By Andrew Bansal
The 112th edition of NAMM, North America’s biggest annual music trade convention, took place at the Anaheim Convention Center from January 22nd to 26th, and as always, brought together the who’s who of the music industry from America and beyond. Every year, NAMM, acronym for National Association of Music Merchants, ushers in the launch of new musical instruments and music industry-related products through appearances by world-renowned artists in the form of signings, live demonstrations and performances, and also gives an opportunity to the upcoming and relatively unknown artists to display their talent in front of such a huge audience. Metal Assault has covered NAMM every year from 2010 onwards, and it was going to be interesting to discover how different the 2014 edition would turn out to be in comparison to the previous ones.
Media Preview Day – Wednesday 01/22:
Even though NAMM officially opens its doors to registered attendees from Thursday onwards, before all the mayhem ensues, the Wednesday of NAMM week serves as an exclusive preview, open to media badge holders only. Some of the past media preview days at NAMM have seen major product launches by household brand names and musicians like Phil Collen, John Mayor and Alex Skolnick present to introduce these products to the press, but this year the media day was hugely downsized and did not reveal anything of interest. Instead of being held in Hall E as it usually is, it was moved to the Idea Center on the main floor and confined to a small space. Except for the folks at the Roland Corporation booth on the 3rd level introducing and demonstrating their entire line of new products via an elaborate presentation, the media preview day was devoid of activity. Here’s a list of the products they launched. Visit RolandSystemsGroup.com for more information.
Pedals: Boss Overdrive OD-1X & Boss Distortion DS-1X
Multi Effects Unit: Boss ME-80
Percussion: Roland NE-10 & NE-1 Noise Eater Sound Isolation Products for V-Drums,
TM-2 Trigger Module and KT-10 Kick Trigger Pedal
AV Mixing: Roland VR-3EX
Piano: Roland DP90e, HP-504, HP-506, HP508, HP-i50e, LX15E, RD-800
Music Workstation: Roland FA-06 & FA-08
For rock/metal fans, the after-hours on this Wednesday were all about the Metal Masters gig at the House Of Blues Anaheim. Check out the review and photos of it here.
Day One – Thursday 01/23:
NAMM began in earnest on Thursday, and the tremendous footfall at the convention was there to be seen throughout the day. Metal Assault’s NAMM Thursday began with a visit to the Peavey booth on the 2nd level, where the legendary Blue Oyster Cult played a four-song acoustic set and were joined by Testament guitarist Alex Skolnick for the final song of the set, the one and only ‘Don’t Fear The Reaper’. It was a special treat for BOC fans in attendance, and with Skolnick’s involvement it became truly unique. Here’s the set list:
01. Burning For You
02. Dancing In The Ruins
03. Then Came The Last Days Of May
04. Don’t Fear The Reaper (with Alex Skolnick)
Next item on the agenda was the Jake E. Lee press conference at the Charvel Guitars booth, where he launched his new signature guitar and answered questions about the past, present and future of his musical career, including some uncomfortable ones about the Ozzy days, but he handled and answered everything gracefully. The next day, he headlined the Heineken NAMM Jam put together by Charvel. You can read a full review and check out a photo gallery from that show on Metal Assault, here.
Following that, the focus shifted to the Schecter Guitars booth where Jeff Loomis and Keith Merrow did a live performance/demonstration. The duo has formed a new instrumental band called Conquering Dystopia with bassist Alex Webster of Cannibal Corpse and drummer Alex Rüdinger of The Faceless, and if you haven’t already read Metal Assault’s review of their live debut at the Grove of Anaheim that took place on NAMM Saturday, you can do so here. But coming back to this Schecter performance, the fans had gathered in large numbers and the room was absolutely packed with guitar nerds and music enthusiasts who were here to bear witness to the new developments in Jeff Loomis’ much-revered career, and at the same time get a taste of Schecter’s new guitar-related products.
That effectively brought an end to rock/metal centric activities for the day, but with a whole range of after-hours parties/concerts taking place at the hotels and venues surrounding the Anaheim Convention Center, there was still plenty to do for all attendees, like the incredible ‘Bonzo Bash’ event at the Observatory a few miles down Harbor Blvd. Check out Metal Assault’s review and photos here.
Day Two – Friday 01/24:
NAMM was about to get even busier and more exciting on day two, and it began at the Paul Reed Smith guitars booth where Chimaira guitarist Emil Werstler demonstrated the new PRS Archon amplifier. Here’s an audio recording of it:
Following Emil, Between The Buried And Me guitarist Dustie Waring showcased the new PRS Custom 24 guitar, which he played through the Archon amp as well. Audio:
Next up, Los Angeles-based hard rock band Black Belt Karate played a short set at the GHS Strings booth and technical issues aside, they showcased themselves as a band that has the ingredients to successfully appeal to a mainstream, radio-friendly audience but at the same time appease lovers of the heavy. This is one of the coolest things about NAMM, for bands such as BBK to be able to get the exposure they deserve, and more local bands should seriously seek gigs at the NAMM convention in future years.
03. Street Cleaning (unreleased track)
After that, the convention treated rock and metal fans with some high-profile artist signings at various booths, such as Devin Townsend at EMG Pickups, Conquering Dystopia at Seymour Duncan, Deep Purple guitarist Steve Morse at Ernie Ball, Geezer Butler of Black Sabbath at EMG, Lita Ford at B.C. Rich, Animals As Leaders at Gator Cases, an all-star metal signings at the ESP and Rock N Roll GangStar booths. But the next main item of focus was a performance by the Alex Skolnick Trio at the Peavey booth. Along with bassist Nathan Peck and fill-in drummer Scott Amendola, Skolnick played some jams from the latest AST album Veritas. Besides, they presented a thoroughly enjoyable arrangement of Aerosmith’s ‘Dream On’. As a special encore, Robert Randolph and Rudy Sarzo joined the trio on stage for a jam of their own. With AST, Skolnick continues to present jazz fusion in a manner that can be appreciated by metal fans, and this performance was a solid representation of it.
02. Bollywood Jam
04. Dream On (Aersomith cover)
06. Western Sabbath Stomp
07. Jam with Rudy Sarzo & Robert Randolph
Enjoy an audio recording of the Aerosmith cover:
Skolnick also played an acoustic set at the Marriott hotel in the after-hours, to perform material from his new world music project Planetary Coalition. Unfortunately this writer ended up missing the set, but based on the reactions from those who were able to attend, it was nothing short of brilliant and brought forth yet another facet of Skolnick’s extremely versatile musicianship.
Day Three – Saturday 01/25:
The floodgates were opened for the busiest day at NAMM, and once again it began at the Peavey booth with a short set by premier all-female Iron Maiden tribute band, The Iron Maidens. This Los Angeles-based group has earned fame and recognition for their fantastic renditions of Maiden tunes not only in and around LA but throughout the world, and this was another showcase event for them in front of audiences traveling from all parts. Sadly, the technical issues with the sound emanating from that stage heavily marred the Maidens’ set. Simply put, the booth could not handle all the Maiden, and this was certainly not an accurate representation of what these girls normally do whenever they take the stage. Nonetheless, this short live Maiden set gave attendees a lively start to the day.
01. Aces High
02. 2 Minutes To Midnight
03. Wasted Years
04. The Trooper
Next up, the focus was back on the PRS Guitars booth where former Megadeth and Cacophony guitarist Marty Friedman did a 25-minute demonstration conducted by Paul Reed Smith himself, where Marty discussed his signature guitar and played a few songs, much to the delight of the large gathering of his fans present here. He brought a hilarious, laid back disposition but once he started shredding on that guitar, it was all about his musical expression and the room was completely silent in undivided attention. Check out the full audio recording of it below:
From one former Megadeth guitarist to another, Chris Poland and his band mates in OHM performed at the Eminence Speakers booth and attracted a sizable audience consisted of fans and walkers-by, while there was a whole bunch of artist signings to keep the convention halls busy, including Steve Morse and Gretchen Menn at Ernie Ball, bassists Michael Devin, Marten Andersson and Bjorn Englen at EBS Sweden, Intronaut at EMG Pickups and Kerry King at B.C. Rich. The other note-worthy performance was by all-female Judas Priest tribute band Judas Priestess at the Ernie Ball booth. They clearly had better luck with the sound setup than their Maiden counterparts earlier in the day and drew a positive response from onlookers. The day was essentially brought to a close by Marty Friedman, who gave yet another brilliant demo/performance at the Roland/Boss booth.
Besides, Robby Krieger played the GoPro stage with his Jam Kitchen, which was a performance this writer unfortunately could not attend, but judging by his great show at the Whisky in Hollywood not so long ago, it’s safe to say that the audience at the GoPro stage would have had a great time seeing Krieger’s band. And exclusively for the media, Paul Gilbert jammed a tune with Jeannie Deva and Howard Levy in the press room, to promote the launch of ArtistWorks‘ newest application for online music lessons.
Day Four – Sunday 01/26:
Although most of the musicians and attendees had departed Anaheim by the time the final day at NAMM rolled around, it was not short of activity as Megadeth mainman Dave Mustaine did a signing at the Dean Guitars booth, which as expected, attracted a long line of fans. Meanwhile Rudy Sarzo and Michael Anthony did separate individual signings at Peavey, and ex-Misfits, current Danzig guitarist and solo artist Doyle Wolfgang von Frankenstein was seen casually hanging out, taking photos with fans and doing press interviews. The only two performances/demos during the day were by Chris Brightwell, guitarist of premier Southern California Metallica tribute band Damage Inc, at the Studio Devil booth, and extreme metal drummer Derek Roddy at Axis Percussion.
Overall, even though some aspects of NAMM 2014 made it seem like a slightly downsized version of past editions, this edition of NAMM undoubtedly brought forth new products and showcased great live performances for the benefit of those involved in the music industry in various capacities, with attendance and footfall figures as strong as ever. So, although some might find it arguable, NAMM is set to continue as one of the world’s biggest and most important music trade conventions.
Below is the full slideshow of 58 photos from the NAMM convention, featuring the following artists/bands, in order of appearance:
Blue Oyster Cult
Jake E. Lee
Emil Werstler (Chimaira)
Black Belt Karate
Sarah Longfield (The Fine Constant)
Steve Morse (Deep Purple)
Geezer Butler (Black Sabbath)
Animals As Leaders
Gus G (Ozzy, Firewind)
Frank Bello (Anthrax)
Ben Weinman (The Dillinger Escape Plan)
Ken Susi & Buz McGrath (Unearth)
Todd LaTorre (Queenrÿche)
Sin Quirin (Ministry)
Alex Skolnick Trio
The Iron Maidens
Chris Poland, Rob Pagliari & David Eagle (OHM)
Militia (Judas Priestess)
Michael Devin (Whitesnake)
Marten Andersson (Lizzy Borden)
Bjorn Englen (Dio Disciples)
Mike Spreitzer (DevilDriver)
Kerry King (Slayer)
Chris Brightwell (Damage Inc)
Dave Mustaine (Megadeth)
Doyle (ex-Misfits, Danzig)
Note: If you’re reading this on a device that does not support Flash, view the photos here.