The crowds at NAMM 2016 hit a new peak on Day 2 as late arrivals, global visitors and Dr. John fans streamed in, stretching everything from rest rooms to restaurants to their limit. But, despite the lines to get in, the lines to out, the lines to get food and the lines to get your album/hand/book/program signed by your favorite artist or musical inventor, you could not find a happier crowd.
Part of the happiness was the sheer number of “toys” for everyone in the music industry. With over 1000 manufacturers of fretted instruments and accessories, there were walls of electric and acoustic guitars and ukuleles as well as custom guitars from companies like Grace Harbor, D’Angelico and Roland. Of course he giants like Fender, Gibson, Ibanez had plush (and loud) showcase halls and there were many global entrants like Koch Guitar Electronics from Holland, KZ Guitar Works from Japan and Ortega Guitars from Germany. Guitarists thronged the booths and stood in line to test drive the latest offerings and their idols perform on the many stages in the guitar showcases.
Technologies offered included the expected smaller and more powerful electronics for guitars, ukuleles, violins, basses and new power supplies to drive them and sleek pedal boxes and platforms to hold them. New offerings included the iRig to link guitars to phone-based recording apps than can post your music or save it for further work. Stratocaster debuted a guitar that links directly to your iPhone and turns it into a recording studio and broadcast app using programming in the phone.
Aerodrums virtual reality drums also were a big hit with people lining up to put on the headgear and try them out. Taylor Guitar’s TaylorSense app which monitors a guitar’s health – damage from impacts or moisture and need for tuning, plus doubles as a recorder for overdubs was very popular. The hit technology of the show, at least to me, was the QRS PianoArc 360 degree round piano demonstrated by Brockett Parsons from Lady Gaga’s band, who helped design it. Not only did keyboard artists like Doña Oxford say it felt “natural”, it allowed two or three people to play together effortlessly.
Celebrities were not hard to find, including electric keyboard developer Ray Kursweil and one of his endorsers Stevie Wonder, Waddy Wachtel of the Stevie Nicks band, Dr. John holding court in the John Lennon Peace Bus, Mona Tavakoli and Chaska Potter of Raining Jane, R&B legend George “Spanky” McCurdy and producer Dre Harris among many others. The music spaces were in full swing, with dozens of choices available on stages at Gibson, Fender, Kurzweil, D’Angelico Guitars, Roland and many, many others. As you walked (actually, more like slowly navigated) through the cavernous display halls, sounds of dozens of performances echoed and every few feet there was a crowd listening to a performer or lining up for autographs. Many of the NAMM performances on the Nissan and hotel stages were live streamed for those who could not get through the crowds (or get to NAMM).
The NAMM Show closed at 6 pm and the action shifted outside to the Nissan Stage where Dr. John played in celebration of the work of the John Lennon Peace Bus and for the NAMM Foundation’ fund raising for music education. Dr. John was on fire, introduced by top-hatted trombone player and music director Sarah Morrow, he gave the packed crowded all his energy with songs from throughout his history.
As Dr. John was winding down outside, the She Rocks Awards were cranking up inside the Hilton’s cavernous Pacific Ballroom. The sold-out show, which included dinner – especially welcome by fans getting tired of $19 hotel hamburgers and long waits for food trucks – was produced by the Women’s International Music Network and co-hosted by all-star guitarist Nita Strauss who kicked off the program with a kick-ass display of her chops. Those honored included Jennifer Batten, Amy Heidemann of Karmin, Chaka Khan, Leslie Ann Jones of Skywalker Sound, Mindy Abovitz of Tom Tom Magazine, Mona Tavakoli & Becky Gebhardt of the Rock Camp For Girls L.A. and Raining Jane, Chalise Zolezzi of Taylor Guitars, Cathy Carter Duncan of Seymour Duncan, Crystal Morris of Gator Cases, Pamela Cole & Leigh Maples of Fanny’s House of Music, Mary Luehrsen of NAMM/the NAMM Foundation, and Sujata Murthy of Universal Music Enterprises.
The parties continued until well past midnight, with the All Industry Drum Circle in the outdoor Palm Court and performances by Coleslaw, the Josh Logan Band, Vinnie and the Hooligans, Hot for Teacher and Jeff Campbell on the hotel stages. The lobbies were so packed that it was standing room only with people spilling out into the Grand Plaza or jamming in rooms and suites. Of course everyone will be up bright and early Saturday for the Grand Rally for Music Education Saturday morning.
Patrick O’Heffernan. Host, Music FridayLive!