NAMM Report: Wednesday Press Day
(Anaheim Convention Center) A $ 2 million dollar guitar strap. A watch that tunes your instruments and more, a guitar that folds up and yet sounds great. A keytar that lets anyone strike those cool rock star poses and play hot licks, a finger sized cube that plays a note when it touches a color. These are a few of products presented to the media at NAMM Press Day today.
Most vendors were still setting up in the halls while the press was out in the lobby eating cookies and shooting videos, but a few trends seem to be emerging more technology, more women and more smartphones as music players and the Swiss Army knives of music and live production. The first indication of the growth of technology is the addition of a new hall to the Convention Center for technology – amplifiers, mixing board, DJ equipment, and pedals – anything with wires, tubes, transistors and now artificial intelligence. The vendors are inviting artists and buyers to get their hands on their toys. Like Hercules DJ audio who is offering 15 min hands-on classes in DJ’ing on their new line of equipment, and Orchestral Tools, which rented the Paramount Theater on the Paramount Studios Backlot to give artists and media an opportunity to gets hands-on with their new line of symphonic tools that they will have at NAMM.
The news of the day was that Gibson Guitar is back. After economic difficulties last year forced it to forgo NAMM, the legacy guitar maker is not only back, but populating its booth with women in recognition that 50% of all guitars are now purchased by women. Gibson representatives at Press Day displayed a stunningly gorgeous Les Paul Classic and promised many more at their booth when the convention opens Thursday.
Girls with guitars – and keyboards and drums and keytars and basses and microphones and DJ tables — are very well represented this year on both the NAMM stages and in the vendor booths demos. Women@NAMM are presenting events like the SWIMM Meet (Smart Women In Music) to help networks for women in Music. The NAMM stages will see Christine Vane, Janice Freeman, Gigi Rich, Sara Elizabeth Charles and Scope, Anna Wang, and Natalie Gelman, among others. Moreover, the She Rocks Awards, produced by WIMM at the House of Blues on Saturday night down the street from NAMM, will feature a lineup of women including guitarist Orianthi, singer Vanessa Amorosi and Emily Armstrong of Dead Sara, the Command Sisters and many others.
Other highlights revealed at the Press Day were a performance by the Earth Harp, a building- sized string instrument that will fill the NAMM plaza with ethereal sound, a private concert by Bob Weir for D’Angelico Guitars, and a Roomful of Pianos playing classical music.
NAMM Report: Thursday
(Anaheim, CA) It is a good thing that the Anaheim Convention Center added the new North Hall because NAMM is really using it. Attendance hit 101,000+ and it showed, especially in the major guitar showrooms which were packed wall-to-wall. The news from the floor today is about one of those guitar brands – Gibson; it is back in a huge way. The Gibson Room (its old 207 location) was double-sized (actually two connected rooms, one for guitars and one for Gibson Brands) , and featured a major stage large enough for a 10 or 12 piece band, work stations with rows of guitars to practice on, and lineup of talent that keep the room buzzing. The other major guitar makers like Fender, were also out in force and at times too crowded to actually move around in.
Gibson slimmed down its offerings after last year’s bankruptcy, but the iconic Les Paul and Standard models were there in sufficient numbers for the crowd of players to try them out. Its other brands like Epiphone. Epiphone, Kramer, and Steinberg instruments were prominently displayed and available for test driving.
NAMM’s new hall, the ACC North, was built to contain the tech revolution in music, but it couldn’t; tech booths spilled out into the guitar, drum, cases, and other topical areas. And DJ equipment was plentiful throughout NAMM’s halls, mirroring the spike in EDM and DJ’s. From turntables to lights to special effects and speaker systems, there were dozens of booths full of spinning equipment. One of the most interesting was the Hercules DJ Control booth.
The Hercules booth deserves a special mention. The company introduced its new DJ Control Impulse 300, a model designed for beginners but with features and power for serious DJ’s. and did a very smart thing. It set up and promoted “Learn to be a DJ” 15 minute teaching sessions. Scattered throughout its booth were workstations consisting of Control Impulse 300 units, speakers, headphones and an experienced DJ who gave “students” a quick lesson in the concepts and basics and then guided them through a hands-on session of their own. The entire lesson from one of the stations was projected on a big screen at the back of the booth, attracting a good deal of traffic and giving looky-loos an idea of what DJ’ing was all about.
Microphone technology booths were also scattered through the halls, many with artists demonstrating the products or just singing. Vendors ranged from tiny shops making very specialized custom equipment, to recognized names like Sennheiser Electronics, which had a major booth just inside the ACC North. One of the most fun was Monheim Microphones booth. , An LA company with a small line of performance microphones and channel strips, Monheim has a good musical following and a knack for marketing. Although its booth was off to the side of Hall E next to a glitter materials vendor, they brought in three high-powered entertainers who use their products: , the Hopi Blues Band, Alicia Blue and the very popular Lauren Ruth Ward, drawing a crowd so large that it blocked the aisle.
Marshall Amplification occupied its usual second floor space with walls of speakers, amps, headphones and cabinets dominated by a stage with big name talent, mostly English, including the alt rock drum and guitar duo REWS and the blow-your-head-off metal band King Creature. The Marshall space is not as large as Gibson or Fender down the hall, but when Alice Cooper guitarist and soloist Nina Straus was signing autographs there, it seemed to hold at least as many people as the double-wide rooms.
Tomorrow Elle King will be on the Lennon Songwriting Bus in the Plaza, and there will be concerts by Sarah Elizabeth Charles & SCOPE, Nina Francis, Love and .38, Natalie Gelman and about a hundred other performances at booths and stages in the halls. The night will be capped off with the She Rocks Awards at the nearby Anaheim House of Blues, a glittering red carpet event that will feature a tribute to Janis Joplin with performances by guitarist Orianthi, Australian vocalist Vanessa Amorosi, and singers Judith Hill and Emily Armstrong of Dead Sara. Awardees will include BERLIN lead singer Terri Nun, GRAMMY Award-winning singer Macy Gray, Platinum selling and GRAMMY Award-winning singer-songwriter Lisa Loeb, Alice Cooper guitarist Nita Strauss, and co-writer of the hit “Despacito” Erika Ender.
NAMM Friday: Hip Hop Harps, a Revolutionary Keyboard and She Rocks Awards
(Anaheim CA.) NAMM got even more crowded Friday, as anyone who stood in line for security, bathrooms or food quickly realized. But the stars were out in force the guitar rooms, the electric and acoustic piano halls, and in vendor stages. Plus, the She Rocks Awards vibrated the House of Blues with guitar shredding by Orianthi, screaming sax lines by Nita Straus and rock harmonies by the Command sisters in a tribute to Janis Joplin. But first, the hip hop harp.
Indiana-based Rees Harps assembled a large and impressive booth for what are normally seen as concert instruments, and then drew a sizable crowds with rock, jazz and hip hop by the internationally known R&B singer/songwriter and performing artist Lyrika Holmes. Taking the crowd through the basics and tricks of harp playing, she moved smoothly from one genre to another, keeping her audience glued to her instrument despite the din of the other music in the hall. Holmes demonstrated why there is growing interest in the classical technology of harps in both rock bands and fusion music.
A new technology introduced at NAMM 2019 is what may be a revolutionary keyboard by the Italian firm Dexibell. The new model S9 was described by R&B and Boogie Woogie Queen Dona Oxford, who rocked the Dexibell stage, as a game changer for her, saying it allows her to do things with just one keyboard that others require add-on models to accomplish. The inventor of the new line of Dexibell instruments was on hand to explain how the S9 88-key instrument can produce a digital piano range and the digital organ chords and unlimited notes polyphony – useful for film scoring – with a combination of patented sampling and modelling algorithms. Oxford demonstrated the instrument’s capabilities as she banged out boogie woogie, R&B, and rock songs for a crowd so large that it blocked the aisle in front of the Dexibell booth.
The guitar rooms were crammed with instruments both old and new and stars like Peter Frampton, Charlie Parra, and Rews. Peruvian guitar hero Charlie Parra (Charlie Parra del Riego) in particular packed the Gibson room with a mostly male crowd. Standing alone on stage, he played a long set of tunes and shreds that echoed throughout the 2nd floor. However, across the hall in the Cordoba room, filled with beautifully crafted acoustic and electric guitars, it was another world. A largely female crowd enjoyed both stage players and audience members strumming, picking and practicing flamenco in a quiet atmosphere designed for careful listening.
The drum and symbols halls featured house-sized booths by Sabian, Gretch, Remo, Ludwig, and others, with literally hundreds of men and women testing the kits, symbols, drum tuners, and drum heads, creating a background sound level that was palpable. In the middle of this was the drumTalkTV booth where Executive Producer Dan Shinder and his Vegas-based team interviewed drummers from bands large and small. Early in the afternoon they brought together the Drummer girls United Group, cramming several dozen female drummers into the booth for taped and live interviews despite the halls noise level.
The night wrapped up for many at NAMM with the She Rocks 2019 Award at the House of Blues about a half mile from the Convention Center. Co-hosts Lyndsey Parker, music editor at Yahoo Entertainment, and Fox 11 News host and songwriter/music video producer Christine Devine presided over an all-star night. Guest performers included the Command Sisters, Terri Nunn, Lisa Loeb, Nita Straus, and Orianthi. The British duo REWS opened the program with their high- energy melodic rock. The Icon Award was given to Janis Joplin, accepted by her sister. The evening wrapped with a stunning set of “Mercedes Benz”, “Piece of My Heart” and “Me and Bobby McGee” featuring an all-star cast of Nita Straus, Orianthi, Judith Hill, Vanessa Amorosi among others.
NAMM Saturday. Technology, BINX and Stevie Wonder.
The pop singer/social media influencer BINX joined our NAMM team Saturday, so we schedule specific interviews and activities to video with her. The day began when we encountered heavy security at the normally pretty relaxed Media Center across from Hall E. After getting cleared to go in, we saw why – Stevie Wonder was being interviewed by a TV network. He was sitting in a folding chair facing an interviewer in another chair in front of the camera.
A number of security and PR people watched the room and the interview but did nothing to stop the other journalists in the room from videotaping as long as they did not interfere. This was in contrast to the interview on Thursday morning in the Media Center with Ed Sheeran, who was zealously protected by PR people who asked firmly that no one shoot video or photos, although we could watch. We shot some stills of Stevie, but did not videotape as we were not in position to get good sound.
Saturday at NAMM was as crowded as Friday, maybe more so but we don’t have figures yet except that it was over 100,000 attendees. Highlights included The Roomful of Pianos playing the “Sorcerer’s Apprentice”, a huge all industry drum circle in the Palm Court outside the technology hall, Yamaha’s All-Star Concert on the Grand Piano among others. Our NAMM team elected to set up BINX interviews with artists and then tour the new ACC North Hall of music technology. We were able to snag the hard rock bands New Year’s Day and Buckcherry.
But first, we had a date at the Hercules DJ and Audio booth in Hall A where BINX was scheduled for a lesson in how to operate a DJ Controller. Since BINX was in her bright yellow and black and African Queen Bee costume (essentially an open midriff one piece bathing suit), she quickly attracted a crowd as the DJ showed her the controls and let her practice. Hercules makes full-sized and compact controllers, all of which feature algorithms that automate many of the functions of a DJ controller to make operation easy and efficient while giving the DJ maximum creativity.
The hard rock/punkish band News Year’s Day was formed in Anaheim in 2005 and released a debut self-titled EP in 2006 and their first full-length album My Dear in 2007. In 2013, they released Victim to Villain followed by Malevolence in 2015 which reached No. 45 on the Billboard 200,. They have released the first song from the upcoming Skeletons. The band has been through membership changes over the years and now consists of Ash Costello, Nikki Misery, and Jeremy Valentyne , all of whom joined BINX outside of the NAMM main building for a short chat that, as Ash said jokingly, would be great because their day was just starting and the heavy drinking would come later:
Our next interview was with Buckcherry, a rock band was formed in 1995 and have continued their commercial success until the present. They are preparing to tour to promote their upcoming album Warpaint and had agreed to meet us at the Rapco Horizon complex in Hall A. The company is one of the largest manufacturers of equipment for sound and video in the music industry and is very popular with the companies that producer concerts and the bands that tour in them. Given the company’s reach throughout the music touring world, it was not surprising to see the band members of Foreigner seated at a counter in back center of the booth welcoming a long line of fans and signing autographs.
Stevie D. and Francis Ruiz from Buckcherry walked in and took us upstairs to the 2nd story patio of the booth (the size of a small house) for the interview. They talked with BINX about their new album, their upcoming European tour, and the ups and downs of being on the road. Stevie D. also answered questions about how streaming has changed music, making it much more dependent on paid radio play (rare) and touring.
After the interview, we went downstairs and found the Foreigner band members hanging out in the first story Green Room. BINX charmed guitarist Bruce Watson to come out and chat, hug and show off his deep blue shades.
After hugs with Watson (BINX got hugs, we got waves) the team spent the afternoon at the music technology booths and the evening sampling the concerts. Top booths were Novation Music’s Launchpad XL wall of the sound and color (which BINX danced on), microphones and headsets at the huge Sennheiser booth to and mixing demonstrations at a dozen booths with big screens and lecturers. One of the most interesting tech stops was Arturia, We listened to the synthesizer sounds of the new low cost Arturia Microfreak keyboard, which will likely show up on a lot of stages as soon as it ships in April because its ability to do a lot musically for very little monetarily.
All the concert venues were at full tilt Saturday night as the hotel restaurants filled up and the lines formed at the food trucks. Going strong were the indoor Marriott and Hilton Stages, and the outdoor Yamaha Plaza and Pioneer Stages. Acts included Venice, Plastic Angels, The Breedloves, iLLism, Chelsea Takami, and The Dares, among others playing until 1 am. The music starts again Sunday at 10 am with Wimberley Bluegrass Band in the Yamaha Grand Plaza Stage.
NAMM wrap up. Sunday.
(Los Angeles) Sundays at NAMM start late – or early, depending on your point of view. As the clock struck midnight, Sunday concerts began on the hotel stages with Gene Navarro, Goodnight Sunrise and Russ Parish. After a break for sleep, things cranked up again at 8 am for the Best in Show Awards Breakfast, where products that caught the prize panel’s eye were honored in the categories Best Add-Ons, Gotta Stock it, Companies to Watch and Best in Show company.
The vendor booths fired up at 9 am with demonstrations led sonically by the Incredible Drum Corps Snare try-out, plus demos of new guitars, DJ controllers, mixers and microphones. Outside, Earth Harp installation artist William Close was playing from a platform in front of ACCNorth with his instrument’s strings stretched up to the roof of the main Convention building. The ethereal sounds floated through the plazas and into the din of the technology booths, calming, rather than adding to the cacophony.
Inside the building and the adjacent hotels were lectures on The Future of Music, a Derek Small interview by CJ Vanston, and a history of The Defining Moments in the Synth Revolution by Don Lewis. And to make sure everyone was up and running after a very late night, Rock and Roll Industries was handing out giant cups of Coffin Coffee to promote their magazine. The company music.iLuv which builds The Augmented Reality Social Musical Platform had people lining up to record and share music videos and get live feedback with the firm’s polyphonic pitch detection technology.
The day and the convention finished on a high note with an All-Industry Guitar Circle, an electric violin concert by Pauline Henric and Laurent Bernadac playing pop and rock songs on the 3Dvarius, world’s first 3D-printed electric violin, and a very popular lecture on How to Monetize Your Music in Film and TV by Chandra Lynn in the Idea Center. Across from the Media Center, a crowd gathered at the NAMM Museum stage for their last chance to hear the String Revolution. And finally, Happy Hour kicked off at the Pioneer Stage in the Arena Plaza at 4 pm and kept people happy and talking until the official close at 5 pm..
Over the four days of NAMM, 115, 301 people came through the doors, visiting booths and stages of over 2000 exhibiting member companies representing 7000 brands. The show was a landmark for Yamaha, which added a new booth for technology as well as pianos and demo events, and for Gibson, which opened an off-the-charts popular double sized room and stage celebrating its comeback from bankruptcy. Many new products were launched, especially in music technology in the ACC North Hall, built by the Convention Center to accommodate NAMM’s growth. New technologies were introduced, like the Dexibell S9 keyboard, and dozens of upgrades a tweaks to existing products. Innovation was celebrated by NAMM’s TEC Awards, which recognized Peter Frampton with the Les Paul Innovation Awards. Other stars who attended NAMM were, Ed Sheeran, Stevie Wonder, Nita Strauss, Terri Nunn, Chuckberry, Lisa Loeb, Foreigner, Mindi Abair, Slash, and Gina Chavez. Now, NAMM moves to Nashville for Summer NAMM in July and returns to Anaheim next January.