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KNAC.COM Recaps NAMM Show 2022

By Krishta Abruzzini, Pacific Northwest Writer
Monday, June 27, 2022 @ 10:21 AM

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All Photos By Krishta Photography

As I write this, I remain in a bit of a fog from my several day delirious fever upon returning home from California. Seems the state left me with a parting gift of Covid. Thanks California. I can’t say I wasn’t warned. I spoke to several of my friends living there that told me about the severe red-flag outbreaks. But I’m vaccinated, boosted, I’ve been careful, I hadn’t gotten it in the 2+ years since it started and I’d been out a few times testing the water, getting more and more comfortable with life after the pandemic. So it’s my own fault, I knew the risk going into it.

It was the first time back in-person to my beloved NAMM Show in 2 years since the pandemic, and I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. Worth getting Covid? I wouldn’t wish this illness on anyone…except maybe that one guy…HA! Honestly, I would definitely go again, but with much stricter precautions on my part. We are clunky getting back to normal, and this illness is sticking around unfortunately. We’re just not back to what we were pre-pandemic. We may never be. A new normal may be our reality.

NAMM 2022 was a different NAMM, yet better, sadder, happier, all the emotions at once show.

A popular coined term for NAMM 2022 was, ‘DietNAMM’. Queue Robin Williams' sunrise greeting, “Good morning DietNAMM!” It was by far smaller than previous years, pre-pandemic. In fact, many companies chose to sit this one out, including heavy hitters, Gibson and Fender. There were no large signings by artists. No multiple venue shows in the evening following the day's events. Many artists are on tour trying to recoup from such a devastating loss in revenue from being shut down for so long.

NAMM, The National Association of Music Merchants is one of the largest music industry trade shows in the world. Unlike any other typical trade show, The NAMM Show has had a draw and been on a wish-list to attend for so many. Music truly does bond folks together. It is an amazing tool that has brought joy, empathy and love. Whether it’s a guitar, drum, ukulele, or even a DJ system, it has provided people with relief from stress and creates a unique closeness for people to connect. It is life for so many. This show for so many years has brought all of this together in one setting. I’ve been attending for several years and one has to experience it to understand the uniqueness of this gathering. I hold this show very dear to my heart, as it has become somewhat of an annual family reunion for so many of us. I am beyond grateful to have it back in person, even in its pared down state.

More than 3500 brands participated in this year’s show, down from the 7000-+ in previous years. Many Chinese companies shipped their latest music products to the U.S. and sent their representatives based here in an effort to participate and reach more customers. The number of exhibitors from abroad, including China of course dropped due to international travel risks. This is part of the sadness I described when walking through the event at the Anaheim Convention Center. The bottom level of the convention was completely closed off, which typically is home to many smaller, boutique, mom and pop instrument companies from all over the world. The lack of international representation and over half of the typical brands missing gave many a twang of heartache at the reality that we have not returned to normalcy yet. That being said, albeit a different show than usual, there were so many positives as well. Having a smaller convention made it easier to walk through the event, and connect with the merchants on a more personal level. There were more meaningful conversations and less crowds to maneuver. While it felt less, it created more. I know many appreciated that and it was so good to be back in person.

I started off with the NAMM Preview Day. This is always the opening for the media to get a glimpse into some of the vendor’s instruments that would be displayed the day before the show officially begins.

This year, two vendors stood out for me. First, Ciari Guitars. https://ciariguitars.com/

Displaying the ‘Ascender Standard’, it is a folding (via mid-neck hinge) guitar that fits in a backpack. Designed by legends Grover Jackson and Joe Glaser, it is a beautiful and functional guitar that can be used on stage, studio and best of all, easily traveled with. Most travel guitars can be more of a gimmick, but this one sounded fantastic as well. Ciari Guitars founder and CEO Jonathan Spangler, a traveling musician and patent attorney recognized the need for a premium travel guitar. He set out to design the most innovative, and playable guitar on the market. It’s the only guitar on the market with an ergonomic folding neck that enables it to fit underneath an airplane seat.

The next came from Minarik Guitars. (See photo) Teaming up with Disney, Minarik designed a beautiful limited edition collector’s piece of The Haunted Mansion 50th Anniversary. It was stunning. With lots of ‘Easter eggs’, a black light will reveal a lot of hidden treasures on this guitar that comes with a beautifully crafted custom frame. Owner Marc Minarik tells me that he had met Craig Fraser, who was a licensed artist for Disney and had worked with Jackson and Charvel on other projects. The plan started off as it being a one-time acoustic guitar, but after consulting with Disney, it became a run of 13, unique, hand-built, hand-painted, custom electric guitars. The back of the guitar has a pattern matching the wallpaper in the Haunted Mansion, and features eyes that can only be seen by UV light.The front has a few Mickey’s hidden as well to correspond with the limited number of guitars. All of the artwork stayed true to the original Haunted Mansion sketches by Marc Davis, of course, as Disney would only have it. Marc is presently working to produce more themed guitars endorsed by Disney. https://www.minarikguitars.com/

One of the few (and only) off-site shows I did attend was Rock’N’R; Olivia’s ROCKIN RAG pre-NAMM ALLSTAR JAM, featuring celebrity hostess, Los Angeles award-winning singer/songwriter/guitarist Roni Lee. Larry Mitchell, a Grammy award-winner producer, engineer who has toured with Tracy Chapman and Billy Squier, joined Lee along with several other musicians and bands throughout the evening, playing various songs. Neil Turbin (Deathriders, Anthrax), Jesse Blaze Snider (Dee Snider’s son), Giancarlo Floridia (Faithsedge, Frontiers), Pat Pando (Flock of Seagulls), Limberlost and many others all took to the stage to kick off the NAMM Show. (See Photos)

Other than the instruments featured at NAMM, there are many classes, speakers, seminars and award shows. From Breakfast Sessions discussing leadership and successful business platforms, to safety seminars, to wonderful master classes, such as the one I attended by iconic rock & roll photographer, Henry Diltz. What an incredible treat this was. With many decades, his work has been featured on hundreds of album covers, featured in books, magazines, and newspapers. He shot Woodstock, The Monterey Pop Festival, The Doors, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. One of his most famous photographs is the iconic DOORS picture with them inside the window at the Morrison Hotel. He is not a partner in and exclusively published and represented by the Morrison Hotel Gallery.

Diltz talked about how he would have gatherings at his house, with slideshows. This master class was very similar, with his computer pulling up random shots on a large screen and him talking about each photo. It was as if we were in his home and him talking personally about each individual shot. The famous Morrison Hotel shot for instance was not planned at all. The desk clerk in fact told them they couldn’t use the hotel to shoot any photos as the owner was somewhat of a slum lord and the guy thought he could get fired, or worse. So when the clerk went up the elevator, the guys from THE DOORS snuck back in and Diltz fired off a couple of shots very quickly. It was Christmastime, and you can actually see the Christmas tree lights in the reflection along with a VW bus outside, all of which I never noticed. As a photographer myself, I could have spent days listening to him talk about his photos. In fact, when someone from the convention center came in and let him know his hour was up, everyone in the room called out a very large audible “Boo.” So grateful for the hour that he was there. Check his work out at: https://www.morrisonhotelgallery.com/default.aspx

One of the stranger things at NAMM this year was a show at the Yamaha Grand Plaza Stage, with 2 AI humanoid robots performing with their human bandmates. The robots perform spoken word and poetry. AI scientist Dr. Benjamin Goertzel (keyboardist), and CEO of Jam Galaxy brought a one-of-a-kind experience unlike any other. Featuring Desdemona and little sister Sophia, the robots are programmed using world leading AI technology that draws from a library of artists, poets, scientists and writers with spontaneous AI generated processing, leading to natural language within neural-networks. Crazy and fascinating! No two shows are the same. Check them out at: https://dromnyc.com/event/jam-galaxy-band-featuring-desdemona-robot/

Closing off the evenings, the hotels still hosted their lobby concerts. This is where it felt most like NAMM pre-pandemic. Hundreds of folks filled the hotels with entertainment by various bands getting to perform. I caught an all-girl AEROSMITH tribute called, RAGDOLLS, Saturday night at the Hilton. https://www.ragdolls-band.com/. They were fantastic belting out some early AEROSMITH. Always the best bands get booked and never disappoint. There were many hugs from friends and strangers (Probably why I have Covid now). There was a moment I just took it all in, realizing that nothing is guaranteed. Last time I was there, it was over 2½ years ago. I left then not knowing what the next nearly 3-years would have in store for us. It was at that time I learned there was a weird virus circulating. My friend’s wife had called him during the show and let him know someone at LAX going to the show had tested positive for this virus. We all shrugged it off, having no clue what was to come. So I bask in each moment now and I’m so grateful to have attended this year.

Next year’s NAMM will be held in April, 2023, with the following year, (hopefully) returning to normal in January, 2024.

Thank you NAMM for everything. It was truly a wonderful reunion.

Check out som more photos from NAMM!
All Photos By Krishta Photography

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