“My dad went to ‘Nam, I went to NAMM.”
Sadly this slogan didn’t appear on any of the official apparel at the NAMM convention this year, but I digress…
January. A new year, new resolutions, and a shit ton of new gear from companies all around the globe, all to be unveiled at the annual winter NAMM convention in Anaheim, CA in the shadows of DisneyLand. Just about every company you can think of makes their way to the convention halls, sets up their booth(s), and waits for the bombardment of buyers, and gear nerds. I would say that this is the musician’s version of Comic Con, but the NAMM convention isn’t open to the general public…and probably for good reason. Even with it’s Invite Only / Members Only admission policy, it still managed to draw in about 90,000 people this year from what I’ve been told. Imagine your local Guitar Center on a Saturday afternoon, where everyone is trying to be a bigger guitar badass than the person next to them. Now imagine that on festival-like crowd proportions, with readily available alcohol. Still with me? Let’s go inside!
The kind folks over at Fender Musical Instruments Corporation hooked me up with an Artist pass, so all I have to do is check in, and be on my way. After ninja-ing myself a killer parking spot in a lot that I was most likely not supposed to be in, I make my way inside the building. What I found was a line that was apparently imported from Disney, next door. HOLY SHITBALLS this line was out of control. (The computer check in was down, which really isn’t all that surprising.) But just like with my parking spot, I remembered a slightly hidden check in spot from my trip out two years ago. I bypass some security, because…well, fuck them…and wait in a much shorter line. Check in goes smoothly, and it’s time to freely roam the halls. First stop, the Fender/Jackson booth.
The whole Fender compound probably covers the most ground out of any of the guitar/gear companies. I know I’m biased, but it’s always my favorite stop. It’s VIP for another hour, so I’m fortunate enough to get in a nerd out with maybe a dozen people wandering the room. As I make my way over to the Jackson Guitars area, one other person was checking out the gear. Well, awesomely enough that other person was Megadeth bassist, David Elleffson. We had a brief hello, chat about his new line of basses, and went on inspecting the countless custom shop pieces, alongside all of the epic new signature models from the likes of Anthrax’s Scott Ian, Iron Maiden’s Adrian Smith, and Megadeth’s Chris Broderick. Be on the lookout for my signature model in 2013. ;^)
From this point on, the day pretty much goes into Chaos-Mode. The hordes of people from the Disney-esque check in line have made their way through, and the fun can begin. Notable stops along the way:
Gibson guitars, Taylor guitars, PRS guitars, Charvel guitars, and ESP guitars…where our Sylencer debut album guest Rob Caggiano (Anthrax), along with his bandmate / bassist Frank Bello, have a line of signature axes.
The next scheduled stop on my trek, was at the Pigtronix booth. These guys F’N rule! Absolutely killer pedals, that I have already started adding to the rig and studio arsenal. Their new stuff for 2012 is pretty mindblowing, and their ‘old’ stuff is already phenomenal. (Not to mention, anyone who names a pedal ‘The Keymaster,’ in reference to Ghostbusters…is a badass!) But back to the topic at hand. The Pigtronix guys were some of the nicest and friendliest on the show floor. Excellent customer service, outstanding products, great company. (Thanks Mike!)
Now that I’ve talked about stellar customer service and a great experience, let me just quickly mention a less than enjoyable experience. After one member of the staff, for a company that shall remain nameless, attempted some damage control, I was eventually greeted by another vendor with a “You waiting to talk to me?” Next time, let’s just save some time and open with “Fuck you, you fucking fuck,” and we can move on with our days. After being made to feel like an inconvenience, I was insulted, our album was disrespected, and pretty much all guests on the record were disrespected as well in one fell swoop. Ballsy move when you’re trying to sell your product, especially when all I wanted to do was possibly develop a working relationship where we’d promote the shit out of a product while we were on tour, following up our debut album release. Didn’t ask for anything ‘FREE,’ in fact, really didn’t ask for anything…maybe professional courtesy, didn’t get that either though.
After this encounter, I can’t say I was really looking forward to trying to network with anyone else. The crowds grew by the hour, and most all of the vendors seemed to be running around crazily, trying to get to everyone as quickly as possible.
I visited with some other vendors, spotted some friends of friends in the madness, and eventually made my way back up to the Fender/Jackson booth…which was now a mob scene. I made a final pass, tried to find my reps, and went on my way. All of this happened over about 5 to 6 hours, but felt like days. Seeing how NAMM goes Thursday through Sunday, I can’t really imagine being there every day. (Especially as artist signings grow larger each day.)
HUGE thanks to the guys at Fender/Jackson for hooking it up again this year, it was still a killer experience despite the unfortunate encounter, and the thousands of people making it almost impossible to get a picture of a guitar, haha. I was able to get a picture of actor/comedian Sinbad as he walked past me, hands down the highlight of the NAMM show.
If you made it this far, thanks for reading! There are a few pages of NAMM pictures on the site, if you’d care to give them a gander. Cheers!