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Junkman's Annual NAMM Recap

By Junkman, On-Air Personality
Friday, March 11, 2005 @ 9:32 AM

Our Man in the Trenches, DJ Ju

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So here we are. A brand new year. A time to look back and reflect, a time to look forward. 2004 for me was quite a year. Plenty of accomplishments, plenty of surprises. Plenty of the good and bad, in just about every area. 52 weeks of life as we know it, different for every individual on this planet.

January, for many, is the worst month of the year. But for me it holds at least one of my favorite of the above mentioned 52 weeks.

That would be the 3rd week of January. This is the week the winter NAMM Conference and trade show hits the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, California. Now I’ve mentioned this in past articles, but for those who are “out of the loop,” NAMM stands for National Association of Music Merchants, in other words, the retailers, manufacturers, and endorsees of musical products gather to display the new products for the coming year.

Of course, there are others involved in attending this convention. The press, for one, and this is how I attend, at least for the last few years. In the past, I have worked at just about every aspect of the music business. From wholesaler and retailer of music products, to performer, to broadcaster and journalist, I have always been faithful to my first love, the business of music played by musicians.

I say BY musicians for this reason. With the advancements in technology the last several years, ANYONE can make music, with the application of tools supplied by this very industry. This is great for some because it simplifies the process of having to learn to read music and practice, therefore expanding the market, and creates the almighty dollar. But to a purist like myself, nothing can create the magic of music created by a master trained musician.

Not everyone feels this way and that’s just the way it is. To some, the magic is whatever is “hot” or new in terms of trend. Some even pay more attention to the LOOK of the performer as opposed to the sound, and I’m sure many will agree with me that this has become far too popular the last few years. Technology, as I mentioned earlier, has made it possible for non-musicians (can you say lip sync?) to make music that the average moron will buy and enjoy for a few weeks until something “hotter” comes along. Kind of like buying a disposable lighter before you realize that a ZIPPO will last and perform a lot better.

Luckily for me, I have more than just this forum to give you my opinions about the business that I love, so I will not go on any further about the pros and cons, at least in THIS article. I must proceed to the purpose of my attendance: TO TELL YOU WHAT I SAW! As well as what I did, who was there, what I heard and what was new. Believe me when I say, it’s always a good time.

Thursday: You’re Nobody Until Somebody Gives You a Laminate

Thursday morning 9am. I park my car and check to make sure I have everything I need. My back-pack is filled with digital and analog recorders, pens, paper, ear-plugs (of course) badge holders and lanyards, and a TON of business cards. This is the weekend that I make more contacts than most of the rest of the year, and to not have a business card is a mistake that I will NEVER make again. I speak, of course, from experience. Come prepared!

I proceed to the press registration desk and pick up my badge. YES, you need a stinking badge. Although it’s always funny to see a hot looking blonde woman who’s badge says her name is “George.” Every year they say security will be tighter than normal, but I don’t notice much of a difference from years past. My MEDIA badge allows me access to the press room, which has a couple of Macs set up for the purpose of checking your e-mails. Thank God the signs on them say, “10 minute time limit when people are waiting,” because there is a good size line of folks waiting there. I check my mail and am happy to see a few of the vendors have mailed me and told me of events happening at their booths, as well as a few of the sponsors of the many NAMM concerts that will be happening during the weekend reminding me to pick up my “laminates” to get me in.

You know you really have gotten some place when you have a “laminate.” These are the laminated “all access” or “V.I.P” passes that you usually see dangling from a road crew member’s neck at concerts. When I was a kid, going to concerts, I used to dream of getting them to get the best view of the band, after usually sitting in a shitty bleacher seat after spending a night in the rain outside a record store to get tickets to see that band in concert. For members of the press, and for groupies as well, these are golden in that this means you can go anywhere you want, and for me, that’s what matters most when you want an interview. It’s also for me, a “right of passage.” I know I am, in somebody’s mind, important when I am given a laminate. Respect in my field of interest so to speak.

So, feeling pretty good about myself, I now encounter my next dilemma. WHICH shows will I attend? Thursday night’s Guitar Jam in Long Beach is out for me because of prior commitments. This featured George Lynch (more on him later) Michael Schenker, with both Robin McAuley AND Graham Bonnet scheduled to sing with him, Gilby Clarke, Bruce Kulick and Frank Hannon from Tesla, amongst others.

Journey? No. Black Label Society? No. Megadeth? YES!

I focused on Friday night’s assortment of entertainment, and what would be most interesting to me and the readers of this article. Although I was on a very hard-to-get-on guest list for a special concert by Journey at the House of Blues in Hollywood, I knew that after a day of being at NAMM, I would never make the trip to West Hollywood in time to see them, so ruled that out. I also ruled out going to see Black Label Society at the House of Blues in Anaheim also scheduled for Friday night and sponsored by Guitar World, amongst others. I figured the easiest way of covering events was to stay on site, and it turned out to be a good decision as far as I was concerned.

Although, as it turned out, the Journey show was a great show from what I heard by the people who I know who attended told me. And the thought of Zakk Wylde and Black Label Society tearing it up in the heart of Disneyland is enough to make you salivate with anticipation on the chaos that could only be likened to letting a bull loose in a china shop. I made my way over to E.S.P. guitars and saw my friend Allen who placed two laminates in my hand. The choice I made? How about the E.S.P. 30th anniversary celebration featuring Megadeth and George Lynch Band in the Pulse Nightclub, which is a little bar connected to the infamous Lounge at the Anaheim Hilton. E.S.P. was rolling out lots of new models for 2005 including the James Hetfield “Truckster” guitar, and the Dave Mustaine “Axxion” guitar, amongst others, and would be the scene of a lot of appearances of musical talent over the weekend. Check out ESPguitars.com for more info on their exciting new products for 2005.

Okay. One down. But that still wasn’t enough to satisfy my taste for the ultimate concert evening. I made my way to the Dean Markley booth, the scene of some of my favorite NAMM experiences in the past, and the home of some of the coolest and most approachable staff in the business. I greeted staff member Mike who invited me to the Dean Markley Jam at the Galaxy Theater in Santa Ana, also scheduled for Friday night. Okay, I can do this -- the Galaxy is on my way home, so I can hit the E.S.P. show and THEN go to the Galaxy. He promised a memorable evening, as he gave me my V.I.P. laminates. He also showed me the new Dean Markley GTI guitar and bass tuners and the CT3 chromatic tuners, available now, at www.deanmarkley.com. Impressive stuff.

While at the booth, who shows up but guitarist Yngwie Malmsteen and his lovely wife. “Junkman,” he says. “Are you coming to the jam at the Galaxy tomorrow? Its gonna rock.” Abso-fucking-lutely! He then gives me a quick interview inside the performance booth where he stated that there will be some new Yngwie music soon and promised to come on my show and talk about it. He then recorded a quick station I.D. (in one take I might add) for my show on KNAC.COM and posed for a picture. What a great guy. I’ve heard of him being not so nice to people but he sure was nice to me, and he then thanked KNAC for always supporting him and then he was off to sign autographs at the Markley booth to a huge crowd of fans.

I thanked the Markley people once again and proceeded to another of my favorite booths from “NAMM’s past,” Peavey electronics. “Hey dude!” I was greeted upon entering by the always friendly Dave Ellefson, former bassist with Megadeth and current bassist with F5, a kick ass band, that can be heard on KNAC.COM. Dave works for Peavey in artist relations. He ALWAYS has time for me, when it comes to showing me the latest Peavey creations and letting me in on who will be appearing at their booth. He explained that Guitar God Joe Satriani would be appearing at the booth on Saturday to talk about the new Peavey JSX 212 amp. He then gave me a… guess what? A laminate, that got me into the invite-only press conference. More on that, later. He then pulled out a copy of Bass Player magazine in which he wrote the feature article about “Remembering Cliff Burton,” the late Metallica bassist. Busy dude, that Dave, sounds like a great read, and I plan on checking it out soon. Peavey, as always, had a huge list of people to sign autographs all weekend as they always do. I listened to a bit of a live performance from members of the Hellecasters, and I was on my way to the Schecter guitars booth to obtain, yes, you guessed it, yet another laminate for their party on Saturday night at the House of Blues in Anaheim.

Schecter always puts on a great party, and this year’s would be no exception. Headlining the show would be Papa Roach, and as an added bonus… FREE BEER!!! Woo-hoo! I was greeted by the Schecter folks and got my passes and we reminisced about last year’s party at the same venue, which featured live music from Seether and free Jagermeister and Grey Goose. Needless to say, we had a good time.

So, since my work at obtaining passes to the events I wanted to see was such a success, I decided to check out the rest of the booths and see what was up before heading out for the day. I ran into many folks who I knew and met some new ones as well. Saw bassist Jeff Pilson and his wife, KNAC DJ Ravinderand their ADORABLE baby daughter walking the floor. Jeff told me that he’s busy on a number of projects, one of which is playing in Foreigner, which should be interesting. It was quite a day for bassists, as I also ran into my buddy Chuck Wright, who plays bass for Quiet Riot and his friend Rick Phillips who is the bassist for Styx. Quiet Riot will be hitting the road for quite a few dates and have released a CD of previously unreleased material. Styx will be coming to a town near you, and from what I’ve heard, it’s their best show in years. I was told that Styx member Tommy Shaw attended NAMM this year, although I didn’t see him. Go figure, first day of the NAMM show and there was actually somebody that I didn’t see!

Friday: Two Deans, a Dimebag and a Dio!

As I mentioned earlier, I had a prior commitment for Thursday night and I made it an early night. This would probably be my last time to get some sleep for the next few days, so I crashed some time around midnight. Friday morning came and I dashed out the door, armed with my trusty back-pack and a huge cup of French roast coffee (no, not Starbucks, screw them!) and hit the road.

I made it to the press room at around nine thirty as the sounds of bag-pipes and drums filled the air, courtesy of the band that plays in the convention center foyer every year. This is a welcome sound to these ears of partial Scottish heritage. And as I have mentioned in previous NAMM articles, it’s an unofficial “Welcome to NAMM” anthem to me.

Upon entering the room I bumped into my friend, guitarist Ronny North, (www.ronnynorth.com) who has graciously offered to let me play drums on a track of his latest CD. We chatted for a while and he headed off to one of the many booths that he would be appearing at over the weekend. In the press room I encountered Robert Tuozzo, a fellow journalist, and editor of 22nd Century Rock Magazine. He was as psyched as I was, and we compared notes on the upcoming weekend full of entertainment. Check out www.22ndCenturyRockmagazine.com for more on them.

Doors to the convention hall opened promptly at 10 am, and I made my way along with thousands of others in an orderly direction. Everywhere, there was a fashion statement. Lots of aging, long-haired men in poodle cuts and mullets, and bad comb-overs. Plenty of girls in way-too tight slacks, and too-mini mini skirts for their own good. Non-sensible shoes were also in plentiful supply, and you just knew that people in high-heeled boots and platform shoes would be in pain by the late afternoon. I’m normally not one to judge, me being of the bald-head, jeans, KNAC.COM tee-shirt, (available on our MERCH PAGE) and comfy shoes, but this place can really make you laugh out loud sometimes.

I wandered over to the Dean Markley booth just in time to meet Jon Anderson, singer of Yes, one of my favorite bands when I was growing up. I told him that I had seen their tour this past year with Dream Theater, (great show) and he asked me if I would be attending the Dean Markley jam that evening. “But of course”! I replied, and he was nice enough to take a photo with me.

I also was introduced to the man -- Dean Markley himself! A very nice gentleman who was very cordial, and, was very pleased, as I told him how friendly his staff has been to me over the years. I thought about waiting around to get an autograph from Rick Springfield (“Jesse’s Girl”) who was about to appear at the booth but my senses got the better of me and I moved on.

Dean Guitars and Damageplan

Made my way over to the Dean Guitars booth and was very taken by their tastefully done tribute to Dimebag Darrell. (If you haven’t seen our previous article featuring it, click here.) It featured a HUGE video screen atop the booth that had a loop of Dimebag performing a guitar solo, as well as framed drawings of his, and designs for guitars that he wanted made. Many of his guitars were displayed including the original “Dean from Hell” and his guitar and stage gear from the December 2004 ‘Devastation Across the Nation’ tour. I saw many people become quite somber upon approaching this booth, and kudos to the people at Dean Guitars for assembling such a beautiful tribute to a lost friend.

As I entered the booth, guitar great Michael Schenker was there signing autographs, and before the weekend was over, Vinnie Paul and members of Damageplan would visit and greet their fans. As you can imagine, the booth was packed all weekend long. There was quite a buzz in the crowd about the Dimebag tragedy, as it was the first time that so many people who perform on stage, just like he did, had given me their perspective on the performer’s point of view. It must be quite frightening for ANYONE in this business to know that at ANY TIME, a senseless act like this can occur, and just to know that this is always going to be a possibility, can be quite sobering. My heart goes out to anyone who has developed any kind of fear of performing in public since this incident.

I decided it was time to take a break and get myself something to eat, although at the Anaheim Convention Center, the choices are limited. I grabbed a burger, and as I found a seat, I ran into the guys from Silvertide, a great band I had seen at the Roxy Theater in Hollywood the Tuesday before the convention. If you like good old-fashioned rock ‘n roll, kind of like the Black Crowes meet Humble Pie, (oh yeah!) then this is your band. These guys flat out rock! Their live performance is one of the best shows I’ve witnessed in the last few years, and I’ve seen a lot of them. They told me they will continue to tour and should be coming to a town near you. Check out their site at www.silvertidemusic.com if my opinion matters to you. You can hear their song “Mary Jane” played on KNAC.COM, and I recently listed their CD Show And Tell on my “Top 10 CDs of 2004.” A great band, check ‘em out.

Maiden, Exodus and the Man on the Silver Mountain

Nourishment temporarily taken care of, I made my way to meet a friend at the Paiste booth. I have used Paiste Signature Series cymbals on my drum kit for years and decided to see their new products, which are always of the highest quality. The first person I saw at the booth was Iron Maiden drummer Nicko McBrain, who, upon recognizing my KNAC.COM shirt, extended his hand and exclaimed “‘ello mate.” Nicko told me that he would be performing at the Fender Fret Fest, at Loffler’s Nightclub in Anaheim, on Saturday night, along with Pat Travers, Tony Franklin, Brad Gillis, Alex Ligertwood and Bobby Kimball, among others. Great show, it sounded like. And, knowing that I would be at the Schecter show the following evening, debated on finding a, yep, you guessed it, LAMINATE to get into the Fender show, again, on my way home. I asked Nicko what everyone wants to know, “When is Iron Maiden going to play in the USA?” He mentioned something about August 2005, which, to me, makes the recent rumors about them playing Ozzfest 2005 a distinct possibility. Nicko was nice enough to pose for a picture with me, and promised to keep us at KNAC.COM informed on the latest Iron Maiden info. Needless to say, the thought of Maiden in 2005 got me exited enough to “up the Irons” as I bashed away at the latest Paiste creations.

Bumped into Jack Gibson, bassist for Exodus, and he told me about their search for a new singer, and, as you probably know by now, its none other than their former guitar tech Rob Dukes. I’m looking forward to seeing Exodus with Rob sometime this year. Jack said they were getting TONS of audition tapes before deciding on a guy that already was part of the Exodus family. Sounds like a wise choice.

As I was speaking to a friend of mine in front of the Paul Reed Smith Guitars booth, a crowd of people and security guards was moving towards us. As I turn to see who was causing the commotion, a friendly face extends his hand. It was none other than Ronnie James Dio and his entire band! “How are you, my friend?” he says, and the whole crowd stops. We chat about the tour he just finished and about the plans for Dio in 2005. More touring, DVDs and CDs to be released, as well. As I have mentioned before, Ronnie is, and has been, the most cordial, friendly, and approachable man in the business. I have never met anyone who makes me feel more welcome to be around him than this gentleman. He always has a kind thing to say about KNAC.COM and today was no exception. I said hello to the rest of the members of his band who were waiting very patiently for our conversation to end, as were their escorts, since there was a huge crowd forming that was blocking the aisle. Off went the members of Dio, to the Dean Markley booth, and off I went, to check out more products and “people watch.” Shure Microphones and they handed me a very cool T-shirt. I’ve used their products for years and the SM-58 has always been the standard in terms of live performance. At the Marshall booth, Jim Marshall was there as he always is, autographing stuff for an ever-growing line of people. KRK Speakers displayed their quality studio monitors and I also visited the Tascam booth, who recently added my good friend Marsh Gooch (guitarist for the Lectric Chairs) to their staff.

By now it was getting pretty close to the hall closing down for the day. I wanted to get some dinner before the concerts started, so I headed over to the Anaheim Hilton. In line at the restaurant, I spotted Phil, guitarist for an awesome L.A. band The Drills, (www.thedrills.com) and he invited me to join him for dinner. I had seen his band at the Cat Club in Hollywood a few months back opening for another awesome band Red 37, and was blown away by their performance. Once again, check ‘em out.

Mandatory Hilton

Dinner was fabulous, and I made my way into the bar at the Hilton, the scene of so many classic NAMM stories over the 20 or so years that I’ve been attending the event. Back in the day, this was THE place to hook up, be it with a hot looking lady, or have a drink with your favorite rock star, reacquaint yourself with a long lost friend, or watch a drunken fool make an ass out of themselves (coughaljourgensencough – Ed.), all of which I am guilty of in years past. Hell, after a long day of business, this is the place to unwind. Many of the best business deals in the music business have been made in this very bar. Kind of like the golf course in other lines of work, although I’m sure many deals in the music biz have been made on the “back nine” as well.

This year, there were stages set up all over the Hilton lobby, with different bands performing. It’s a beautiful lobby, with a fountain at its center. Add a stage, live music, and portable bars and you have quite the Friday night party. A loud one, at that. I did notice a big decrease in the amount of women that usually show up, badge-less, intent on hooking up with the rock star of their choice for the weekend. And, with that in mind, proceeded to the E.S.P. 30th anniversary show at the adjoining Pulse nightclub. My buddy Evel Dick (yeah, that’s his name) and I went inside, and were presented with gift bags containing, among other things, an E.S.P. 30th Anniversary Zippo lighter. I LOVE free stuff! We made our way up to the bar (naturally) and, since it was pretty packed in there, immediately got separated. Well, if we were girls it would probably be major drama, but we both knew enough people around there to talk with and, since I see him all the time anyway, (he manages the Lighthouse in Hermosa Beach) I found a spot near the tiny stage and stayed there for most of the performance.

Megadeth and a Galaxy of Guitar Stars

The show started out with a performance by the Agentz, a band comprised of E.S.P. staff members including Vice President of E.S.P. Jose Ferro on bass, and sales manager Jason Giles on guitar. At around nine-thirty pm, George Lynch and his band tore into the opening notes of “Unchain The Night” and proceeded to whip the crowd into a frenzy for the next hour or so. The set included Dokken favorites like “Lightning Strikes,” “Into The Fire” and, of course “Mr. Scarey,” as well as Lynch Mob favorites, “River of Love” and “Wicked Sensation,” as well as a KILLER version of the old Deep Purple rocker “Stormbringer.” Among those I spotted in the crowd were KISS/Grand Funk/Union guitarist Bruce Kulick and his brother Bob Kulick, Lit guitarist Jeremy Popoff, Quiet Riot/House Of Lords bassist Chuck Wright, and this very inebriated chick who kept flashing me her tits!

After a brief intermission, Allen Steelgrave of E.S.P. introduced Megadeth, who blasted into “Blackmail the Universe,” from their new CD The System has Failed. They continued with the new stuff like “The Scorpion,” ”Something That I’m Not,” “Die Dead Enough,” “Kick The Chair,” “Of Mice and Men,” and “Back In The Day” before a few members of Exodus joined them onstage for “Symphony Of Destruction” and closed the show with “Peace Sells… But Who’s Buying?” Dave Mustaine and Co. sounded in top form, although afterward Dave admitted to being nervous being in such a small place, so close to the audience.

I headed out to the Galaxy Theater in Santa Ana to catch what I could of the Dean Markley Jam and as I entered the back stage area, it was a virtual who’s who of rock and rollers. I was greeted by Warren DeMartini of Ratt who had played earlier in the evening and always is most friendly, when I see him around. Jon Anderson from Yes, who I’d met earlier, was onstage doing a solo acoustic version of “Your Move/Yours is No Disgrace.”

According to my friend Michael Magic, host of R2 Cents, a Bay Area rock show, (www.R2cents.org) the show opened up with Jon Anderson singing “Long Distance Runaround”. Next up were the Sonik Elements, which featured members of Earth Wind and Fire, (complete with horn section) blasting out some EWF tunes, as well as a version of Jimi Hendrix’s Band of Gypsies’ “Who Knows.”

The “King of the Surf Guitar,” the legendary Dick Dale, accompanied by his young son Jimmy, were the next performers. Jimmy really makes his dad proud, and the two of them pounded out some serious guitar licks as the crowd loved every minute of it. These two would be all over the convention halls in the next few days as I would see them wherever I went.

Guitar shredder Neil Zaza was next, and gave the crowd a taste of his skills as he ripped it up on the six-string. Former Extreme guitarist Nuno Bettencourt then hit the stage with his band Population 1. After a smokin’ set, they were joined by Jane’s Addiction/ Porno For Pyros singer Perry Farrell. They opened with “Stop” and Farrell was his usual insane self onstage. Farrell then introduced “Lucifer in Leather Pants” -- Warren DeMartini, and the band tore the Galaxy crowd up with “Sympathy for the Devil.”

Former Extreme/Van Halen/Tribe of Judah vocalist Gary Cherone joined the band for a rousing version of their Boston-based brothers Aerosmith’s classic “Toys In the Attic.” DeMartini and Bettencourt doing their best guitar lick trade offs. Continuing with a version of Thin Lizzy’s “Jailbreak” (with Nuno singing), and Cherone leading the band in a version of Ratt’s “Way Cool Junior.” The crowd, absolutely loving every note, was by now in a frenzy.

Jon Anderson again returned to the stage and, with Nuno Bettencourt handling harmonies, sang “I’ve Seen All Good People,” the Yes classic, and got the crowd singing along by segueing into John Lennon’s “Give Peace A Chance.” It seemed like this festive crowd could actually carry a tune!

Next bassist T.M. Stevens and Living Color drummer Will Calhoun, along with Neil Zaza pounded out a slammin’ version of James Brown’s “Get Up (Feel Like a Sex Machine),” before being joined once again by Nuno Bettencourt and Gary Cherone for the old Extreme song, “Get The Funk Out.” My sincere thanks to Michael Magic, for the information on this part of the show -- “You Da Man!”

I made my way from the backstage area to the upstairs lighting booth to visit my buddy Fejj, who is the production manager at the Galaxy. From there, I witnessed the return of Yngwie Malmsteen to the Galaxy stage. I had seen him there a few months ago and he was terrific, tonight would be no exception.

Joining him onstage were his drummer, the amazing Patrick Johansson, bassist Rudy Sarzo, and as a special guest, joining them on keyboards, wasDream Theater’s Jordan Rudess. Yngwie and Co. treated the crowd to some amazing instrumentals mixed with a few classics, like “Voodoo Chile,” and “Smoke on the Water,” with Yngwie on lead vocals. Yngwie was clearly having a good time, flinging his guitar around his neck and playing it with his teeth, a real showman.

After leaving the stage to a thunderous applause, out came bassist Joey Heredia, Project 1’s drummer, Jordan Rudess, Nuno Bettencourt, and on guitars, Skid Row’s Dave “Snake” Sabo, and George Lynch, fresh from his appearance earlier at the E.S.P. Jam. They whipped up a heapin’ helping of Jeff Beck’s “Led Boots,” with all three guitarists trading solos as well as some fine work from Jordan Rudess. Snake then dedicated a moment to Dimebag Darrell, and said some kind words, to which the crowd reacted with a nice applause. Then Van Halen’s bassist Michael Anthony came out and led the band in a rockin’ version of VH’s “Somebody Give Me A Doctor” that drove the crowd wild, Lynch and Bettencourt doing justice to this Van Halen classic. Continuing with “Aint Talkin ‘Bout Love”, Gary Cherone returned on vocals and the band blasted out “Mean Streets” and “Play With Me,” from the first Extreme record. Michael Anthony turned the bass back over to Heredia, and the guys played an unbelievable version of Aerosmith’s “Walk This Way”. Neil Zaza returned, and the band finished off the evening with some serious Led Zeppelin, beginning with “Rock ‘N Roll”, and blowin’ the roof off the place with a totally rocked-up version of “Communication Breakdown.” The crowd naturally went nuts, and it was a great way to end an unforgettable show. The musicians and the crowd were so pleased by what they had just witnessed.

I made my way backstage and everyone was congratulating each other on a job well done. I spoke briefly with just about everyone that played that evening and all were glad that someone from KNAC.COM was there to cover the event, and dammit, I’m just the guy to do it!!! Once again, major props to the people who played, and especially the good folks at Dean Markley and the Galaxy Theater for making it all happen, this one really kicked major ass.

By now it was late, and as I made my way out to the parking lot, all I could think of was how amped up I was after an awesome day, but at the same time totally exhausted. I hung out with Patrick Johansson and my friend Bjorn for awhile, and Patrick gave me a CD of some solo stuff he has been working on. I looked at my watch and it was about 2:30 am, and I had to get up early. After all, it was already Saturday, traditionally the wildest and busiest day at NAMM, so off to bed I went…

Saturday: Drumroll, please…

8am came much too early and I arrived once again at the Convention Center at around 10, still sucking on my extra large coffee that had become like plasma to me, as I tried to wake myself up and be coherent. There was quite a buzz in the crowd heading inside since there were so many shows on Friday night, it seemed like everyone was comparing notes about what they saw and what they didn’t see and what they heard, etc. I was still in a blur as I made way into the convention hall and headed for “Drumland,” also known as Hall D, where most of the drum booths were.

I’ve been a drummer for many years, and, on the way to “Drumland,” I passed the Ludwig Drums booth, where on display, was an exact replica of Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham’s Amber Vistalite drum kit, from the Song Remains the Same era. I reminisced to when I owned a similar kit, although mine contained more drums and was crystal-clear, (at one time anyway before a fire at my guitarist’s house). This was the kit that I sold to fund my trip out to the west coast, way back when. And though that drum kit had very special meaning to me, the trade off has been to my benefit, I believe. And, to my listeners on KNAC.COM, as well.

As I stood there telling stories about that kit to my good friend Steph, I saw Quiet Riot drummer Frankie Banali talking with Todd Trent from Ludwig. Frankie has been a Ludwig endorser for many years, and has assembled an exact copy of John Bonham’s “Green Sparkle” drum kit. The original was on display at the “Rock & Roll Hall of Fame” in Cleveland , Ohio, (a great place to check out, by the way) before being moved, as I was told by his son, Jason Bonham, to his house in England . Frankie is a great guy and we had a few laughs and he promised to keep in touch and visit us at KNAC.COM before the ‘Rock Never Stops’ Tour, featuring Quiet Riot, Cinderella, Ratt and Firehouse this summer. Quiet Riot also hits the road in Europe in February. Check out www.frankiebanali.com for more info.

I made my way over to the drum area and just grabbed a pair of drumsticks out of my bag and started bashing stuff. Not just a great way to wake yourself up, but a great way to relieve tension. Sabian and Paiste cymbals are great places to try new stuff, as is the Zildjian cymbals booth .Lots of new designs at all three of these companies, and if you are a drummer, this is a necessity.

A huge crowd at the Pearl percussion booth caught my eye. I wandered over and inside a booth was the amazing drummer Virgil Donati wowing the crowd with his playing. He has just joined the new “super group” Soul Sirkus, featuring singer Jeff Scott Soto, guitarist Neal Schon and bassist Marco Mendoza. They have a new CD out and it's great, although the drumming was done by Deen Castronovo, not Donati.(Did I just say “not Donati?”) Pearl drums have come a long way in the last few years, and their new drums are wonderful.

Speaking of wonderful drums, the Drum Workshop booth is always a treat, but the ones that I thought were the coolest of all were the ones made by my friends at Orange County Drum and Percussion Inc. Unbelievable, hand made shells in various sizes and thickness, with absolutely the best colors I have ever seen on drums. These guys do outstanding work, and are old friends of mine as well. Check out www.ocdrum.com. I promise, you will be blown away!

Satriani, King, Lachman, Wylde and Lots of Hot Chicks

It was now time to head back over to the Peavey booth, as it was time for the great Joe Satriani to conduct a press conference to introduce the new Peavey JSX 212 combo amp that was being added to their Signature Line. I showed my laminate (go figure) and was allowed into the sound booth and got a seat front and center as the place filled up rather quickly with press members and retailers alike.

At 1pm Joe Satriani made his way up to the stage, although guitar-less! I asked him how he was feeling as he had just gotten over a case of pneumonia, which had forced him to cancel his recent West coast tour. He said he was much better, although it had taken a lot out of him. The tour has been rescheduled and I plan on attending.

Joe spoke to the crowd about the amp, which he has been working on, with the staff at Peavey, and answered questions. During which, surprised everyone by holding up a Music and Sound Award plaque presented to Peavey on the JSX Head being voted “Amplifier of the Year” by Music and Sound Retailer Magazine. Quite an accomplishment, and congrats to the folks at Peavey for, once again, designing an outstanding product. The JSX 212 sounds like just the right combo amp for guitarists to find that “Perfect Tone.” Go to www.peavey.com for more info on this, and many other Peavey products.

I made my way over to the EMG pickups booth to visit with my good friends Hap Kuffner and VP of marketing Jack Nau. These gentlemen are the best, and are always friendly. Over the years we have had a lot of laughs. Appearing at the booth was my friend, Ted Aguilar, from Death Angel. He told me about the new Death Angel box set Archive and Artifacts currently being given away on the KNAC.COM contest page. You MUST see this band live if you are a fan of thrash, and want to see it performed the right way, by masters of their craft.

While at the booth, I kept being approached by people I knew, so much so that people started to ask me about EMG products, thinking I was a staff member! I spoke with JJ Farris, from Red 37, an outstanding new band that also features Matthew Nelson (yes THAT Nelson) on bass. He gave me a copy of their new CD, and its been in my CD player ever since. Go to www.red37.net for more info.

Also stopping by the booth, were adult film actresses Taylor Wane and Tiffany Minx, and we had a lot of fun taking pictures and telling stories about the convention. Guitarist Kerry King from Slayer and Pat Lachman from Damageplan came by and signed lots of autographs. A huge crowd followed Zakk Wylde past the booth and he said he would stop by, later but I don’t believe he did. I had a memorable interview with him at this very booth a few years back that I will never forget. He’s quite a guy and it seemed everywhere he went, there was chaos, and, knowing Zakk, that’s just the way he prefers it to be. “Oh the humanity!”

Also bumped into my friends from the Iron Maidens, an all-female Iron Maiden tribute, and, one of the coolest live acts in L.A. These girls kick ass, and there is nothing better than listening to Iron Maiden tunes played live (incredibly tight, by the way) by five hot chicks! Check out www.theironmaidens.com to see where you can see them perform, and a lot more.

Ran into many others as well. Mikey from Soulfly was one. My friends Jugulur. were another band that stopped by. They have recently added a new singer by the name of Tank, and their single “Torn” is now being heard on KNAC.COM. Former Great White bassist Dave Filice was among those I spoke with while still at the EMG booth, he has been playing around town as of late, and I seemed to keep running into Great White members past and present throughout the weekend.

I thanked the guys from EMG for letting me hang out with them in their booth for so long and we promised to hook up later for drinks at the House of Blues later in the evening, which turned out to be an understatement. Go to www.emgpickups.com and check out their line of products. The aisles of the convention center were filling up as it was now late in the afternoon, also known as “musician wake up time.” Saw lots of folks who literally had just gotten out of bed. Then there were some who did not but just had that “Goth look” about them. One was former Marilyn Manson/Halford guitarist John 5, who was there with his lovely fiancé Aria Giovanni. John put out an excellent solo CD this past year and I recently saw him play with his new band Loser, who sounded great. When I asked him if he’d like to be on my show on KNAC.COM , he replied, “For YOU, anytime.” Nice to know that there are people in this business that feel that way. And speaking of “Goth,” I went to the Coffin Case booth, makers of coffin-shaped cases for guitars and such. As an added bonus, there, signing autographs and posing for pictures was my friend, the ultra-sexy Jasmine St. Claire, all decked out in leather. Wanna see some hot pictures? Go to www.coffincase.com and enjoy.

Back at the E.S.P. booth, I thanked Allen and the good folks there, for a wonderful time the previous evening. E.S.P. was packed all day with appearances by members of GWAR,Atreyu, Stephan Carpenter from Deftones, Bruce Kulick, as well as George Lynch and Dave Mustaine, who I spoke with, briefly, about the previous night’s extravaganza. They all signed autographs and spoke with fans for hours. The aisles were, by now, looking like New York’s 5th Ave. at Christmas time, filled with people ogling at the latest innovations and having reunions with old friends and wondering, “Is that who I think it is?”

One of my favorite booths is the Ernie Ball/Music Man booth. Every year, they go all out, and get dressed up in a theme. This year, it was a biker bar setup complete with hot rods, a garage, and all the employees dressed as everything from bikers to motorcycle cops. Spotted at the booth were Dream Theater’s John Petrucci, guitarist extraordinaire Steve Lukather, Albert Lee and Deep Purple/Dixie Dregs guitarist Steve Morse, who was not only performing at shows throughout the weekend with Dixie Dregs, but celebrating 20 years as an endorser of Ernie Ball products, by helping introduce the new Steve Morse Y2d signature guitar to the fine line of Ernie Ball products. For more info on this and lots more, go to www.ernieball.com.

Disney’s Last Resort

By now it was getting close to closing time in the convention hall, so my friends and I decided to head out to the House of Blues in Anaheim for the Schecter Guitars-sponsored show by Papa Roach. The HOB Anaheim, for those of you that did not know, is located in the “Downtown Disney” area of Disneyland. Its kind of a hassle to get in there, especially if you are in a hurry, as most of the people heading over there are toting small children who are fascinated by everything they see, and make frequent stops while driving and walking.

Nonetheless, we made it with plenty of time as the line wasn’t very long and they were just starting to let people in. Apparently, we made perfect timing as I was told later on, that there were many people being turned away. This was due to the fact that there were far too many passes handed out. It must have sucked, having a laminate and not being allowed in. Especially because the security people at these events are pretty clueless as to handling situations such as these, with any tact.

We made our way to the bar and… TADAH!!! FREE BEER!!! Decided to woof down a $10 burger, (Disney, sheesh!) and headed into the music hall downstairs. Over the P.A. system I hear, “Hey Junkman.” I look to the soundboard and I see our own DJ Will, host of “The Vault” on Sunday mornings on KNAC.COM. Will is supplying the music for the event, and we chat about the conventions happenings for a while. The room starts to fill up and we make our way up to the patio where the bar is jamming. I spotted many members of the music community in attendance that I knew, including my friends from EMG, and KNAC.COM DJ’s RJ Stone andAJ Motts. We toasted the convention many times, with many cocktails. In other words, we got “soused.” Hell, free beer and rock and roll, that’s what most of us LIVE for. Many thanks to JP Simoes, and the good people at Schecter, (www.schecterguitars.com) for once again throwing a killer party.

At around 10:15, a representative of Schecter came onstage and proceeded to lead the crowd in a toast to Dimebag Darrell, once again, of course, a recurring act throughout the weekend, and spoke of a “Tribute to Heroes,” therefore, recognizing our troops in Iraq. He also spoke of Schecters involvement in “Guitars For Kids”, an organization for young people who want to play guitar.

At 10:20 Papa Roach hit the stage and completely rocked the packed house with a killer set of tunes including “Last Resort,” “Broken Home” and “Scars.” I was blown away by how tight this band is live, as it was the first time that I had seen them perform. Guitarist Jerry Horton is a long-time Schecter endorser, and really rocks. Singer Coby Dick (or Jacoby Shaddix, whatever he goes by, these days) is a true performer. You can catch them out on the road with the F-Ups and Skindred, coming to a town near you. Just log on to www.paparoach.com for the latest info.

Alright, so now, after even more cocktails with my fellow music business peeps, I’m pretty well tapped out for the day. My friends drop me off at the Hilton, and I decide to see what was happening up at the bar. I take a lap or two around, and decide that its time to hit the hay, as I wanted to check out some more stuff at the convention the next day. So, after running into some VERY drunk girls that I had met earlier, and hearing their stories about who “tried to pick them up,” I headed home.

Sunday: The Day From Hell

Sunday at NAMM, traditionally is very different. This is the last day of the convention, and most business already been done, a lot of people take the day off and head home. This is also the day that many in the business take their “significant other” around the convention halls to show them off, or to show them what all the fuss was about the last few days.

For others, exhibitors especially, it is “The Day From Hell.” Many of them hung-over from a big party the night before, getting up on a Sunday and dealing with people, can be an excruciating experience. Combine that, with the fact that the NFL playoffs are on, and well, Sunday couch potatoes, you get the picture.

I made my way to the Peavey booth for some serious wake up music. By that, I meant I witnessed an outstanding performance of what can only be described as “Flamenco Fusion” by a group consisting of Dirk K and Dan Sistos on flamenco guitars, J.K.Kleutgens on bass, and the great Glen Sobel on drums. Unbelievable musicianship was what it was, what a way to wake up on a Sunday morning!

For me, it’s a day of thank you’s and goodbye’s to various vendors, as well as time to check out Hall E, located downstairs in the basement. This is where a lot of the new products are. Many of them untested yet and a great place to try things out. Lots of electronics and new guitar companies, of course. But also other things like free hearing tests, (a MUST for anyone around loud music), machines for making guitars, speaker enclosures, and LOTS of guitar pick companies.

I also encountered many charitable foundations, such as Lucky-Pix, a company started by a couple of very nice 14-year olds that sell necklaces made from guitar picks, and donate money to charity. Go to www.lucky-pix.com for more info. I was pleased to see that there was quite an interest in getting kids interested in playing instruments at this year’s NAMM. More so than in years past, it seemed to me. I would hope that the general public’s common sense is starting to realize that a child who plays an instrument is much more focused than a child that does not. I don’t want to go off on a rant here, but that’s just MY opinion…

Ran into some friends of mine from the Huntington Beach area, who call themselves “Girls Night Out.” They are three extremely talented singer/guitarists, (Tricia Freeman, Sissy Martin and Deanie Hennessey) who perform locally, and can harmonize like angels, and sing the blues like nobody’s business. I sat in on drums with them at one of the booths, and we did a few numbers to an admiring crowd. They then did an a cappella version of “The Star Spangled Banner” that stopped people in the aisles, and when they finished, the crowd burst into applause, and the business cards started being exchanged. Go to www.deaniehennessey.net or www.TriciaFreeman.net for info on where you can see them perform.

I made my way upstairs to the Roland electronics booth, and decided to immerse myself in their selection of electronic drum kits. Roland is THE place for all things electronic, and I put on a pair of headphones, sat behind a set of their V-Drums, and for the next hour or so, shut out the rest of the world, and entered the realm of drumming. There are literally HUNDREDS of different drum kits set into every Roland drum module and I probably played most of them, before giving way to a kid who had waited so patiently for me to finish, that I almost didn’t even notice he was there.

Totally refreshed, I made my way to the Modern Drummer booth and bumped into Poison drummer Rikki Rockett, who was amongst many other drummers who had made it out on a Sunday. Modern Drummer is pretty much a bible for drummers, and has been around quite a long time. Pick up an issue at your favorite music store.

Speaking of drummers, one of my idols has always been -- Carmine Appice, who I now consider my friend -- is now a Slingerland endorsee and his new drum kit was set up at their booth and I made the most of the opportunity to get behind it and bang on it a bit, as well as pose for a picture or two. Due to scheduling conflicts with his tour with Vanilla Fudge, Carmine unfortunately did not make it to this year’s NAMM.

I then stopped by and spoke with the makers of Metro Pad, a drum pad with a built-in metronome, a device that helps drummers with their timing. This is a product that I am proud to be an endorsee, and I have taken my Metro Pad to the KNAC.COM studio on occasion to bang away as I do my show. They also have similar devices for conga players as well as many other products to help students become percussionists. Take a look at their website at www.educationalmusicaccessories.com for more information on this and more.

By this time, it seemed like everyone had started to gather around whichever booth was broadcasting the NFL playoff game on their TV set. I noticed a big crowd gathered at Pearl as well as the Zildjian booth to view the game. Amazing what a flat screen TV will do for “booth traffic.” That and free stuff. Yes I LOVE free stuff. LP, (Latin Percussion) hands out plastic conga-shaped “shakers” at their booth. Basically, they are filled with rice, and make a maraca like sound when shaken. These are great for on spot jam sessions with acoustic guitarists and the like. Of course, I visit this booth every year, and have quite a collection.

What It All Comes Down To…

Other booths give away stickers, and personalized guitar picks, and T-shirts, candy, lozenges (very helpful for guys like me that talk a lot,) bottle openers, breath mints, and even drum heads. But, of course, the most popular and foolproof way to attract people to your booth, has always been, HOT LOOKING WOMEN WITH HUGE BREASTS, DRESSED IN SKIMPY CLOTHING!!!

Yes, this is the case for many booths, and thank God for that. The legendary “Dean Girls” were at the Dean Guitars booth again this year, in all their glory. I mentioned the Coffin Case booth with their cast of lovelies, BC Rich guitars always has a group of “hotties” as well. I’ve gotten to know a few of these girls who make quite a good living at trade shows by looking good and handing out fliers and stuff. Ladies, if you can do it, more power to ya!

For years I sold pro audio equipment, like DJ supplies, lighting, and P.A., systems. The front of the convention hall, including the Anaheim Arena, is dedicated to these products. You can hear the big “thump” as you pass any of these booths as “turntablists” show off their skills, and you can check out the latest lighting effects and fog machines. A big part of this area is Pioneer electronics, which has made a big jump into club DJ gear. They are revolutionizing what I always was interested in my days as a nightclub DJ, the importance of video. I always loved to play videos on a big screen as part of my show, but to sync-up tapes was nearly impossible, and technology at that time, frustrated me. Pioneer has solved this problem with the DVJ-X1 Digital Video Turntable, and the VSW-1 Video Switcher. A club jock can now easily “beat mix” DVD’s to keep the “attention-span-challenged generation” of club goers watching something other than ESPN, when they hit their favorite dance spot. Go to www.pioneerelectronics.com for more info on this and many more exciting products.

Its funny, but I found myself not spending too much time this year in the pro-audio section. In years past I had usually reserved at least one full day for checking out all the new stuff in this area. But, the fact of the matter is that I don’t spend a lot of time in discos, per se, anymore. As I have mentioned before, I worked as a club jock for many years, and this is how I became associated with KNAC. I then progressed to pro audio sales, and made LOTS of contacts in this business.

But these days, when I go to a club, the interest for me is LIVE music, which has always been my main interest anyway. Hip-hop and techno (or whatever the fuck they are calling it this week) are what’s big in dance clubs. An entire generation has been made to think that that is all there is. This to me is very sad, and the fact that there are no music programs in public schools only amplifies this.

You can blame MTV and its programmers if you want to, that’s your prerogative. You can bitch all you want about the state of radio programming these days, (still no rock station in Los Angeles?) or the fact that your favorite club for live music has turned into a combination disco and karaoke lounge with a sushi bar and a $20 cover charge, complete with a mandatory $6 valet parking and a bathroom attendant that wants money for handing you a towel, and a coat check girl that wants a tip as well.

Or, you can seek out venues and groups of people that embrace live music, and the people that create it, produce it, write about it and support it. This is what brings me to the NAMM convention every year, and, as the show came to a close, I knew that this was the community for me. Seek and ye shall find.

On my way out to the parking lot I saw a 6-year old kid carrying a guitar case bigger than he was. I asked his father whether or not he was the smallest roadie I had ever seen, and his father replied, “Nope, the kids been playing since he was 3 years old.” I asked the lad who his favorite guitarist was and he said, without flinching, “Django Reinhardt.” His dad smiled and gave me a wink. I knew then that this kid gives me hope about the future generation. Just when you give up hope about the state of the music business these days, along comes a kid like this, who is taking the traditional approach to music appreciation. This is what will ALWAYS be supported by NAMM and I thank them for giving people like him a place to convene. I’ll be back next year to see more just like him, you can bet on that.

A big thank you to all the vendors, endorsees, friends and family, (you know who you are) as well as the administrators, especially Paki Newell and all at the Lippin Group. I hope you enjoy this article and it gives you some insight to what the winter NAMM is all about, whether you were able to attend or not. You can catch me on KNAC.COM, the “Loudest Dot Com on the Planet.” Rock on.

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