HOT DAMN, IT'S NAMM!
Chris Duarte went to the 2013 NAMM Convention in Anaheim, California on January 25th with his wife Tomomi. He sent in an e-mail about his experience there:
"Back in my early days of playing it was always a dream to be endorsed by one of the Big 5: Gibson, Fender, Marshall, Ernie Ball and Exxon (well, maybe Exxon doesn't belong there but it sure would've been nice). And the pilgrimage that every musician wants to make, much like religious zealots or pious devotees, is to attend a NAMM show (National Association of Music Merchants) once in your life (with the ultimate goal to have a endorser pay for you to attend!) This was like a seat in Olympus (at least you felt that way even if your endorser was just a duct tape company!) True Story: CDG's first endorsement was from a duct tape company back in 1997, the result of a promising first release and an anticipated follow-up sophomore release. Our 'wave' of popularity had yet to level off and companies still inquired about our image and services. Back then I was so turned around with seeking endorsements that I equated endorsements with self-importance. You just couldn't wait to start getting the free stuff; yearning for the day when I'd never have to set foot inside a music store again and deal with frustrated weekend-warrior guys who wielded their power of 'price reduction' to either bleed you or watch you dance as the price was always juuusst outside your reach ooh! I was easy to accommodate, though, and only needed strings, picks and the occasional cord that might break out on the road. These were the days of simplicity, before an abundance of pedals that didn't rival the number of stars in the galaxy, so my visits were usually short. One endorser that paid for me to attend a NAMM Convention was Rivera Amplifiers out of Southern California. Paul Rivera makes great amps and over the years I have been fortunate to have been given several units for my own pleasure and for use on the road. Other than giving one of the smaller amps away, I still have and use all the amps Rivera has given me. That NAMM show was a great experience and I got to meet some of my idols and other revered musicians who I held in high esteem.
The 2013 NAMM Convention in Anaheim, California, was different because I went on my own dime. I wanted to make the best of my investment and thank my endorsers who have been with me a long time, such as GHS strings, and others such as Pro Sound Communications, Xotic Guitars (and pedals like Mojohand, Moollon, and Guyatone!) I have some more endorsers but they were not in attendance at the showlet's (it's not cheap to get a spot there). The preliminary groundwork had been done and I had contacted all my endorsers to let them know I would be at the show and available in any capacity to promote their products. Regardless of whatever they decided, I would at least drop by and give them my gratitude.
Tomomi and I arrived the day before and took up residence at the Desert Palms Hotel, a mere 5-minute walk from the entrance of the vast and expansive NAMM Convention. I came ready to work and increase my visibility and validate my relevancy in the music biz. The convention will start tomorrow and I am ready!"
NAMM: DAY 1
Waking up before my alarm rings has always been a peculiarity of mine. I still require an alarm clock (now with the changing times it's my phone) for those times when I've gone to bed very late and the next day's itinerary is a strict one. And it's always my most vivid dreams that get interrupted in these conditions, too (sigh). So I stretch and get ready to run. Another habit I do, a month before I go get my yearly physical, is exercise and diet and then my results appear as though I've been blessed with the health of a 25 year old! Today it's raining outside (a rare event I was told here in Southern California, giving the poor ol' Colorado River a reprieve for the day) so it's the mini-gym for me. I started on the treadmill with just me in the room and even after some fairly fit guys came in it was still me running to nowhere sweating out my frustrations while my rational side counted down towards my goal of 45 minutes. I finished, grabbed a towel, gulped a bit of water and went back to the room.
My wife was already up and working with another Japanese woman who was a music reporter obtaining interviews and videotaping products from various companies to compile into a podcast catering towards a Japanese audience. My wife was working as a translator for her so the interviews went smoothly and the speaking cadence had as few linguistic bumps as possible and conveyed the correct meaning, too. I've found myself in awe when trying to understand different tongues in the world and the most intriguing aspect to me is the assorted ways there is to get from point A and to point B when explaining subjects and topics. It just fascinates me how navigating one's own language can rise to the highest form of art at times and yet can be parsed with the most extreme economy. After they left I took a short walk to the NAMM Convention. The new location is much bigger than I remember last time and has three levels. The upper levels are just big conference rooms of varying sizes as opposed to the ground floor which was a wide-open affair that was divided into patterns that Euclid would approve of. Each booth sub-divided the rectangles and squares into various degrees and each hall had three connecting passageways in the front, middle and back. The big companies of course had the most visible space with tall displays that were easily seen from any point in the halls, unless you were shadowed or obscured by a big competitor or company. The Marshall booth was a guitar player's wet-dream, with one side a huge wall of Marshall full stacks! You can't help but wonder what would it sound like if all those amps could be hooked up to one guitar! You either had a comical or awe-inspiring reaction to such a sight, depending on your point of view when you came upon it. For me it was awesome, and then I chuckled. You also see great musicians walking amongst plebeians such as I - David Hildago from Los Lobos, Lee Sklar, Steve Bailey (a friend of mine), Stu Hamm, Ritchie Kotzen...all were walking around unmolested by the masses. Various demonstrations were going on and just about everything you can imagine associated with music was being sold or represented. Everything from stands and clips that can hold your I-pad (in case you've forgotten the lyrics) to booths selling conductor batons.
The first thing I had to do was go to all my endorsers' booths and give thanks for all the support and products they've given me through the years. One of my most cherished and longest endorsers is GHS Strings. Before I got my endorsement with GHS I used different strings, but once you get strings for free I became a GHS man through and through (and besides, since I change strings before every show they only have to last me three hours and then they're gone). You really get spoiled to that "new string" sound. I need fresh ones cuz' I'm such a physical player and the strings have to be strong and new to endure what I ask of them. I had contacted all my endorsers prior to the event and most of them politely thanked me and told me it wasn't necessary to come by. I know I'm not selling out arenas, posting big numbers on I-tunes, or placing high in the charts, yet that doesn't diminish my grateful attitude towards each of them. These companies can yank away my endorsement and it wouldn't change their sales one bit, but they've stuck with me and for that I am forever grateful. After jogging the memories of the reps at GHS (''Remember me?") and talking for a few minutes, I proceeded to my other stops - Xotic guitars and pedals, Moollon pedals, Mojohand pedals, and a refresher to Fender to visit some old friends. I started to freestyle it a bit and browse and noticed it was getting really crowded.
By far the worst place to go is where the bulk of the drum companies are. Oh my God, what a cacophony it was! One of my endorsers was on the periphery of the drumzone purgatory and I couldn't imagine how they endured the aural and mental torture. I asked if there was a higher fee for more placid real estate and my impression was that it was left up to the "committee" and for the lesser brands it was let the chips fall where they may. I've seen examples of the human body and spirit being able to overcome the most arduous and extreme conditions known to man and this was right up there with them.
I'm not a big fan of music stores and don't have the money to go into them and buy everything I want. Lots of times I've encountered "the frustrated musician" who works there. Their way of venting the bile they've built up (due to their not being able to get out of playing stale cover gigs or never getting enough gigs to pay the rent or their shattered dream of not being known as a regional hero) is with a crystallized, sharp, and professional jealousy personified. Okay, maybe I'm being a bit too dramatic with my adjectives, but when you run into one of these human landmines, and you will, it's a residue that doesn't fade in a timely manner. The NAMM show was starting to take on the appearance of a giant, bustling, intense music store and it wasn't long before a voice in my head was saying, "I'm outta' here!" But I hung in there and was actually glad I did. Occasional visits with my wife helped temper my distaste that welled up within me. That and being joined by my good Hot-Rodding buddy Johnny Hunkins, who happened to bring along his newly completed '68 Chevy 2+2 with an awesomely loud engine inside it and looks to back it up. We managed to make a day of it and left the place laying "tracks" out in the parking lot - icing on the cake for all the miles we must've walked and the chats with reps and artists with minimum props.