Throwback Thursday: 30 years of NAMM

I have been attending NAMM shows since the 80’s. Back then, NAMM was bombarded with guitar builders, amp companies, and shredders. If you could shred, you could get a crowd around you especially in the 80’s.

Earthquaker Devices amp from 2015

Earthquaker Devices amp from 2015

Throughout the years, NAMM has always represented that to me. It got to a point where I started to dislike NAMM. Specifically, I used to get stepped up to by other bassists. I would find myself playing at a booth and another bassist would start shredding right next to me. I hated this competitive element that came about, though I understood it. These musicians worked endless hours on their craft and wanted to get free gear. I just didn’t appreciate their approach.

One year, I went to NAMM with Tim Commerford of Rage Against The Machine. I warned Tim that it gets pretty gnarly with these competitive shredders. Tim was not intimidated in any way so we walked in. We cruised the isles, wanting to check out new basses and amplifiers…what everyone else at NAMM wants to do. At some point, I turn to Tim and I tell him that two dudes have been following us around the show floors.

Photo credit: Premier Guitar (from NAMM 2017)

Photo credit: Premier Guitar (from NAMM 2017)

As the day progressed, these two bass players became increasingly annoying. Tim turned to me with an exasperated looks and thought we should pick up the pace to try to lose them. We start hustling through the convention center and we think we had lost them. Tim and I decide to check out some new bass at a booth that had headphones. I put headphones on and start playing and I get lost in the sound and the bass and after about 5 minutes, Tim is gone and those two dudes are shredding right next to me! I start walking away and one of the guys says “I told you he sucks.”

I find Tim and we bounce from Anaheim. I swear never to go to another NAMM, ever! I end up skipping a year or two…maybe more. I just didn’t want to be in that environment.

Well the 2000’s come in and computer/digital technology impacts the music world immensely. I found myself wanting to go to NAMM again. You want to see how far Protools has come or you want to check out all the software available for recording. The digital world even enters the bass/guitar world with digital pedals and samplers and such.

My point is that NAMM is not the goofy shred show that I once knew it to be. I used to be part of that problem when I was in Racer X. I would parade around with Paul Gilbert and just shred for gear. Now, I really am looking to find what is going to inspire me to make music and sound.

Times have changed, trends come and go, and that macho competitiveness is now all but gone from the NAMM show. (It's still there, just on a considerably smaller level). There's definitely more innovation now, lots of companies big and small, pushing the boundaries of what can be done with sound. A bass will always be a bass, and a guitar will always be a guitar and so on, so what can be done to make things unique? Nowadays, you just might find what it is that makes your sound unique, or the next big invention that will change music forever. You never know what you'll find at the NAMM show these days, it's a crazy weekend but there's nothing like it.

-Juan