Every year in January, the world’s best musicians descend upon Anaheim, California for the National Association of Music Merchants Trade show, also known as NAMM
If there was ever a place that would qualify as Disney World for musicians, it is this place, especially for those who are in the prog world. Here you will find endless stretches of enormous booths from every guitar, keyboard, drum and mic company. There are halls devoted to sheet music or cymbals or studio monitors. There are also numerous booths devoted to harmonicas and accordions too, if that is what you need. But what makes this even all the more special is the artist’s that attend and the amazing performances you might be lucky enough to catch.
Not everyone is allowed to attend since NAMM is not open to the public. You need to be invited by a company, although somehow people seem to find their way in. Nevertheless, here the musicians get to walk amongst the people who really understand what they are about. You will see Jordan Rudess trying out a new keyboard or giving a presentation of a new product, John Pretucci will be showing off some new guitars, and Mike Portnoy will be checking out new gear. Steve Morse, Dave LaRue and Billy Sheehan can be seen just walking around at any time. And those are really just a few out of hundreds. If you see any of them walking around, they are more than happy to say hi and chat.
Of course, they all make themselves available for signings at their sponsored companies booths in an attempt to attract customers over. Here you might catch Guthrie Govan at a Vigier booth or Tony Levin at a Music Man booth or members of Opeth and Animals as Leaders.
Each night during NAMM, various companies represented, put on a unique event or showcase featuring artists they sponsor, and this is where the fun happens. If you are lucky enough to get into one these shows, you might see Portnoy, Sheehan and Paul Gilbert put on a surprise show. Or you might find Ritchie Kotzen jamming with Dug Pinnick, Or you might catch yourself sitting on the floor in a hotel ballroom catching a private showcase from The Aristocrats, as I was luck enough to see a couple of years ago. In fact, The Aristocrats formed after an impromptu performance at NAMM. It went off so well, it was suggested they form a band…and they did.
So if you are a musician and need some inspiration, this might the place, but rest up and bring good walking shoes. You will need them to cover the miles and miles of guitars and cymbals.
Roie Avin is the Editor of The Prog Report website.