3hree Things: On My Maiden Voyage To NAMM

3hree Things, in which Riley Breckenridge, drummer of Orange County's favorite local alt-rock band Thrice, gives his take on life in Southern California, usually comes out every Tuesday. Today is an exception because of, well, NAMM.

I've been in a band for almost fourteen years and have been aware of NAMM's existence for that long or longer. I've been what I would classify as a “mild-to-moderate level gear nerd” for about a decade. I've lived no more than a twenty minute drive from the Anaheim Convention Center for my entire life.

And I'd never been to NAMM.

Until this year.

What follows is a brief look at NAMM 2012 from a first timer's perspective.



2) Lee…

As it turns out, NAMM is like taking ALL OF THE GUITAR CENTERS and putting them under one roof. The Anaheim Convention center is massive (813,607 square feet), and it still feels like you're trapped in a labyrinth of lights and sound, waddling up and down rows of booths and shuffling in and out of displays, nuts-to-butts with other trade show-goers. It's almost impossible to feel like you're not in someone's way, or that they're not in yours.

On the plus side, there are some beautiful pieces of gear on display, and you'll occasionally stumble upon a demo being performed by a fantastic musician, but unless you're familiar with NAMM's layout, are skilled at reading highly detailed maps that are about the size of a flat-sheet from a twin bed, or have a well-organized game plan of when and where you need need to be to see what you want to see, you'll probably miss the best of what NAMM has to offer (I know I probably did). I spent a good ten minutes in the lobby of Exhibit Hall A trying to make sense of said map, as some befitting circus music blared from a nearby TV, which made me think it might be a better idea to forgo the trade show altogether, pitch a circus tent in the lobby, and open my own “directionally-challenged, anxiety-riddled dumbshit reads a map” booth.


3) Crap.

The true highlight of the two hours I spent at NAMM (before I willingly tapped out and went home) was the people-watching. There were glam-rock burnouts with their fake-boobed, botoxed and scantily clad trophy skanks, nü-metal goons with truly perplexing facial hair and questionable tattoo work, some sort of metal-mariachi troupe decked out in punk studded charro outfits with illuminated sombreros, and a knuckle-dragging quartet of baggy-pantsed ogres that look like they'd culled their aesthetic straight out of ICP and Slipknot's stylebook. Most folks hit up NAMM to “see,” some others walk around “to be seen.” It's a fascinating dichotomy.

I can't say for certain that I'll ever be back to NAMM, but I'm grateful that I managed to stop being a wuss, suck it up and stop by this year, because if and when I do decide to subject myself to a few hours of visual, aural and spatial assault at future NAMMs, at least I'll know what to expect. In the meantime, I'll be honing my map reading skills and dialing in the components of a viking helmet, chain mail, clown make up, camo shorts, indoor sunglasses and prerequisite skull-themed cock rock jewelry that'll help me blend in a little better next year.

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