The NAMM Show: Music’s mecca

The coffers of the music world have been replenished once again at the conclusion of the world’s largest music trade show, the 2015  National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) convention on Jan. 22-26. The doors of the Anaheim Convention Center are now locked and the lights shut down. But this past weekend, its enormous halls were packed with equipment displays from a record-breaking 1,621 exhibiting companies whose products are used in some aspect of the music industry, from instruments to stage lighting, from electronics and software to recording gear. And it’s those displays that drive 100,000 music enthusiasts to make this annual trek to music’s mecca.

So what is NAMM? In a nutshell, it is a melting pot where sellers display wares and buyers restock inventories. In a statement released on the website, NAMM President/CEO Joe Lamond said, “In an unpredictable and chaotic marketplace, the NAMM Show has become the reliable and predictable platform where our members can come for business, education, and inspiration.”

But it would be incomplete to have all those instruments and gadgets on display without the artists who play them, and at NAMM, there is no shortage of performers, both on the floor of the show and at the after-show concerts.

Some highlights from the floor included Olympia Strings, whose sales pro, Yunki Bang was so confident about the quality of their products, he gave me a sample set to take home and try out (so far, so good–I like them!). Bass cabinet technology has come a long way. No longer are the cabs big enough to be buried in while still pumping out sound you can feel, as we saw at the Phil Jones Bass and Markbass booths. Some of my favorite folks who just happen to be musicians–guitarist Eric Barnett and bassist Uriah Duffy of Points North–were at TC Electronics, showing products and sharing their wisdom. Guitarist Steve Smyth (Nevermore, Testament) of One Machine was at BC Rich Guitars. Across the aisle, I ran into an old friend who was giving autographs at the Engl booth, Mr. Marty Friedman (Megadeth), who is planning to do a U.S. tour with his solo project this summer. I met up with BAM writer Keno Mapp, who had run into some Bay Area artists during his travels through NAMM and gathered them to have a chat with us…

As the show comes to a close on the floor at the end of each day, there is no rest for the wicked as attendees rush to their hotel rooms to freshen up for the night’s festivities. There are so many concerts to choose from on any given night, some NAMM-sponsored at neighboring offsite venues and even more throughout Orange County in the clubs looking to take advantage of the hoards that NAMM attracts.

On Thursday night, hot off the tarmac and into the rental, we rushed over to The Observatory to check out Bonzo Bash 2015. “BB” was the first in what has become a series of concerts that coincide with the NAMM Show, the collective now being called California Music Fest: Three Days of Music & Madness. Created by former Whitesnake drummer Brian Tichy and produced by Joe Sutton, BB is a tribute to the late legendary drummer John Henry “Bonzo” Bonham of Led Zeppelin and features a compilation of music’s most talented drummers and special guests playing Zep covers. Backing them is house band The Moby Dicks, made up of Brian Tichy, Brent Woods (Vince Neil), Chas West (Bonham), James Lomenzo (White Lion, Black Label Society, The Amazing Race TV show), and Stephen Leblanc (Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience). This year BB was extra special, as Tichy’s recent endorsement with Ludwig Drums allowed him to secure four of the drum sets used by John Bonham himself while touring with Led Zeppelin. Here’s a partial list of the drummers who played: Steven Adler (Guns N’ Roses, Adler), Charlie Benante (Anthrax), Cortney DeAugustine (Frank Hannon Band, Ronnie Montrose, Michael Lee Firkins), Dave Lombardo (Slayer, Philm), Mike Portnoy (The Winery Dogs, Dream Theater), Vinnie Appice (Dio, Black Sabbath, Heaven and Hell), Simon Wright (AC/DC, Dio, Queensryche) and Jimmy D’Anda (Bullet Boys, Lies, Deceit & Treachery).

Friday night it was Round Two at The Observatory for the Randy Rhoads Remembered Tribute, the second of the three concerts making up the California Music Fest. It was the same format as Bonzo Bash, but instead of drummers, there were guitar players like Jeff Watson (Night Ranger), Joel Hoekstra (Whitesnake/Night Ranger), Alex Skolnick (Testament/Alex Skolnick Trio), Dave Ellefson (Megadeth), and special guests Sebastian Bach (Skid Row) and Jeff Scott Soto (Journey, Yngwie Malmsteen). Opening the show was Judas Priest cover band Breaking the Law, with Thad (vocals), Mike Moore (guitar), Toni Aleman (guitar), Ray Rojo (drums),and Dan McNay (bass).


Randy Rhoads Remembered was quite the loud party as can be heard in this next video interview with Jeff Watson…(listen closely, it’s a bit hard to hear him!)

By Saturday night, we were NAMM-ered, NAMM-aged, NAMM-thraxed – all of the above! So we stayed close to homebase and attended the after-show parties at the Hilton and the Marriott, the two on-site convention center hotels. These parties are always a blast, complete with live music, tons of people, and expensive drinks. That is one of the drawbacks for all of these shows and parties: your bar bill is going to be ugly, and depending on how you hold your liquor, you may not even have your “swerve” on yet when you hit the bottom of your wallet. But hey, it only happens once a year, and what better excuse to spend a little “mad money”!

By all accounts, NAMM Show 2015 was another huge success. If you ask me or my crew, we’d say: WOO HOO! Thanks to NAMM and all affiliated entities for doing the music world proud and showing us another great time.