NAMM: Mind Blowing and Exhausting

Oscar went to NAMM 2012 and brought back these images and a little about his experience there.

Check out the gallery here, and right below the pictures you’ll find Oscar’s write up on the NAMM experience.

Click any image to enlarge

It all begins with trying to find good parking, and ends with utter physical and mental exhaustion. NAMM 2012 (The National Association of Music Merchants) in beautiful Anaheim California was much like NAMM shows of the past. People, people, and more people, and the sound of a thousand guitar solos all being played at the same time. Musicians, gear manufacturers, retailers, freaks, and schmoozers, gather from all over the world to network, and burn calories by attempting to hike through one of the largest convention centers in the world. It’s more than 800,000 square feet of floor space, with 1,441 exhibitors, 95,709 registered attendees, and it’s impossible to see everything in a single day.

People weave in and out through miles of exhibitor booths as the sound of drum solos, saxophone squawks, recording software demonstrations, and the occasional celebrity sighting overwhelm the senses. Ten year old country & western crooners sing “Your Cheatin’ Heart,” while awesomely slutty Barbie doll strippers in fishnet stockings, pose for photographs and pass out flyers. It’s music gear heaven or music gear hell depending on your state of mind. It’s probably a little of both. It’s too much of everything, and not much of anything, all at the same time. It’s ridiculous and beautiful, but you always wish you’d practiced your guitar harder. There’s some amazing talent at NAMM. A gypsy jazz group plays across the isle from a guy who can play five instruments at the same time. Japanese metal heads in full regalia stroll by who think it’s still 1982. Country picker extraordinaire Johnny Hiland needs a beer really bad, or he’s going to hurt somebody. Where else can you casually walk up to someone like legendary drummer Vinny Appice and say, “Yo, wus sup?” The NAMM show, that’s where.

Lookie loos are everywhere, but it’s the guys wearing the suits who are there for serious business. It’s the mating dance of the manufacturers and retailers, and they don’t care who’s watching. They’re playing Let’s Make a Deal while you’re gawking at Steve Vai. Former 2rd tier rock n’ roll touring musicians gone corporate, who traded in their leather pants for Dockers and blazers are everywhere. They may have given up the old lifestyle, but they’ll never cut their hair; even if it’s totally gray now. In their minds they still rawk – but in fact, they don’t.

At the Seymour Duncan booth, blues-rock guitarist Eric Gales proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that tone is in the hands, while a smiling Steve Morse and Dave LaRue, sign autographs to gushing fans at the Music Man exhibitor booth. T-Rex Engineering has two new pedals. One is called the Hobo Drive, which can give you a variety of subtle overdrive sounds, and yet also deliciously approximate the sound of a Dumble amplifier. The Gull, which is a heavy-duty wah, can help you relive the 70’s with greater dependability, tonal flexibility, and musicality. Sir Edward Van Halen has a scaled down 50-watt version of his monster 100-watt head called the 5150 III at the Fender booth, and Johnny Marr and Kurt Cobain have Jaguar signature guitars.

Dan Boul of 65 Amps demoed his new Producer amp through various Les Pauls, Teles, and Strats and delivered the tonal goodies useful for a wide range of real world gigging situations. If these amps don’t inspire you to play, nothing will. At the Taylor Guitar booth, Corey Witt showed off the Taylor Solid Body Classic double cutaway electric guitar. It has hot swappable plug in and play pickguards. These pickguards are set up in various single coil, humbucking, and P90 configurations, and allows you to swap them out in five minutes with no soldering what so ever. The color and style of the pickguards are attractive as well. They’re pretty nifty if you’re into that kind of thing. Their top of the line acoustics aren’t too shabby either.

The exhibits range from the absurd to G.A.S inducing (Gear Acquisition Syndrome). One can find guitars that look like demonic impaling weapons of torture, gadgets that will make you a better guitarist without having to actually play the guitar, or guitar picks that will make you sound exactly like Carlos Santana. There are even guitar player toilet seats. In the end, NAMM is Fantasy Island for guitar freaks and musicians. It’s the experience of networking, and seeing some of the greatest musicians in the world that unleashes the fan boy within. It’s all up close and personal, which makes the NAMM show the once a year mind-blowing but exhausting experience that it is.