NAMM Show 2013, or How I Spent $20 On 2 Pizza Slices

photo copyLooking for something non-Super Bowl related to fill your morning with? Since the big game doesn’t start till 2ish (I think), I thought I’d make good use of the day and finally process the NAMM show.

What is NAMM you ask? Well, to be honest, despite having attended the convention four or five times, I had to look it up. It stands for, the National Association of Music Merchants. Basically, a long time ago, somebody asked: How much leather can we fill the Anaheim Convention Center with?

Actually, the NAMM Show is the place to be if you are involved in music retail in any way. There are booths (sometimes entire rooms or floors) from every brand of gear you’ve ever heard of. For gear heads, this is like Disneyland—yes Disneyland is literally right across the street, but you get the idea. Even the most motivated gear head could probably spend all four days of the event without seeing everything. It’s that big.

NAMM is a member only event, or closed to the public, and I generally get in through connections. I’ll give you a hint, it’s definitely not my Uncle.

What makes NAMM interesting for non-gear heads, like myself and say, my wife, is that whenever a musician is “sponsored” by a company, they generally are contracted to come to these events. In another words, you run into a lot of interesting people. Well actually, you just run into people. Especially on Saturday, holy geez, that’s a lot of people.

But B-list music celebrities autographs was not my thing this year. I actually did enjoy some of the gear exhibits. My wife and I spent half the day at Disneyland and half at NAMM. Yes, that is a lot walking. What is my point? We prioritized our time and saw the good stuff.

So here are my top 5 reflections of the NAMM Show:

AXL Guitars. I was completely surprised by this brand. Their guitars were gorgeous and felt great. AXL is on the cheap side, though that’s not exactly a drawback. I would compare them to Ibanez as far as the quality. Another great feature: Made in ‘Merica!

JAMHUB. It was great to run into these entrepreneurs. Last year, my former band looked into Jamhub as a way to solve our practice-volume dilemma. You can check out the website but here is a quick gist: It’s a practice box that everyone plugs into. Each band member has their own monitor level and there is no external noise (unless you are playing with acoustic drums). Pretty cool.

Airborne. This is not a fancy new music company. No, I’m talking about the actual vitamin induced tablet you drop into water. This is what we should’ve taken. My wife was sick all week after NAMM and we didn’t put two and two together until a friend posted on Twitter about the “NAMMthrax” virus going around. Next year, be prepared! That many musicians should never be in one building.

Duesenberg Guitars. I may or may not ever be able to afford a guitar from this American made brand, but a boy can dream can’t he! I don’t really know much about these guys other than their guitars stopped me dead in my tracks. I’ll take the Starplayer III please.

Tim Armstrong Fender Acoustic. There is so much to like and not like about this statement. Tim Armstrong acoustic? Fender makes acoustics? I’m not so sure about this. Yeah, I don’t know why, but this was

Bonus: The food left something to be desired. In another words, it was disgusting, super expensive, and the lines were longer than the new Cars ride in California Adventure. Note to self: Sneak in a granola bar next year.

One last photo:

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Rider’s Block: A Bus Story

Life getting you down? Hitting writer’s block? Need a little inspiration?

This last weekend my wife and I went to Anaheim for the NAMM Conference and for Disneyland. If you’ve never been to NAMM, or don’t know what I’m talking about, I would suggest googling it for a quick answer. This is not a blog about NAMM—although I may still write one.

This is not a blog about Disneyland, churros, or turkey legs either, though yes, I will probably write one soon. That new Cars ride in California Adventure sure is something special.

No, I have something far more interesting to write about. See, I rode the bus today. The city bus. Yeah, I washed my hands.


When you ride public transportation in a new area for the first time, as I did today, there’s one thing to learn and remember: On the city bus, everything is tolerated except for holding up the driver. In another words, ask quick questions, have your money ready, and mount the steed. It’s worth noting that every one is either crazy and filthy, a college student, or a combination of both. So if you don’t know the rates or exactly where the bus is going, keep confident and don’t stress over it — you’re doing fine.

The first gentlemen I talked to was a middle school teacher in Cayucos, CA. He was nice. We talked about guitar, which I teach, and art, which he teaches. There were brief discussions about the economy and the weather. His name was Eric.

Eric left about half way through my hour long ride somewhere in Morro Bay. Not long after, my new best friend and his dog jumped on board. He didn’t have any money and somehow convinced the driver to let him on.


First, he sat across from me. The lady next to him happened to be afraid of dogs and it became uncomfortable quick. “Is that a service animal?” she asked with a snarl.

“Yes,” the man answered, never turning his head towards her. He was dressed nice, an older man with a weathered linen, brown-suit and a fedora that left me jealous. His dog, Wiley, sat in his lap and was well behaved.

It’s hard to figure out some people on the bus. He had all the makings of a normal guy and if I hadn’t heard his fare finagling from the street, I would’ve assumed him as such.

“Is that a service animal,” the woman repeated the question with an even uglier snarl.

“I told you,” he said, raising his voice, “How many times do I need to tell you?” The bus fell silent. Finally, the old man looked at me. “That taken?” he asked, pointing at my seat sounding copy

I shook my head, not wanting to offend him as he already displayed his temper. You hear stories about the bus, about people who are normal one second and then start throwing feces the next. I guess I was worried he was a loose cannon or something. Or that he would try to sell me socks filled with pidgin feathers. You never know.

Anyways, he stood up and moved towards me. He was large which was interesting; considering he had his dog, it was tight fit between the two of us.

“Some people,” he said, adjusting himself. We were practically leg to leg. Wiley sniffed me. “Where you goin’?” the old man asked.

“Back home,” I said, “in SLO.”

“You live there? Any open rooms? I’m looking for a place.” I look down at Wiley, he looked at me. I shake my head. “Figures…”


There was nothing magical that happened, or dangerous really. The bus is like that. It takes you out of your comfort zone just enough to make you notice. I ended up talking to the old man about writing, college, and Herman Hesse. He smelled a little weird, but overall, was nice enough. I never figured out if he was crazy.

Right now, he’s probably wondering the same about me.