It gets bigger every year. NAMM 2014 brought tens of thousands of the world's top music industry professionals, artists, vendors, and buyers to downtown Anaheim for the weekend. The bigness of it all is overwhelming; the intense overhead lights and ambient hum of the convention center overstimulate the senses to the point where everything blurs together, and all that you're left with are memory fragments, notebook scribbles, and washed-out, overexposed smartphone shots of gearporn; aching feet from tramping around Anaheim in rockerboots; and carpel tunnel from one too many devil horns thrown up in front of walls of stacked amps and speaker cabinets.
In sorting out this wild weekend of over-the-top gear, rock stars, and eye candy of all varieties, here are five critical takeaways from NAMM 2014.
2014 was the year of Daft Punk, Todd Rundgren at the the TEC Awards Show
Just like at the Grammy Awards last night, Daft Punk's Random Access Memories took the highest honor at the TEC Awards, winning for Best Record Production / Album. The duo was robbed of the Best Record Production / Single, which went to Adele for "Skyfall." HBO's Game of Thrones took the Television category; Peter Gabriel's tour won for Best Live Production, and Halo 4 was honored for best video game sound. Honorees included live audio engineer John Meyer, who is most noted for his work with '70s-era Grateful Dead, and whose acceptance speech sprawled like a "Dark Star" jam. Surely, the highlight of the event was the three-song live set by Les Paul Award recipient Todd Rundgren.
Schecter knows how to throw a party
Former Ozzy guitarist and founder of Black Label Society Zakk Wylde–a noted Gibson Les Paul player, but whatevs–headlined the Shecter Guitars party Saturday Night at the Grove in Anaheim, a clinic on how to make active pickups squeal like a cat in heat. The ambiance took on a glorious hesher bonanza, fueled by complementary Jagermeister drinks and cups of Stone IPA.The place was crawling with guitar deities, too–most notably the dudes from the speedcore outfit Periphery (shown above) were on hand snapping pics with fans and industry types.
Get to Bass Bash events at JT Schmid's on time or forget it
The Bass Bash events at JT Schmid's were a little too well attended, and rightfully so–the lineup included incredible acts like Ethan Farmer and eventual Grammy Award winners Snarky Puppy. Next year they might want to find a bigger room for the 'Bash though. Both Friday and Saturday nights, I couldn't get through the doorway, and had to watch through the window from the parking lot. To add insult to injury, former NBA-player Dan Gadzuric wove his way in front of me for the Ethan Farmer set, all 6'10" of him.
No Stairway? Denied!
The swirling, echoing cacophony of the NAMM showroom floor is a 1000-piece symphony of unrelated licks, many of them played by high-caliber professionals that are flown in and paid handsomely by the exhibiting companies. It takes an amateur musician approximately 45 minutes in this environment for the intimidation of being surrounded by the best session cats in the world to get numbed out. Then it's go-time on that five-figure seven-string guitar in the Ibanez booth. After about 30 seconds of weedly-wah, the exhibitor folks usually ask if you have any questions, a polite way of saying shut the fuck up and move along. But this is okay, because at NAMM, there are about five hundred different booths to do this in.
Bags are big this year
This year a number of colorful, arty gig bags were decked out the NAMM display booths. As a sucker for Grateful Dead art, the ones by Boldface that featured the work of legendary Dead artist Stanley Mouse stand out, as well as the heavy-duty, high-functioning pieces at the Gruv Gear booth.