit dull.  So, as we go back to normal life, wading through the motions of more ordinary days, we fondly reminisce about this year’s stellar NAMM show.  Yeah, it’s just such a hard landing when we come back down from NAMM.
So what’s the buzz about the NAMM show? Well, the NAMM show is simply everything you ever wanted to see, hear, touch, and even taste about music is brought together, all in one place – at the largest music convention on the planet (although I hear there is one in Frankfurt, Germany that could be catching up).  And we are lucky – we don’t have to travel far from our own launching pad for this particular expedition, as NAMM (the National Association of Music Merchants – a not-for-profit association with the mission to strengthen the ever-compromised music products industry) continues to dock its annual winter trade show in our own backyard, bringing plenty of excitement, and plenty of welcomed revenue, to the massive Anaheim Convention Center and other orbiting local businesses.  The exciting four days (and nights) have something for just about anyone involved in music.  And this year’s winter NAMM Show was a record-breaker – ending up as the largest show in the Association’s 114-year history!  An impressive 1,621 exhibitors (up a whopping 6% from last year – with 11% coming from international registration from over 100 countries worldwide) manned their booths, while more than 99,340 registered attendees traversed the more than one million square feet of the annual winter NAMM trade show.  YES, I said one million square feet.  Trust me.  
Increased participation wasn’t the only thing that changed at NAMM this year – so many things, from the stellar guest list (everyone from STEVE WOZNIAK to STEVIE WONDER seemed to be either speaking, performing, or just wandering around, fondling the instruments), to the fans of music, to the now-under-cover Sound Control patrol (who try to keep the floor noise somewhat under the posted 85 dB sound-limit, but often to no avail), seemed to be a little bit different.  People seemed more excited about the new products available, and everyone seemed a bit more interested in finding out what the future of the music business holds.  The NAMM members we spoke with are focusing more than ever on making sure the younger generation still has the chance to fall in love with playing music – while music programs in schools decline, so does the business of making the things that make the music.   
But other than that serious bit of quiet discussion, the volume at NAMM was, as always, literally turned up to 11.  The endless booths covering aisle after aisle of the main exhibit halls at the show this year showed off their new technology (check out what’s available now for the iPad and iPhone – apps that allow you to do everything from practice a guitar with thousands of cyber effects to actually trying out an instrument without ever having to buy one) as well as the old standards.   
And Saturday’s KLOS live remote made quite a roar as well – DJ FRANKIE DIVITA manned the microphone – spoke with NAMMgoers, and had a great chat with KISS/Grand Funk guitarist BRUCE KULICK, who was “hard at work” playing as many guitars as he could get his hands on at the NAMM show.
In between our own stops to see everything from instruments to accessories, and our annual pilgrimage to major guitar makers Rickenbacker, Gibson, Taylor, and Fender (who had a one-of-a-kind Pine Cone Stratocaster modeled after a Faberge egg.  Not kidding), we were able to enjoy the galaxy of stars who visit NAMM.  We were lucky to chat a bit with notorious funk mastermind GEORGE CLINTON.  We caught a truly inspiring lecture in the NAMM Foundation room about creativity, passion, and the music industry from musician MOBY.  We joyously listened as famed bassist TONY LEVIN (Peter Gabriel/King Crimson) and his brother PETE LEVIN played some cool jazz at the NS Designs booth.  We caught an energetic and really fun performance by TROMBONE SHORTY.  We ran into CHEAP TRICK bassist TOM PETERSSON and talked to him about his latest project called ROCK YOUR SPEECH – a foundation he and his wife Alison formed that uses music to overcome the speech problems associated with autism.  We stood mesmerized as musician/engineer/producer/writer/nerd BRIAN KEHEW gave us a demo of the newly-re-introduced Moog Modular Synthesizer, a throwback to the 1960s original design, which is so intricate, it probably needs its own flight plan!  
And we were able to catch up with so many other musicians. JUST TO NAME A FEW (and these are literally only a drop in the proverbial bucket), there were DON FELDER of the Eagles (you know, he wrote like only their best song ever – “Hotel California”), MIKE INEZ, WILLIAM DUVALL, and JERRY CANTRELL of Alice In Chains, STEPHEN PERKINS of Jane’s Addiction, PAUL RICHARDS of the California Guitar Trio, MARKY LENNON of Venice and the Roger Waters Wall Tour, infamous luthier GROVER JACKSON of GJ2 Guitars, AL JOURGENSEN and SIN QIRIN of Ministry, MIKE PORTNOY of Dream Theater, STEVE MORSE of Deep Purple, ALEX SKOLNIK of Testament, DAVE MUSTAINE and DAVE ELLEFSON of Megadeth, guitarist JOHN 5, and even COREY FELDMANN, who was both signing autographs at the Cleartone booth, as well as performing on stage later that night.  Yes, I said Corey Feldman.
But the true star of NAMM Show 2015 by far (well, in my eyes, anyway) brought me back several times to drum manufacturer DW’s booth to see (ogle and drool being the more appropriate words) – RUSH drummer NEIL PEART’s actual brand new drum kit (seriously, HE hasn’t even seen it yet – it is literally FRESH off the drum presses) from their upcoming R40 TOUR.  The story behind this drum kit is pretty incredible – made from just one single log of a fallen oak tree that was dredged from the Olt River in Romania, which was later carbon dated to be more than 1500 years old.  The craftsmanship and care that went into producing this gorgeous set makes it one of the most beautiful kits we’ve ever seen.  And it’s extremely rare – so much so that even Neil Peart’s drum tech Lorne Wheaton was on hand to care for and watch over the set.  He surely had his work cut out for him – at all times keeping one eye on it as eager RUSH fans were tempted to climb aboard and give it a test run.  Nope, not on Lorne’s watch. 
Yeah, Neil Peart’s drum kit.  See – it’s cool sh*t like that which makes the NAMM Show ultimately the coolest trade show around.
Not a NAMM member (or lucky enough to be a NAMM member’s guest)?  Well, that’s okay – plenty of NAMM activities happen outside the actual show – as the Anaheim Convention Center grounds host nightly performances on its main stage, while the Marriot and Hilton hotels next door also host a plethora of great musical performances on their lobby stages every evening after the convention closes for the night.  And nearby (and some not-so-nearby) venues offer even more for the non-badge-sporting public.  The Grove of Anaheim hosted STYX and the NAMM JAM (with STEEL PANTHER), the Anaheim House of Blues hosted the METAL ALLEGIANCE show, and the Observatory in Santa Ana alone hosted three of the most popular concerts affiliated with NAMM – drummer BRIAN TICHY’s tributes to Led Zeppelin (the Bonzo Bash), the Who (The Ox and the Loon), and an ode to guitarist Randy Rhoads (Randy Rhoads Remembered), all which feature some pretty big names in their star-studded line-ups.   
So, no matter who you are, be sure to set your sights on getting in on the fun of NAMM next year – and remember to keep the dream alive:  Support the music industry by checking out their latest products and new technology, go out and see your local performers, and help keep music in our schools so that the future generations get to be as lucky as we’ve been having music in our lives.  Yeah, it doesn’t take rocket science to figure out what puts our heads into orbit… and NAMM definitely leaves us feeling as though we’ve been to the moon and back.


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