1000’s of musical instruments: drums, guitars, violins, pianos, keyboards and everything in between. Add in all kind of accessories from lighting to furniture, pedals, strings, DJ equipment and any kind of music related item you can imagine. Now take all that stuff put it in the Anaheim Convention Center, add about 100,000 people and you have NAMM.
Right now you may be saying what’s NAMM? Well for those not in the know, NAMM AKA The National Association of Music Merchants was founded in 1901 and its first trade show took place in Miami in 1970. Since then it has grown exponentially and has become the annual trip for musicians, buyers, dealers artists and anyone in the music industry. It’s like the music worlds Disneyland (which, coincidentally, is right across the street).
Nita Strauss – Blackstar
NAMM isn’t open to the public, but with a little ingenuity or at least a friend in the industry you can probably secure a badge and attend as part of the music community. Doesn’t matter if you’re a music dealer, broker, distributor, a rock star, gearhead, music fan or even a groupie there is something for everyone. As a matter of fact, there’s so much that you truly can’t see it all and on top of all the “stuff” there’s seminars, workshops, panel discussions, endless demos as well as artist signings and meet & greets. If that still isn’t enough you can find random people playing in some of the booths plus jam rooms where well-known as well as unknown artist play separately or together.
Nothing and everything can be surprising at NAMM. My first day as I walked in I saw Chris Robinson (Black Crowes) and then my friend bumped into Stevie Wonders entourage, saw Bernie Williams (a couple of times) as well as William DuVall (Alice in Chains) just hanging out. We left and headed over to Disneyland with some friends where we met Chewbacca and Darth Vader which I realize isn’t music related but it was still cool. Later that evening we headed to the bar at the Hilton with a quick stop to chat with Phil Anselmo and then spent some time drinking catching up with folks.
To the average person you might think that sounds like bragging but honestly it’s just what happens at NAMM. Between people walking around, signings and friends of friends you are bound to end up next to anyone from Brad Gillis (Night Ranger) to Herbie Hancock, Keith Emerson (ELP), Jordan Rudess (Dream Theater) or even businessman/millionaire turned TV star Marcus Lemonis (The Profit) checking in on his investment in SJC Drums (full episode here). Artists are everywhere walking around, sometimes picking up an instrument to play, stopping to chat, hugging an old friend and, for the most part, being friendly, willing to stop, say hi, sign something and/or pose for a picture.
Of course NAMM’s not all about rock stars and products but also about the people watching. There are people in superhero outfits, mythical creatures, ones covered in paint, tattoos and piercings as well as those in suits & ties. People from all over the world descend on Anaheim for this annual event.
David Ellefson of Megadeth – Meeting Fans?
Like I said it doesn’t all take place inside the convention center. There are events throughout the entire city and all the way up to the LA area. Some of the events are private so you will need to score yourself a ticket while others may or may not be NAMM related and are open to the public. Right outside the convention center there’s an area with food trucks and a stage so you can catch music there as well as a few small stages set up around the perimeter of the convention grounds.
Grove of Anaheim
The biggest dilemma isn’t if you’re going to do something because you are, the question is what? There’s all the free stuff plus events like Thursdays Celebration of the Music of Rush, Friday’s Dimebash in Hollywood which included members of Pantera, Metallica, Slayer and Dave Grohl or the Delve Texas’s NAMM JAM 2016 which had LA Guns, Beasto Blanco (with an appearance by Alice Cooper) and John 5 of Rob Zombie. Everyday there’s a hard choice but Saturday is usually the big night with countless events which this year included Schecters NAMM Party with Zakk Sabbath (Zakk Wylde), the Randy Rhodes Remembered show or Ronnie Montrose Remembered; both with impressive star studded line-ups paying tribute to these great artists. Additionally there are tons of private events throughout the Anaheim area from awards dinners, shows, or just crazy parties for customers and friends. It doesn’t matter where you end up on which night because you are guaranteed to have a blast and the reality is you’re likely to end the evening at the Hilton bar; everyone does.
NAMM’s definitely not all fun and games as there are millions of dollars of business being done behind the scenes, but at the end of each night you can find a couple of thousand people just hanging out. For most of us, the artists, sales people, writers, photographers and music reps, its business all day and come nighttime it’s just one big music party.
So, if you’re musically inclined and want to check out the latest gear, see some music or just like to party and hope to meet some rock stars, start planning now because NAMM 2017 is January 19th-22nd in Anaheim CA.
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