By PATRICK O’HEFFERNAN
ANAHEIM – It’s a good thing that the Anaheim Convention Center added the new North Hall because NAMM is really using it.
Attendance hit 101,000+ and it showed, especially in the major guitar showrooms which were packed wall-to-wall.
The news from the floor is about one of those guitar brands: Gibson, which is back in a huge way. The Gibson Room (its old 2017 location) was double-sized (actually two connected rooms, one for guitars and one for Gibson Brands), and featured a major stage large enough for a 10- or 12-piece band, work stations with rows of guitars to practice on, and a lineup of talent that kept the room buzzing. The other major guitar makers like Fender, were also out in force and at times the area was too crowded to actually move around in.
Gibson slimmed down its offerings after last year’s bankruptcy, but the iconic Les Paul and Standard models were there in sufficient numbers for the crowd of players to try them out. Its other brands like Epiphone, Kramer, and Steinberger instruments were prominently displayed and available for test driving.
NAMM’s new hall, the ACC North, was built to contain the tech revolution in music, but it couldn’t; tech booths spilled out into the guitar, drum, cases, and other topical areas. And DJ equipment was plentiful throughout NAMM’s halls, mirroring the spike in EDM and DJ’s. From turntables to lights to special effects and speaker systems, there were dozens of booths full of spinning equipment. One of the most interesting was the Hercules DJ Control booth.
The Hercules booth deserves a special mention. The company introduced its new DJ Control Inpulse 300, a model designed for beginners but with features and power for serious DJs and did a very smart thing. It set up and promoted “Learn to be a DJ,” 15-minute teaching sessions. Scattered throughout its booth were workstations consisting of Control Impulse 300 units, speakers, headphones and an experienced DJ who gave “students” a quick lesson in the concepts and basics and then guided them through a hands-on session of their own. The entire lesson from one of the stations was projected on a big screen at the back of the booth, attracting a good deal of traffic and giving looky-loos an idea of what DJ’ing was all about.
Microphone technology booths were also scattered through the halls, many with artists demonstrating the products or just singing. Vendors ranged from tiny shops making very specialized custom equipment, to recognized names like Sennheiser Electronics, which had a major booth just inside the ACC North. One of the most fun was Monheim Microphones booth.
Monheim Microphones is a company with a small line of performance microphones and channel strips, Monheim has a good musical following and a knack for marketing. Although its booth was off to the side of Hall E next to a glitter materials vendor, they brought in three high-powered entertainers who use their products, the Hopi Blues Band, Alicia Blue and the very popular Lauren Ruth Ward, drawing a crowd so large that it blocked the aisle.
Marshall Amplification occupied its usual second floor space with walls of speakers, amps, headphones and cabinets dominated by a stage with big name talent, mostly English, including the alt rock drum and guitar duo REWS and the blow-your-head-off metal band King Creature. The Marshall space is not as large as Gibson or Fender down the hall, but when Alice Cooper guitarist and soloist Nita Strauss was signing autographs there, it seemed to hold at least as many people as the double-wide rooms.
Today, Elle King will be on the Lennon Songwriting Bus in the Plaza, and there will be concerts by Sarah Elizabeth Charles & SCOPE, Nina Francis, Love and .38, Natalie Gelman and about a hundred other performances at booths and stages in the halls. The night will be capped off with the She Rocks Awards at the nearby Anaheim House of Blues, a glittering red carpet event that will feature a tribute to Janis Joplin with performances by guitarist Orianthi, Australian vocalist Vanessa Amorosi, and singers Judith Hill and Emily Armstrong of Dead Sara. Awardees will include BERLIN lead singer Terri Nunn, GRAMMY Award-winning singer Macy Gray, Platinum selling and GRAMMY Award-winning singer-songwriter Lisa Loeb, Alice Cooper guitarist Nita Strauss, and co-writer of the hit “Despacito” Erika Ender.
Patrick O’Heffernan is the host of Music FridayLive!