Imagine walking into a building where there are over 100,000 people roaming, all of which are in the music business. The technology, originality, creativity and sounds that take over your senses is all encompassing. To some, this can be an inviting 'I'm home again' feeling, to others it is a chaotic, mindfuck sensory overload.
The NAMM Show offers the latest products from more than 7,000 brands, cutting edge industry education across hundreds of class like sessions, as well as special events, concerts and experiences where "only at NAMM" moments take place. NAMM moments are very individual, and differ greatly from year to year, as I have learned each year that I attend. This year NAMM happened to fall during the same weekend of the Grammies, so no doubt there were some people missing in Anaheim. But nevertheless NAMM 2018 was filled with the familiar chaos, people watching excellence, and creativity as always.
NAMM, (National Association of Music Merchants) is held every January at the Anaheim Convention Center. There are more than 100,000 attendees from over 120 countries. All attending to see, experience, sell and buy new products offered in the music world. Held at the end of January, it is my yearly pilgrimage. For me, when I walk into the convention center, the sights and sounds feel like home. I learned this year that its not the same for all. NAMM can be an overwhelming, intrusive mindfuck as well.
After 6pm, the convention closes, and the attendees and music loving public, converge in the lobbies of the Marriott and Hilton to eat, drink and enjoy musical performances, one after another artist takes the stage, until about 2am or later. On Friday night, a friend from Chico, who now lives near Santa Cruz came to meet me for this part of the NAMM weekend. He originally comes from the OC so I thought maneuvering for him would be easy. However, after he drove around for nearly an hour to try to find parking, he eventually had to scoop me up outside the Marriott so I can point him in the direction of NAMM parking. We promptly left his vehicle in the adjacent parking structure and headed towards the hotel lobby where the music was happening. Within two minutes the NAMMmadness kicked in and he had to leave. Although Justin is a musician himself, too many people, sights and sounds made him short of breath and anxious. We ended up leaving and going back to the quiet of where I was staying. After all it was, nearly 2am, and a full day was behind me. Until this experience, it had never dawned on me, that anyone could have such a strong reaction to NAMMmadness. Justin explained to me that whereas I may enjoy the crowds and chaotic sensory overload of all the sights and sounds...he is the opposite. Since then, I have heard more stories on how overwhelming NAMM can be for some people and how many people stay away for this reason alone. The sensory overload is called NAMMmadness. And after this experience I know this is a very real thing, as I witnessed it. So, if you are considering a visit to NAMM in the future and you're not good in crowds...apparently, this is not the place you want to be! On the other hand...if you're like me and love being in the thick of it, NAMM may have to be added to your bucket list!
At NAMM, nearly every sound technology is represented. From amps, and mixing boards to new (and old) styles of instruments. You'll see it all at NAMM. Plus, so many 'A list' musicians roaming round the halls. Last year I ran into Stevie Wonders' entourage at the very end of the weekend. A few years before, Richie, Ramone, Glenn Soble, and Trey Cool. This year I got the pleasure of hanging with Billy Zoom of X, and a few members of Earth Wind and Fire. Round every corner is a new and exciting moment in the NAMM experience. Whilst walking the long seemingly never-ending aisles, you'll notice the long lines for people queuing up to get a meet and greet with their fave musicians. Whilst walking by booths, you hear guitars, basses, ukes, drums etc being played by endorsed musicians. Some you'll recognize, some you wont. Every booth is something different.
Companies such as Marshall, Orange, Fender, Gretch, Godin, Pearl, Kala, Martin, are just a few that participate yearly in this convention...as well as boutique companies that come to show their wares. Buyers, sellers and musicians come from all over the world, to see whats new and on offer.
I usually find myself in the drum section. This year I mindfully steered away from the drums and explored other areas. I roamed the stringed instruments a lot this year. I was enamored with the boutique guitar section. Such stunning hand made guitars were jaw dropping! (Check out the photos below). This is a section I know I will go back to next year as it was a visually amazing part of my NAMM visit this year.
Aside from the new products and sounds one gets to experience at NAMM...For me, every year I also get to reunite with friends I have made along the way. Every year I reunite with a group of seven guys that come in from Australia to make their yearly buys, and from the UK where I now know a couple musicians that invite me to events that I would normally not have been privy to if not for their invites. This year, I got to see members of Motorhead, Cheap Trick, Iron Maiden, Metallica and many others play in a jam upstairs. And wow, what a jam that was!
I also got to experience a drum circle. This is where a group, that grows by the minute, all participates in creating a beat together. Towards the end of the drum circle, there must have been upwards of five hundred people joining together creating a beat that truly gets into your soul!
On Friday morning there was rumor that U2 played at 9am on the rooftop of the Convention Center. Later I verified that it was actually a U2 tribute band called Hollywood U2. Regardless, I heard that they made quite an impression with many attendees thinking that it was the real U2! Altho disappointed that I didn't get my arse to the convention center by 9 to see this....I did get to see so many performances throughout the weekend. A few off the top of my head...were an excellent show with Andy Grammar, (probably my favorite of the weekend), he opened on the main outside Yamaha stage for Bootsie Collins. And Hilton/Marriott lobby performances from Tolan Shaw, Steph Johnson, and Elvis Monroe to name a few.
All in all, every year the NAMM show is a little different experience for me. Every year (so far) has been an excellent experience! Counting down the days to next years NAMM, January 24-27, 2019!