at the Anaheim Convention Center: January 23rd – 26th
It’s a Rock n’ Roll Reunion!
Written by Alison “MetalBabe” Cohen
The National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) was founded in 1901 and is the largest annual trade show of its kind. It features the introduction of new musical instruments and technologies, ongoing concerts, interactive demos, workshops, and artist appearances throughout the event. This year’s show had nearly 96,000 registrants from over 90 countries, and more than 1,500 companies were set up at the show representing more than 5,000 different products. They had 280 brand new NAMM exhibitors this year. If all goes well, Metal Babe Mayhem will be one of them next year!
To get an idea of how huge this event is, picture four halls (A-D) in one humungous room. There is an escalator that goes downstairs to Hall E, and there are exhibitors on the 2nd and 3rd floors as well. There is also an entirely separate freestanding building just for Yahama, and there are three outdoor stages. There are product demonstrations everywhere you look… Drums, guitar, bass, piano, ukulele, violin, etc. Numerous celebrity performances are scheduled throughout the convention center to demo new gear and equipment, in addition celebrity signings and celebrity sightings.
I spent 3 1/2 days at The NAMM Show and I still feel like there was so much that I didn’t get to see. I love having the opportunity to connect/reconnect with friends, and make new ones. I saw tons of innovative new products, some awesome performances, met/re-met tons of rock stars, and had a ‘bloody’ good time at the Epiphone Party with Lizzy Borden, Archer, and Dive Bomber on Friday night.
I decided to start my NAMM adventure a day early this year and attended NAMM Media Preview Day on Wednesday, January 22nd. Media Preview Day is set up in the Idea Center (Hall B) to give journalists/reporters a chance to preview twenty featured instruments and technologies for 2014 and see one-on-one demos and visual presentations.
My favorite product in the area was the new GoPro HERO3+ Black Edition. First of all, the video camera is so small that it will fit in the palm of your hand, and it takes high quality 4K images. They are launching a music bundle, due out this March, which is a gooseneck style arm that attaches directly to the GoPro and is designed specifically for musicians to catch action shots and music moments in a unique way. They have a series of mounts and accessories that allow you to attach the camera to pretty much anything. This is ideal for musicians who want to get up-close live shots. The GoPro also has a free App that works in conjunction with the camera with a WiFi chip that is embedded within the camera. The App allows you to view everything that you are shooting so you can get a real time preview of what you’re shooting. You can also immediately download any video/still photography you have, share them with your networks, and control all of the camera functions through the App. There is no limit as to what you can capture with this special kit.
Photos by Lady Lea Photography
In addition to GoPro, Media Preview Day featured: Touchmark Guitars, IK Multimedia, GJ2 Guitars, Fender Musical Instruments Corporation, SuperMegaUltraGroovy, Inc., C.F. Martin & Co., Kala Brand Music Co., Paul Jennings Music – Sela Cajons, Drum Workshop, Inc., Deering Banjo Company, Weber Fine Instruments, The Dube, Dave Smith Instruments, Hohner Inc., QRS Music Technologies, Pioneer DJ, daCarbo AG, ROLI, The John Lennon Educational Tour Bus, and D’Angelico.
A highlight of being there a day early was having the chance to walk the floor, get my bearings, and put together my game plan for the rest of the show. It was cool to see the exhibitors setting up their booths. Construction was everywhere…Empty boxes, golf carts, fork lifts, and cranes filled the empty halls. What a difference once the show officially opened!
While walking the floor I recognized a drum set that was showcased at Crush Drums & Percussion from when I saw Retribution at the Savatage 25 Year Celebration in Tampa, FL in 2012. It turns out that it was the same drum set, and their drummer Shawn Lowery was the creator of this elaborate one-of-a-kind custom piece, consisting of over 1300 feet of steel. It was pretty loud in the drum section, but Shawn told me that his company Sawbladehead does custom work, including drum sets, drum risers, tables, furniture, and mic stands. He said that his drum set was the only one, but that he could re-create it if there was an order. It disassembles into about fifteen pieces and he can set it up in twenty minutes. I asked Shawn what inspired him to create this piece of artwork, and he said he designed it when he was six years old for his imaginary Kiss band! Another cool effect of the Crush drum set is that it constantly changes colors, going from blue to pink to green.
Next on my agenda for NAMM week was the NAMM Metal Jam at the Whisky that night. Michael Angelo Batio, known for his unique over under technique, and Neil Turbin’s Deathriders headlined the show. The show was hosted by Metal Sanaz, and at one point she asked who had come into town for NAMM and was at the Whisky for the first time. There was definitely a significant amount of ‘virgins.’
The night consisted of an ever changing star struck stage and tons of classic rock and metal songs. Star players included Michael Angelo Batio, Neil Turbin, Dave Reffett, (Shredding The Envelope/Guitar World) Glen Sobel, (Alice Cooper) Derek St. Holmes, (Ted Nugent) Michael Devin, (Whitesnake) Lisa Margaroli, Mark Boals, Rowan Roberson, (DC4) Howie Simon, Tony Cavazo (Hurricane), El Prostituto de Bateria, Bill Hudson, (Emphatic) and many more!
I watched as the above-mentioned artists united in rock to give us their best metal versions of songs like “Burn” by Deep Purple, “Eighteen” by Alice Cooper, and “Renegade” by Styxx. When Derek St. Holmes took the stage, we were treated to three back-to-back Nugent songs: “Hey Baby,” “Stranglehold,” and “Cat Scratch Fever.” Neil Turbin definitely did his share on vox that night, belting out songs like Whitesnake’s “Still of the Night” and Saxon’s “Wheel’s of Steel.” It was great seeing Lisa Margaroli take over on vocals for a couple Maiden songs including “The Trooper” and “Aces High,” as well as some non-Maiden songs like Van Halen’s “Hot For Teacher.”
My first full day at NAMM was Friday, January 24th, and of course I had to pack as much as I could into one day. Rock N Roll Industries and Rock-n-Roll GangStar Apparel both had a lot of great signings, so I went back and forth between the two. Dave Ellefson (Megadeth) and Angelo Moore (Fishbone) were both at Rock N Roll Industries signing parts of the magazine they were in. Fans and media gathered around for autographs, pictures, videos, and interviews. I had just seen Ellefson, who recently put out his third book, ‘My Life With Deth,’ in September at the Rock N’ Roll Autograph Show and it was good to see him again so soon.
I just happened to walk by legendary guitar player Earl Slick (David Bowie) who was doing a signing at TonePro and jumped in for a picture and an autograph. He really seemed to like the Metal Babe button I gave him too. From there I ran into Jeff and Shawn Duncan from DC4 (who I saw about an hour later doing a signing at Rock-n-Roll GangStar). They had a full house at the Rock-n-Roll GangStar Booth, and it was really cool of owner Darryl Boyd to give me a shout out from the mic. I had been looking forward to meeting Rob Marcello from Danger Danger and was glad I got to talk to him a little bit about the band and their last CD ‘Revolve.’ The Duncan Brothers (DC4) were all there too, and I joked that it had been a while since I’d seen them, in addition to Laurence Martin from the Travel Channel, Hollywood Yates, and Ron Keel.
Chris Sanders is an American rock/metal guitarist and songwriter who is most known for his work with Lizzy Borden, Knight Fury, London, and the Northern Lights Orchestra. I made a point to catch one of Chris’ demos at the Eminence booth and he did a great job shredding for us all. Chris played a white 2010 Jackson RR-1 with Seymour Duncan pickups, SH2 neck, TB4 bridge, Floyd Rose tremolo, and used GHS 9-46 gauge strings. Chris played a selection of instrumental medleys from his Knight fury CD ‘Time to Rock’ as the crowd continued to grow. London vocalist Nadir D’Priest and band members Eric Ragno and Billy the Fist were on hand showing their support the whole time too. Please see the video link below for footage from this performance.
I saw the Alex Skolnik Trio play at Peavey last year at NAMM and I wasn’t going to miss an opportunity to see them play there again. The American jazz trio, consisting of Skolnik, Nathan Peck on bass, and fill-in drummer Scott Amendola, played an arrangement of songs including Aerosmith’s “Dream On” and an original tune called “Veritas.” It had a great melody and made me feel like I was in a gangster movie. Skolnick introduced a song called the “Western Sabbath Stomp” and said it was inspired by ‘spaghetti westerns and Black Sabbath.’ As they started the song, I pictured a bale of hay drifting across a dark desert highway… And then the Sabbath part kicked in. I could definitely hear the influence and enjoyed the contrasts of the two tastes.
Skolnik said they he had been asked on the spot Thursday to play a song with Blue Oyster Cult, (I wish I could have seen that!) and he got up and played “Don’t Fear the Reaper” with them for the first time ever. You never know what is going to happen at NAMM, who is going to be walking towards you, standing next to you, or getting up on stage in front of you. Skolnick said they had a surprise for us and (after a very brief break) came back out with Rudy Sarzo (Quiet Riot/Whitesnake/Dio) and slide guitar master Robert Randolph (Robert Randolph & the Family Band) for Jimi Hendrix’s “Voodoo Child.” I watched for a bit as Robert stole the show! Sliding the guitar from his knees and everything! (Skolnik was changing a string, and Rudy was focused on connecting with the drummer.)
Alex Skolnick was using his signature guitar amplifier: The new Budda AS Preceptor three channel amp with a high-gain head. Rudy Sarzo was playing his signature Peavey Cirrus Series bass guitar, which, as Rudy said in a past interview, “incorporates elements from my original Peavey signature bass and the Cirrus I played for so many years.” This year at NAMM Peavey unveiled five brand new products, including the VYPYR Pro and Sanpera Pro Footcontroller, 1000 Bass Head, MiniMega 1000-Watt Bass Amplifier Head, MiniMax 400-Watt Bass Amplifier Head, and Peavey XR-AT Mixer.
NAMM is pretty much a big rock n’ roll reunion. Social media plays such a prominent role in the music industry, connecting people from all over the world online, and now with NAMM, we have a chance to connect in person. I can’t tell you how many times someone approached me and said we were friends on FaceBook. It was so great to meet everyone in person, take pictures together, and hand out Metal Babe buttons and stickers to new and old friends alike.
There is always so much going on every night; it’s hard to choose what to do. I had planned all along to go to the Epiphone Show at The Tiki Bar with Dive Bomber, Archer, and Lizzy Borden. Everyone attending the show received a raffle ticket and a chance to win an Epiphone Les Paul Standard Plustop PRO guitar. Dive Bomber started the show and played seven songs, including a song about NAMM called “BAMM NAMM.” Kitty from Hear Kitty Kitty joined them onstage to sing a sexy and sultry rendition of Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs.” For anyone not familiar with Dive Bomber, vocalist Nomad is known for covering himself with brightly colored body paint in intricate designs, unique and unlike anything I’ve ever seen. He definitely stands out and makes a lasting impression on anyone within eyesight.
Archer, who is also a three-piece, took the stage next. I could hear a lot of Guns n’ Roses, Van Halen, and Ozzy influence in their set. Ironically, they had also planned to play a Black Sabbath song… The more obscure song “Dirty Women” from Black Sabbath’s 7th album ‘Technical Ecstasy.’ After Archer’s set, it was time for the big giveaway. I was only one number away from winning the guitar; but was happy to see the winner was also celebrating his birthday that night. I am sure winning the guitar made this one of the best birthdays ever!
Lizzy Borden Photos by Daniel MacSween
While waiting for Lizzy Borden to take the stage, I was called outside to take some media pics and had the chance to talk to Archer a bit. As always, Lizzy Borden put on an amazing, interactive, and theatrical performance. Lizzy showcased a brand new mask for the first song “Abnormal,” that he literally got right before the show. Special makeup effects artist Ralis Kahn had taken a custom mold of Lizzy’s face and created a mask that made it look like Lizzy had three faces. It was really creepy, and sometimes it was hard to figure out which face was Lizzy’s and which faces were the mask! Since former guitarist Dario Lorina was recently recruited by Black Label Society, Ira Black filled in on guitar. It was awesome to see Ira back onstage with Lizzy Borden again! The last time they shared a stage was five years ago, when they were on tour in Europe! Lizzy wore blood-splattered clothing the entire time, and changed his masks and props throughout the night. Marten Andersson, Joey Scott, and Ira Black all had a chance to shine during bass, drum, and guitar solos. The first sign of blood was when Lizzy slit his wrist during “Under Your Skin.” Then he asked if we wanted blood. During “There Will Be Blood Tonight,” Lizzy touched the faces of willing audience members with a blood filled-hand. Lizzy Borden closed out the set to a sticky and bloody audience with “Born to be Wild.”
I started my day off on Saturday at the Rock N Roll Industries Booth. They set up a signing for me since I had a full-page ad in the magazine, along with an interview with Richie Ramone. Unfortunately, the magazine didn’t come out in time, so I signed Metal Babe Mayhem postcards and gave out promo items to anyone who came by. It was a lot of fun, and it was so great to have the support of friends and fans who came by the booth. I had set up a signing for Richie Ramone right after mine, and again, it was a bummer he couldn’t sign the magazine. Richie didn’t let it faze him though, and he signed fan’s memorabilia and some 8×10’s for the next thirty minutes. Ben Reagan, who plays both drums and guitar in Richie’s band, was also on hand. Richie Ramone just released his first solo CD “Entitled” on October 8th, 2013 and will be heading out on tour in support of this release. Keep a lookout for a date near you!
I got to Dean Guitars just as they were just finishing up their 1pm signing, and had the chance to see Carmine Appice, Michael Angelo Batio, Uli Jon Roth for a few minutes. I hadn’t planned to be anywhere until 4pm, when Marty Friedman was scheduled to perform at Boss, so I took advantage of the downtime to explore the floor.
I rarely make it all the way to the ‘other side’ of the convention center. However, I made a point to venture to The Venue to see Joe Martinez at FlixFx. FlixFx has a variety of services for both concerts and videos, including props, stage sets, scenic painting, exhibits, and LED lighting. In addition, FlixFx has worked with many major clients including Kiss, Roger Waters, Lady Gaga, Tom Petty, and Madonna.
I ran into Lizzy Borden and Marten Andersson from Lizzy Borden and talked to them for a minute about what an amazing show they had the night before, and told Marten I would come to his upcoming signing at EBS. I had actually visited EBS when I was there on Media Preview Day and picked up a copy of their magazine, and they were kind enough to give me a cute baby doll t-shirt. I went back to their booth to see Marten, Michael Devin, and Bjorn Englen (Dio Disciples/Soul Sign) for a bit, and Michael told me he was really excited to be performing Randy Rhoads favorite song that night; “Mississippi Queen” by Mountain.
I happened to wander into the Gibson booth while Xander and the Peace Pirates were playing. Lead guitarist/singer Keith Xander was playing with a metal hook in place of his right hand, and unless you saw it, you would never know. I really enjoyed brothers Keith and Stuart’s bluesy and soulful musical style and watched them perform several songs on Gibson’s intimate stage.
Saturday night I planned to attend Randy Rhoads Remembered: A Celebration of a Legend at The Observatory. This was a Brian Tichy/Joe Sutton show and the first one ever. The list of All Star Guests was incredible, and the main band included:
Stephen LeBlanc – Keyboards (Jason Bonham’s Led Zep Exp./The Moby Dicks)
Robert Mason – Vocals (Warrant/Lynch Mob/Ozzy Osbourne)
Rudy Sarzo – Bass (Ozzy Osbourne / Quiet Riot/Whitesnake)
Brian Tichy – Drums (S.U.N./Whitesnake/Foreigner/Ozzy Osbourne)
However, I wasn’t aware that this was an early show, and by the time I got there it was over! I knew something was wrong when I walked up to a long line of people in their twenties, and I didn’t recognize a single one. It turns out that the show ended at 10:30 and now it was a ‘dubstep’ night. Total bummer… I went to the VIP party for a little bit, where everyone told me what an amazing show I had missed, and I talked to Neil Turbin for a minute about Wednesday night’s NAMM Metal Jam, before heading to the Hilton. The good news is that Ron Lyon from VintageRock.com was kind enough to let me use his photo from the final song of the night so we could all get a feel for what it was like to be there.
I was really happy to finally make it to The Hilton, which was packed full of NAMM attendees and rock fans. Van Halen Tribute band Hot For Teacher was performing on the main lobby stage. I made my rounds, running into someone I knew every few steps. This is definitely the place to be on NAMM Saturday. I caught up with friends, made new ones, talked to Alex Skolnik for a while, and got my picture taken with Brad Gillis from Night Ranger.
When I got to the show Sunday I checked out The Grand Plaza. There was a row of food trucks and a five-string quartet playing on GoPro Stage. The band introduced themselves as Bunnell Strings and said that they were all siblings. Four girls and one boy, ranging from 18-25 years old, and who had all been playing since a very young age. I watched them perform an intricate classical piece, an original song that one of the siblings wrote when she was three years old about being terrified of giant mosquitoes in Florida, and Beatles cover “Eleanor Rigby.”
Sunday is always the slowest day of the show, and there are very few signings, so it’s a great opportunity to really check out the gear. However, there was one big signing that day…. Dave Mustaine from Megadeth would be signing posters and taking pictures with fans at the Dean Guitar Booth at 1pm. The line is always crazy for his signings, and security is pretty strict, so I secured a spot early enough to ensure I would make it to the front. By the time I got in line, it had already wrapped once around the entire booth. I spotted Michael Angelo Batio there again, and he told me that he had played the last four nights in a row, and was heading to San Diego shortly for night number five! He also recently spent some time playing China (his 8th visit there) and released ‘Intermezzio’ on October 19th, 2013, which has a ton of special guests, including
George Lynch, Jeff Loomis, Craig Goldy, Dave Reffett, and Chris Poland. In addition, Dean Guitars is still featuring two of Michael Angelo Batio’s custom guitars from 2013: the MAB7 – 7 String Warrior and the MAB7 – Classic Black.
The line for Dave Mustaine went rather quickly, and I noticed that Dave took a moment to speak with each fan as they approached him, instead of just sliding autographs across the table like I’ve seen before. When it was my turn, I told Dave that we had toured together on Ozzfest in 1999. I’ve met him several times, but nothing that significant. He was really nice and held my hand for a photo.
I spent the rest of my time at the show walking the floor, trying to cover as much ground as I could. I made my way downstairs to Hall E for the first time since Media Preview Day and noticed a company called Inzane Guitars that can transform the look of your guitar in minutes without removing any of the parts. Inzane Guitars has patented the process of using a two-piece vinyl decal that slides right over the controls, bridge, and pickups, and fits right underneath the strings. They have hundreds of designs available and a 3-Guitars-In-1 starter kit.
Another company that stood out in Hall E was called Tayble. They had wooden tables that looked just like cassettes. They were made of wood, with a 9” storage compartment, LED cup holders (where you would wind the tape) and stainless steel legs. I asked about custom work, and he said that they can do custom orders… So I could get a black cassette that says “Metal Babe’s Mix Tape.” I have to admit I thought they were a bit pricey, but I really like the idea.
The past few years Krank Amplification has had a booth at the show, with a full stage setup and performances from people like Jeff Duncan/Phil Sandoval (Armored Saint) and Frank Hannon/Dave Rude (Tesla). After the performances, the artists always invite fans onstage for pictures and autographs. I was disappointed to find out that Krank did not have a booth this year, and that they actually closed their doors midway through 2013. The good news is that they have created a new company, which they showcased at NAMM called Revolution, and they are still in business servicing Krank amps and doing repairs/service.
Another booth not at this year’s NAMM Show was Rockett Drum Works. I don’t know the details, but I did run into one of their reps, who gave me her last sticker, and said good things were in the works for them. When I spoke with project manager Brandon Leeigh last year, he said they had been working on a reality show called “American Drums” for the past five years. Hopefully they are getting closer to that as well.
Overall, I had a fabulous time at The 2014 NAMM Show. I loved getting to interact with so many friends at the show, make new ones, check out the gear, see so many performances, and meet so many celebrities. For anyone who was there, who has been there before, or who has only dreamt of going, I hope that I was able to share a little insight on what it’s like to be at the show. There is definitely nothing else like it in the world, and I plan to go back again year after year.
I would like to send a very special thank you to my hardworking and dedicated team: Aaron Bennett Dykstra, Russell Finch, Lori Hutchison, Monique Sadie Tedesco, and Grant Masson.