Shinybass journal entry 01-29-15

I was in NAMM (that’s NAMM not ‘NAM)…

There is a trade show that makes some people cringe, others celebrate, and most people just say ‘So what?’. The NAMM show – the National Association of Musical Mayhem (or something like that) is a place where a lot of people go to actually work. Here’s the skinny: Music stores, catalogues, and websites walk the floor looking for the latest and greatest musical instrument-related products that will be flying off the shelves this year. There are a lot of upstart companies hoping to make a splash and sell their wares, competing against mainstream manufacturers. The beauty of the whole thing for musicians is that we get to see all the new toys as well.

Musicians are funny birds. Some ‘old school’ guys stick with one guitar or bass throughout their entire career (see ‘James Jamerson’), and others have what is called ‘Gear Acquisition Syndrome’ or GAS. Most of us have a bad case of GAS, which means we are rarely happy with the gear we have, or cannot stand to be one-upped by another guitar player somewhere. It’s just what we do. I have made a promise to my wife that I can’t buy another bass or guitar until I sell something FIRST. That whole ‘I’m gonna sell it soon’ business doesn’t exactly work out all the time.

But trolling NAMM is one of those things that goes deeper than just gear. I went to my first NAMM back in ’97, then again in 2000, and I have been going to a lot of them ever since. In those years, I have made some fantastic friends, and even if it is just once a year, I love seeing them and catching up. It goes way beyond the artist relations/product rep to ‘artist’ relationship. If we were all ditch diggers, then we’d still have the friendships, which to me is more important. This show  was one of the absolute best ever.

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Last year I was joined by Jeff Smith, and it was his first NAMM in a long time. He was wide eyed the whole time, being a gear nerd too, and I got a kick out of watching him check out new gear. This year I was joined by a bass player, my dear friend Amos Heller, and he and I spent about 48 hours together just soaking in all things bass. It’s pretty cool when you can play some things and get immediate feedback from someone with like tastes and smells.

So imagine if you would, two grown-ass men going from booth to booth with reckless abandon (OK, maybe a casual jaunt), in search for the next great tone or 15-string bass guitar. We met some of our heroes, idols, and hung out with a lot of musicians and heard a lot of ‘show off’ licks. I had a quiet exchange with Abe Laboriel, Sr, a sweetheart of a human being who has brought so much to the bass world, and Stevie Wonder walked right by me on the show floor. I mean, it’s effing Stevie Wonder! (Yes, I still get giddy). We also had a great time rapping with Nathan East, bass player to the universe. He’s been on over 2,000 recordings, a pilot, and all around nice guy. Here I’m showing him airplane pictures…

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A gathering tradition of NAMM is a hole in the wall bar called the Sandbox, in the lobby of the Desert Palm hotel. We have been meeting there for years and years, and this year was no exception. We had a remarkable dinner at the Ranch with Dino from Fear Factory and other Nashville/LA friends, and then hit ‘The box’ for a lot of late night shenanigans. The next night we hit the in-famous Hilton hotel, which is the scene of lots of loud live music and amazing people watching. We hung out with friends from Nashville (it’s sad we have to travel 1500 miles to do that…), and found our room later that, um, morning.

The beauty (and the beast – wait for it…) of staying at the Grand Californian Disney is the scenery and the excellent service, but the beast are the limited breakfast options. We shuffled down to the Chip and Dale Character breakfast experience, and were greeted with a conga line of a dozen kids and life-sized woodland creatures singing ‘If you’re happy and you know it’…just tranquilize me. Now. I’m dipping my hands in coffee to wake up, and I’ve got a 6-foot brown bear hovering over the table trying to get my smoked salmon from the $35 (!) breakfast buffet. I can’t make this stuff up.

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I made it home unscathed, un-sick, and un-delayed from the snow storm. I am forever grateful to the fine folks at Seymour Duncan, Eden Amps, Dean Markley, Sandberg Guitars, Yamaha instruments, Noble amps, GHS, Orange, PreSonus and IK Multimedia for supporting my crazy dreams of playing not so bad music around the world. I can’t do it without you.

So there’s my week of madness. We are back on the road this week, with stops in Florida (sorry Northeast), and I will keep you posted on doings and undoings as they progress!

See you on the road!