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N.A.M.M. 2014 Saturday, January 25, 2014 04:01 AM
A lot of people don't know what N.A.M.M. is.  That's not surprising, but for those who don't know it's kind of a big deal. A really big deal - for musicians.  Most people, not being musicians, don't know squat about it, but for musicians it's a Big Freakin' Enchilada Snowball.

Think of it this way, the geeky electronics and gaming people (which includes myself) have their big deal convention called C.E.S. (Consumer Electronics Show). For people who are Comics Fans, and increasingly video gamers there's the San Diego Comic Con. For adult video enthusiast, or as I sometimes like to think of them the self-hand-job-activists, there is the AVN (Adult Video Expo).  For Musicians, people who actually play music and genuinely care about how it's played, despite living in the age ruled by non-musical rap artists and even less musical auto-tune "vocalists", there is N.A.M.M., the National Association of Musical Merchants Convention.

For musicians, it's a CES, AVN and San Diego Comic Con all at once. so as I said, It's kind of a deal.

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The general public can not attend N.A.M.M., you have to know someone - or someone has to know you - someone in the music industry or connected to a manufacturing company can provide you a pass.  As a result you don't necessarily see the local Size 1 news blond and her van sitting outside the front of N.A.M.M. letting people know its going on. People who want to know, or who need to know - know already.

My wife and I hadn't been to N.A.M.M. in over a decade, partly because we've been working at independent solo musicians for some time and also because for the last few years it's been held in Anaheim and that's like holding it in Bangladesh when your car isn't running right.  We'd rather not take the risk of it breaking down somewhere on the 91 Fwy, so we figured out a way to get there using public transpo from the LA South Bay which was surprising inexpensive since the Anaheim Convention Center is about a block from Disneyland. Unfortunately the fastest trip was a two-and-a-half-hour trip each way.

We could've gone to Tijuana and gotten halfway back in that amount of time and we were only going across town.

So anyway, after the pack mule trek over the Andies of West Orange County we arrived and entered the wonderland of musical instruments and musicians everywhere.  This was our Disneyland. Where players to go to Play with all the latest toys.

All of the major musical gear manufacturers have all their latest equipment on display.  Many have demonstrations by major and respected artists as well as signings and concerts.

And when I say "Artists", I actually mean the word "Artist".  I often hear this term in reference to people like Katie Perry or Rhianna, but the fact of the matter is that those are NOT "Artists". They are singers.  Good ones.  Even Great, but not "Artists"  An Artists is someone who creates something unique starting with nothing but a blank canvas.  There are great painters, who can make your house look wonderful, who can follow a pattern that's been laid out, or duplicate an existing image very well - but an Artist creates the image in their own unique way.

Prince is an Artist.  It wasn't a coincidence that when he was having a dispute with his label and he effectively couldn't use his own name -because they owned it legally. He had to change his name to "The Artist Formerly Known as Prince", just as a band might change it's name to separate itself from a label or contact relationship that had gone south.  He's earned the term "Artist", but the gal who sings "Cal Me Maybe" really, really hasn't.  I give Macklamore way more credit as an "Artist" since he managed to actually create something unique and interesting than I would any crooner whose just regurgitating the latest vapid Ryan Tedder "Relationship" drivel with some head-voice filigre. Blech.

I bring this up because Artists go to N.A.M.M.  Katie Perry, whose only real decisions or choices in musical equipment world is whether to use a Shure SM57 microphone, or a Shure SM58 mic. That is when she chooses to actually do her vocal, rather than just let the prerecorded backing tacks handle it for her as so many "Artists" in the American idle age tend to do. Decisions, decisions.

She'd be completely lost in a world like this  Look, rows and rows of Guitars!!!  It's like Guitar Center made out with Sam Ash then exploded all over the inside of Anaheim Convention Center..

Row after row of guitars, basses, drums, piccolos, trumpets, organs, cymbals, tambourines and tympanis.  And also musicians like here where I walked by during a deep conversation between A.J. McLean (Backstreet Boys) and Carmine Appice (Vanilla Fudge, Beck/Borgert/Appice Blue Murder, King Kobra).

Or here where there was a signing panel that included Billy Sheehan (David Lee Roth, Mr. Big) as well as Will Lee (David Letterman Show)

I got to talk briefing with Steve Stevens (Billy Idol) just before he did a signing with Scott Ian and Frankie Bello (Anthrax)

I mentioned to Steve, in reference to an interview he gave years ago where he said that every guitar player is actually trying to sound like some other instrument, that he was "absolutely right".  He had said that Larry Carlton was really trying to sound like a Coltrane Sax Solo, and that he himself (particularly on the "Rebel Yell" solo) was trying to sound like a pack of robots having sex. Or something. Ok, I just added the sex part - he just said "robots" but it fits. After reading that back then I realized that my own guitar playing sounded like a horn-section, because I used to play trumpet in band and orchestra so that was my frame of reference.  Anyway, he got my reference and laughed.  Cool guy.

You never know who you might run into a N.A.M.M., for example here I ran almost directly into Doug Wimbush (Bassist with Sugar Hill Band and Living Colour), who was there with his attorney - because Musicians need attorneys the same way the need fresh, and also, AIR.

Or here where I ran into - quite literally - an old friend and former band-mate, Oscar Jordon (Vintage Guitar Magazine, Host of Oscar Jordan's Guitar Shop radio program)

I really dug his t-shirt because that is some deep inside baseball Sci-Fi geekdom happening right there. The band i was in Oscar, which never really had a name and never actually played a gig also featured the next person I ran into - about six seconds after Oscar - the best man from my wedding 23 years ago Brandon Curry (shown here with his Lady Anne-Marie).  Brandon and I used to rehearse at his place for hours doing everything from Queensryche to Iron Maiden, Dokken and Winger songs.  He could play his ass off.  He and Anne-Marie have cover band in Vegas together doing R&B standards.

I briefly ran into Corey Glover from Living Colour (didn't get a picture) and Angelo Moore from Fishbone, who of course can still rock a red fezz like nobody else

And, also, Stevie Wonder walked by which was, well, something that doesn't happen every day.

Just after Stevie went by my wife got to meet one of her true musical heroes, Keith Emerson (Emerson, Lake & Palmer)

Robin also had a chance to talk to some of the reps from Dean Markley to complain that they had discontinued her favorite brand of bass strings, only to have the VP heading up manufacturing come out and personally explain that they had been replaced by another style which he apologized for not having any current samples with him that he could give her.  Yeah, now that's what I call "customer service".

Afterwards we went upstairs to meet up with an old friend who was signing autographs in the ESP booth and had a chance to check out some of these outrageous custom guitars.

That old friend, was in fact, George Lynch of the band Dokken and Lynch Mob.  It was pretty strange to think that 25 years ago I used to jam on Dokken songs with Brandon, then a few years later I would not only know everyone in that band, Robin my wife, would be running their Official Fan Club.  We're both mentioned in the liner notes to their album at the time, Shadowlife, which was the last one that George played on. These days he's working on a project with Dug Pinnick of King's X called KXM.

All in all, it was a hell of day. Long, tiring and for Robin with her knee and back issues - incredibly painful to stand in so many long lines - but all worth it.

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