The doors have closed. The exhibitors have long since packed up their booths and returned to their respective cities. The percussive and melodic echoes no longer bounce off the walls and ceilings of the Anaheim Convention Center. NAMM 2013 has come to an end and all those involved in the music product industry are back to work, pleased to have attended the event, yet somewhat glad that it's over.
Despite the allure and excitement surrounding the music product industry's largest annual trade show, NAMM has its drawbacks. While all the hoopla is well deserved, it's the frustrating aspects of NAMM that aren't talked (or written) about as often as the perks.
If you've been on multiple occasions, the more times you go, the more you're able to contextualize the hustle and bustle and see through the veil of excitement; although you're more than happy to be in attendance, you can't help relishing in the moments you're able to step outside and escape the noise for a few moments.
On one instance, as I rode down one of the escalators to the main floor, a friend comically suggested that we were travelling into the seventh circle of hell.
That got me thinking... could NAMM be hell? Perhaps to the fatigued, jaded pessimist, a compelling case could be made to liken the experience with Dante's descent into the underworld.
Travel with me, as we explore the Nine Circles of NAMM.
You walk up to the looming, massive main entrance. THE NAMM SHOW – TRADE ONLY - NOT OPEN TO THE PUBLIC. You've arrived at The Gates of NAMM. Hordes of individuals crowd toward the entrance and security checks badges and IDs, shoving in those who've sold their soul to the music industry. Welcome to NAMM.
(Photo by David Livingston/Getty Images for NAMM)
First Circle (Limbo)
Immediately, you encounter the First Circle, which is Limbo. As you scale the perimeter outside of the main halls, wondering which one to enter first, you feel tiny, alone, and lost. As you enter the doors, the sound overbears your eardrums and muffles your coherent thoughts. Surrounding you are five massive halls, crowded walkways, a steady decibel level that blankets the entire convention center.
You begin to walk aimlessly, lured in various directions by familiar brand logos. You're pulled in further into the depths of Hall B and something gets the better of you. You start to feel a powerful emotion. You're being dragged to the second circle.
Second Circle (Lust)
You, like the majority of feeble-minded souls, lust at NAMM. Regardless of what instrument you play or what kind of music you like, there's plenty of gear on the floors that make you salivate and rationalize committing horrible, unforgivable acts to acquire the objects of your affection.
When you travel upstairs, the larger exhibits are dimly lit with sexy neon lighting. Never up close have you been exposed to so much gear porn. And you lust after it, you dirty bastard, you.
Then you see the music "celebs". You awkwardly stare at Slayer's Kerry King as he nonchalantly walks past you with a cup of Jager in his hand. You yell out a strong "SLAYYYERR!" in Mr. King's direction, but he doesn't care to respond. "I WANT THAT JAGER," you exclaim, and hop in the long line for overpriced booze.
Third Circle (Gluttony)
And you have your fill of alcoholic treats. After all, you're having a long day – so much to see on the seemingly infinite floor space. There's the food court in the adjacent hotel. A greasy taco truck outside. You stand in line like an asshole because due to the whirlwind nature of the event, you find it perfectly reasonable to spend $7 on a Heineken.
Fourth Circle (Greed)
With drink in hand, your lust starts to turn to greed. You want it all. Hell, you're just as good as a musician as anyone at the NAMM show - why can't you be endorsed by Gibson? The 130th Anniversary Gretsch guitar sure looks nice sitting on display. You have to have it. Then the Eddie Van Halen Frankenstein replica guitar is lured into your grasp and you strongly consider making a swift, sneaky exit from the convention center with instrument in hand.
Fifth Circle (Anger)
Realizing that your skill set doesn't include covert burglary, and that you've just missed a Victor Wooten demonstration at the Korg booth, you start to get angry. You realize you're fighting an uphill battle. You can't see everything. It's impossible.
Sixth Circle (Heresy)
You hear that someone behind you curtly stated how much Jeff Loomis sucks. A heretic! Unacceptable! Dragged further down the pit of despair and no return, you have no choice but to retaliate.
Seventh Circle (Violence)
You backhand the perpetrator. The balding man who looks like he stepped out of Heavy Metal Parking Lot from 1986 didn't see it coming. His overweight girlfriend sucker punches you and kicks you with her spiked Hot Topic platforms. A brawl ensues.
Eighth Circle (Fraud)
As security restrains your flailing limbs, they find out that you used your friend's pass to get into the event. Nearby, good ol' Guthrie Govan observes the whole scene, and as you're dragged away from the TC Electronics booth, you see Guthrie look at you and disappointingly shake his head.
Ninth Circle (Treachery)
You curse NAMM. You've been banned for life. "Why?!" you scream, "why did the industry that I love so dearly betray me so? Why is NAMM such hell?"
Luckily, that's when you wake up in your hotel room in Anaheim. Frazzled, you realize it was just a dream. And at 10:30 am, you have the entire day ahead of you to go nuts in the convention center (and catch Victor Wooten's demo).
(Photo by David Livingston/Getty Images for NAMM)
Rather than pure, unadulterated hell, you could consider NAMM more like Las Vegas. There's a lot of "HEY-LOOK-AT-THIS!" going on. There are some seriously weird looking people there. Everyone is hustling. Everyone is pitching and selling. It's fast-paced, blurry, shiny, impressive, and downright exhausting. But above all else, it's a hell of a good time.
Despite any negative feelings you could get at NAMM, either from an empty stomach or the weight of all the SWAG you've accumulated, NAMM's positive qualities obviously outweigh the minor annoyances.
You're seeing the first looks into what music manufacturers are releasing. The air of excitement often comes from the companies more so than the fans; they are stoked to unveil what's new and improved in what they have to offer the world of music. The new technologies, the latest instrument innovations... it's all there on proud display.
Gear aside, arguably what makes NAMM an even more special event are the people in attendance.
Obviously, there are the artists. To a certain extent, the high-profile musicians that are endorsed by the companies are on display and are raised on a pedestal depending on the event/context, but for the most part, the environment is relaxed enough to where, hell, they're just chilling amongst the crowd. On one occasion, I was outside for a much needed cigarette break and Willie Adler from Lamb Of God walked out with his wife and a few friends. I knew I'd feel defeated if I didn't say anything, as Lamb Of God is one of my favorite metal bands, but I didn't want to be THAT guy. I simply tapped him on the shoulder, said, "Hey, Willie, I just wanted to say I love your band!" He replied, "Thanks, Dude!" Shook his hand and moved on.
And just as people dress up for Comic Con, people dress like they're coming straight off the Sunset Strip from the mid 80s. They don't really dress that way (most of them at least), but that's what's cool about NAMM - it's totally permissible to wear your desired music image on your sleeve.
Stars aside, you also meet a lot of quality, down to earth people and see friends you haven't seen in a while. A particularly special moment came at the Ernie Ball booth on Saturday, which I've now dubbed the "metal hour". It just so happened that a bunch of my friends from various metal bands around the country, all of whom I haven't seen in a while, gathered at the booth. Members of Scale The Summit, The Human Abstract, Art By Numbers, The HAARP Machine, Intervals, Darkest Hour, Nekrogoblikon and Periphery were there just shooting the sh-t and catching up. It was beyond a pleasure nice catching up with those guys, and all the more awesome that everyone was under one roof, enjoying the company of fellow musicians and industry folk.
So even after a long, tiring day at NAMM, when your back hurts and you become desensitized to all the bells and whistles that have surrounded you for hours upon hours, you'll catch a glimpse of something special when you least expect it.
Nearing the end of my first day on the job, I was standing shoulder to shoulder with a young crowd excited to see Synyster Gates appear at a press conference for Schecter. I was exhausted, and frankly not eager to hear what Gates had to say about anything.
Behind me and to my left were a father, his two kids around 9-12 years of age, and a white female friend who didn't seem like the mother based on their conversation. The dad was holding out his camera phone to the woman and cycling through pictures of everyone they had met that day. They must have taken pictures with at least 15 musicians. It became clear that that was what they were there for – to seek out their favorite artists and simply catch an autograph and a picture. The dad was stoked, the kids were stoked, and it was at that moment that it all snapped into place again. Sure, the intensity, the size, the bizniss, and fatigue, can make NAMM seem overwhelming at times. But when you realize you're amongst people who are genuinely excited and elated to be there, who are celebrating all that is awesome about the music industry, you understand it all, and you're brought back to why you're involved in the music industry in the first place.
The woman, humoring the kids, stated, "Wow, looks like you've seen everyone today!"
"Duh, it is NAMM..." the kid replied.
By Zach Pino