I’m driving down I5 when The Beach Boy’s ‘California Girls’ comes on the radio. I pass a Californication billboard. It’s 80 degrees outside, but I’m sporting leather pants and a massive headache.
The exit to get to the Anaheim Convention Center is the same one you take to go to Disneyland, otherwise known as ‘the happiest place on Earth’. I’ve never been to Disneyland….but from what I’ve seen and heard about NAMM, I figured that it might be like my Disneyland….and it was.
Imagine you are walking with a crowd of people from a parking garage to an arena show. Now replace all of those families and couples and friend groups with musicians. That is what entering NAMM is like: almost everyone you see out of the corner of your eye is either famous, someone you recognize but can’t quite name, or someone you wouldn’t mind sitting down and having a conversation about music with.
Compared to leveraging my network to get a badge to this thing, actually getting the physical badge was a piece of cake for the size of the convention. And the show was scalper protected- you have to show your ID and it has to match your badge anytime you go through an entrance.
I spent the first hour getting the lay of the land, roaming aisle after aisle of amazing instruments. My first insight from the show was that the instrument industry is dominated by a few major names that we’ve all heard of: Gibson, Ludwig, Fender…but there are so many more small shops that make amazing pieces that you would probably never see on stage.
After getting my bearings, I met up with one of my Bay Area friends that would become my chaperone for the rest of the day. Because he works in venues and is a guitar pick collector, he know EVERYONE and almost everyone recognizes him. He’s a NAMM pro, so tagging along on his adventure proved to be beneficial for me: I photographed him with many, many rockers, and when the mood struck I’d squeeze in for a photo, too. I’m not usually very into asking to have my picture taken with these guys, but the people we were encountering on that floor were oftentimes too hard to pass up. I find the whole thing kinda weird and awkward, plus the lighting in convention centers is always really, really unflattering.
For instance, the first person I could identify was Justin Meldel Johnson- or JMJ- who I saw many times with NIN. I told him hello, and that I missed seeing him out on the road. He mentioned that they had been missing it as well, since they’ve been getting together lately to work on the final shows DVD. EXCITING!
En route to see Poison drummer Rikki Rockett, we spotted ex-GNR drummer Steven Adler near the booth. One of my favorite things about this show was seeing the different musicians hanging out together, as thoughts of supergroups often danced in my head. Anyway, my friend asks Adler for a picture as a small crowd was gathering around him. I take one of them, and then decide that I want one, since GNR was the first band I truly loved. So I’m standing there while he gets swarmed politely waiting, when he turns around I’m standing there like ‘me next’ and he grabs me and says ‘I want my picture with the cute one!’ He was quite the character, and even gave me a little kiss on the cheek.
The rest of the day was a blur of rock stars, laughs, hurt feet, a slowly fading hangover, and me going ‘eeeee there’s so-and-so’. Oh, and hunting down passes for the Megadeth concert later that evening. It’s the only place where you run into a problem like this: Abe Cunningham, the drummer from System of a Down, and John Tempesta are doing a signing. Well, I’m a fan of the first and the last guy, but the middle one I harbor a bit of resentment towards because he had security ask me and my girlfriend at a NIN show in Las Vegas if he could take the rail spot I had been waiting all day for…how do I get something signed by the other two and not him? Haha.
The male / female ratio was probably about 85/15…and many of the women in that 15% were wearing verrry interesting outfits. When you lose track of counting how many X-tina chap ensembles you’ve encountered…well, you must be at NAMM.
I happened to pass by the Orange booth when the Mastodon signing was occurring….actually, I knew what I was doing since I kinda stalk that band anyway, but wasn’t going to stand in the tremendous line for them. It was kinda funny, the Orange booth had Brent, Bill, and Troy, and around the corner Brann was doing a separate signing (I did get something signed by him- he wrote ‘keep it surreal’. Killer.) There was mass chaos of press, they all had beers (plural) and seemed to be in grand spirits. I love them.
Later on in the day we went to see Kerry King of Slayer….where I had the weird experience of seeing him chat with my friend, which resulted in King writing down his email address…..which is essentially exactly what you’d expect his email to be (I was kinda hoping for something like firstname.lastname@example.org).
On the way out to the car, we walked by Matt Pike chatting with Masto-Brent, and my friends stopped to take a pic with him. That was another one I couldn’t resist…though I had to holler at him as he was walking away….and I think it turned out pretty epic.
Then, Megadeth afterparty pass in hand, I limped a mile back to the parking garage, not knowing how I would make it through the rest of the night.