National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) 2011 Show Report

Day One – January 13, 2011:

NAMM 2011 – Where freaks, music nerds, rockstars, wannabe rockstars, businessmen, and fanboys all roam in the same place. As I walked into the Anaheim Convention Center, a cacophony of music, horrendous notes, and loud instruments immediately overwhelmed my senses. Talk about sensory overload! Instruments were everywhere, and music gear was begging to be tested out and played with. As I took it all in, I wondered how my day would pan out.

I worked my way into the drums section of the convention and saw Neil Peart’s massive drum kit, which was quite awe inspiring and impressive. Everyone was amazed by this ultimate drum kit for its sheer size and beauty. Tama, Paiste, and Remo all gained some attention, but after a while, I moved on to the next hall, where the guitar action was. While walking around, hired booth babes in short shorts and tight shirts tried to hawk various picks, guitar strings, and guitars at unsuspecting males. While this was mildly amusing, I was more amused by the Mick Mars lookalike, and the kids that tried to look oh-so-evil with their Marilyn Manson inspired colored contacts, begging for attention.

After walking by the Paul Reed Smith booth, I did a double take and saw that one of my favorite guitarists, Marty Friedman (ex-MEGADETH) was signing autographs. I had to stop and wait in line, since I had some time to kill anyway, before waiting for SEPULTURA at another booth. As expected, Marty was sincere, cool, and an all around nice guy. I asked him how he liked living in Japan and he told me that I should visit there sometime. Moving on, the Ibanez booth had some amazing guitars on display with signature models from Ihsahn (EMPEROR), Muhammed (NECROPHAGIST), and Dino (FEAR FACTORY). B.C. Rich also had some beautiful guitars on display, like Mark Rizzo’s signature model, Kerry King’s signature Flying V’s, and some Ironbird and Warlock models. All these displays of axes are a guitar player’s wet dream and I proceeded to walk into AKG’s dark conference room. At first, I thought I was in the wrong area, because the only people here were businessmen in suits talking deals with one another. Andreas, Paulo, and Jean from SEPULTURA suddenly appeared from a doorway and were just hanging out. Surprisingly, no one cared to talk to them, or seemed to know who they were, so I talked with the guys for a bit while waiting for Derrick to show up. When Derrick arrived, he was extremely pleasant and down to earth, as I talked to him in detail about the SEPULTURA reunion rumors, how tough it was to fill Max’s shoes, and music in general. The guys then went about their business as they had a show to play later that night, and I ventured out to check out more gear and equipment.

Korg was showcasing the beautiful (and expensive) new Kronos Workstation and I wandered into the arena portion of the convention to find Roland and their extensive keyboard/piano selection. After watching nerdy kids jam out on fake drums with the Rock Band video game, I went back into the main hall and migrated towards the booth where Dave Ellefson of MEGADETH was demonstrating a new laser beam/music product. After the slightly comical demonstration, it was close to 5:00pm, and I decided to call it a day after only exploring about 50% of the entire convention space.

Day Two – January 14, 2011:

As Day Two rolled around, the foot traffic inside had significantly increased. The huge line was already wrapping around the Shure booth and into adjacent booths for the Henry Rollins signing. While DJ and lighting booths looked sad and out of place, booths for guitars and guitar amps, such as Krank and Mesa Boogie all experienced heavy interest. Gene Simmons and KISS lookalikes began to sprout, but unfortunately, the real Gene Simmons couldn’t make his scheduled appearance, as he had a “scheduling conflict.” NAMM is a place where musicians can walk around and mingle with the public. The Dean guitar booth was alive and well, with guys like David Vincent and Tim Yeung (MORBID ANGEL), and Brian Slagel (CEO of Metal Blade Records), were just standing around hanging out. Other sightings within the extreme metal world who were walking around enjoying the trade show were Jeff Walker (CARCASS), Sean Reinert (CYNIC), Mark Kloeppel (MISERY INDEX), and Derek Boyer (SUFFOCATION), just to name a few. Signature guitars from Eric Peterson (TESTAMENT), Michael Amott (ARCH ENEMY), Dimebag Darrell (PANTERA) and Dave Mustaine (MEGADETH) were all hanging proudly in the Dean booth.

I spent a good amount of time venturing upstairs to the ESP, Jackson and Gibson guitar booths. ESP had a bunch of guitars proudly played by metal heroes of past and present. James Hetfield/Kirk Hammett (METALLICA) and Jeff Hanneman/Tom Araya’s custom SLAYER guitars blanketed the entrance to ESP. Hetfield’s new ESP Explorer and Hammett’s trademark guitar were next to the unique Reign in Blood Jeff Hanneman guitar, complete with SLAYER logo and pentagram inlays. Inside the ESP room contained guitars from prominent extreme metal guitarists, with the signature guitars from Nergal (BEHEMOTH), Alexi Laiho (CHILDREN OF BODOM) and Silenoz/Galder (DIMMU BORGIR). Onwards and upwards, was the Gibson booth, which was quite smaller than previous years, but contained some amazing SG and Les Paul models, as well as the brand new signature model for Robb Flynn (MACHINE HEAD). The Jackson guitar booth had Dave Ellefson’s signature bass, wristband, and picks used during the Rust in Peace anniversary gigs.

After getting my pass checked for the millionth time, I arrived at the Axis pedal booth to witness some drum devastation/mastery by ex-HATE ETERNAL/NILE drummer Derek Roddy. Various onlookers, from Chinese businessmen, jazz drummers, to middle aged women, were all in awe with Roddy’s insane blast beats and fills that would make even Dave Lombardo cry. Roddy signed autographs and posed for pictures after his demonstration and certainly couldn’t be topped by the next drummer to demo at the Axis booth. Current DIVINE HERESY/MORBID ANGEL drummer Tim Yeung stepped up to the drum booth and only after a few minutes, he abruptly stopped, complaining that he didn’t like the kit and wasn’t properly warmed up. While the small crowd was disappointed, Tim stuck around to hang out and sign autographs. Alas, one must witness Tim “The Missile” Yeung in proper form at a concert instead.

As the day drew to a close, I caught former PANTERA bassist, Rex Brown signing, and I reminded him about his “last pack of smokes,” as witnessed in the Vulgar Videos home video. He laughed, then told me that he hasn’t watched those videos since the tragic death of his ex-bandmate and friend, Dimebag Darrell. While most of the crowd was heading home, I went back to the Jackson booth for one last thing, a quick signing by MEGADETH’s Chris Broderick/Dave Ellefson, and left to recharge my batteries for a busy Day Three.

Day Three – January 15, 2011:

Saturday is always known as the busiest day for NAMM, and the amount of people inside at 10am was already staggering. At the PRS booth, OPETH guitarists Mikael Akerfeldt and Fredrik Akesson greeted everyone with gusto and enthusiasm, signing everything offered to them, all the while displaying and promoting Akerfeldt’s beautiful signature PRS guitar. Max Cavalera (SOULFLY) and Jeff Hanneman (SLAYER) were on hand to meet fans in the ESP booth, and Jeff Walker (CARCASS) promoted his custom Fernandes bass guitar. Chuck Billy (TESTAMENT) was walking around, happy as can be, while bandmate Alex Skolnick was playing crazy solos for a large crowd at another booth. Ex-MEGADETH guitarist Jeff Young, looking ravaged from drug use in his earlier years, was doing a demonstration for Krank Amplifiers. Ex-WHITE ZOMBIE bassist Sean Yseult was on hand watching Tim “Ripper” Owens, Herman Li (DRAGONFORCE), Mike Inez (ALICE IN CHAINS) and others sign away for fans. I caught up with DETHKLOK/Metalocalypse mastermind Brendan Small in the Gibson booth as he was demonstrating his new custom Gibson “Thunderhorse” guitar, and even 90’s pop/rock sensation Lisa Loeb was talking business with a few representatives.

In the main hall, six amazing drummers were all at the same booth – Shawn Drover (MEGADETH), Tim Yeung, Dave Lombardo, Gene Hoglan (DETHKLOK/FEAR FACTORY), George Kollias (NILE) and Vinnie Paul (PANTERA/HELLYEAH) were signing autographs to a rabid fanbase waiting patiently in a humongous line. Dr. Park and I decided to skip that, and instead we saw a large entourage of security surrounding somebody. That “somebody” turned out to be the legendary Stevie Wonder. It turns out that Stevie was also interested in trying out new musical equipment, and a huge crowd started to circle his entourage and follow him down the hallway. As a nice capper to the busy Saturday, Duff McKagen of GUNS N’ ROSES fame made an appearance at the Fender booth, and he seemed to be in good spirits, now that he was clean, and off drugs.

Day Four – January 16, 2011:

The last day of NAMM involved checking out everything else, and things I might have missed. The basement, or “dungeon” of NAMM included a large number of companies from China with products ranging from karaoke machines, dance lights, to various knobs, switches, and cables. The representatives looked bored, sad, and most likely were counting down the minutes so they could pack up and head home. 80’s guitar player Vinnie Vincent (ex-KISS) had his outdated looking guitars on display, and traffic was light down in the basement. I felt bad and depressed for the vendors downstairs, and as I went back upstairs, the line for Dave Mustaine’s signing was, as expected, huge. Dave was cranking out autographs like a machine, with no time to sign anything else other than the obligated 8×10 photograph, and no time to pose for the camera, either. The “Tila Tequila” of metal, Metal Sanaz, was filming for her segment and making her presence known by interviewing people in line for Mustaine. Across the way, there was just as long a line for legendary guitarist Lita Ford, as middle aged men were ready to meet their adolescent fantasy in the flesh. After Mustaine left the building, members of HELLYEAH arrived and Vinnie Paul was the draw of the crowd, snapping pictures with fans, talking to everyone, and being the down to earth, crazy animal that he is. By this time, it was about 4:30pm on the last day of NAMM and I was exhausted, hungry, and ready for sleep…but I loved every moment of NAMM 2011, and will be ready for NAMM 2012!

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