The annual winter NAMM Show has taken place in Anaheim, California, with Slash, Steve Vai, Kenny Loggins, Billy Gibbons, Robby Krieger and more all turning out for the world's largest music expo. The yearly showcase for the worldwide music industry, the 2020 event took place from 15th – 18th January.
Taking over not just Anaheim's colossal convention centre, but neighbouring hotels, venues, car parks, bars and much more besides, musicians, manufacturers, dealers, producers, engineers, promoters, fans and the media came together for the event, which is the global crossroads of the music, sound and entertainment technology products industries.
With more than 115,000 registrants from 130 countries and regions in attendance, NAMM 2020 was one of the biggest yet, following on from 2019’s event, which saw the music world light up in the California sun, and 2018's NAMM which brought the noise.
Following a preview day on Wednesday 15th, Winter NAMM 2020 kicked off proper on Thursday 16th January, with almost 20,000 exhibitors from startups to the behemoths of the industry sharing their latest products, services, and happenings.
While guitar giants Fender debuted new signature models by Rage Against the Machine’s Tom Morello and Slipknot man Jim Root, the new Mustang GTX series and more from their usual residence on the 2nd floor, Gibson presented their latest range a few doors down, in a sizable space that felt more like a concert venue. Featuring a huge stage complete with concert hall atmosphere and performances from the likes of rising guitar hero Jared James Nichols and folk and blues supremo Celisse Henderson, hanging out at Gibson felt more like attending a gig where you could pick up a nearby Les Paul and actually jam along.
Coming after a troubled time for the company that actually saw them absent from Winter NAMM 2018, CEO and President James ‘JC’ Curleigh offered a glimpse into their philosophy during an exclusive chat with eonmusic stating; “we set a pretty simple vision; “let’s be the most relevant, most played and most loved guitar brand again”.
The iconic American brand used the occasion to debut their new lines including the history-making Slash Collection, and the Toni Iommi ‘Monkey’ 1964 SG Special Replica, as well as enthusiastically relaunching their Epiphone and Kramer brands.
Hitting all the right notes, along with new products from Joe Satriani and Nita Strauss, Ibanez launched Steve Vai's new Pia line of guitars in a burst of glorious technicolour both visually, and later, in sound, with an invite-only show which featured all three plus Paul Gilbert, a few days later at the House of Blues.
The British Drum Company also made a lot of noise, pulling in latest signing Nicko McBrain from Iron Maiden, who was on hand all weekend to meet fans, sign autographs, and demo his Icarus Signature kit.
Elsewhere on Thursday, Devin Townsend stopped by Fishman to demonstrate his signature pickup range, Vinnie Appice showed off the Command Series 6-Piece Shell Packat at Sawtooth, and original Megadeth guitarist Chis Poland returned once again (in a repeat of his 2019 appearance) to perform at the Stone Tone booth.
As day one drew to a close, Matt Sorum’s Dyn Audio q&a meanwhile proved both informal and informative, as the Deadland Ritual drummer chatted about his career, from The Cult to Guns ‘n’ Roses and beyond. Appearing relaxed and soaking up the evening sun and the NAMM atmosphere, the Velvet Revolver founder spoke to eonmusic about the differences between playing the band’s ‘Slither’ with former band mates Slash and Duff McKagan, and now with sidekicks Geezer Butler and Steve Stevens.
Singling out “hand of doom” Butler for his approach, Sorum said; “When I’m playing with Geezer and I’m playing the Sabbath catalogue, for me, here I am playing ‘War Pigs’, and I did ‘Neon Nights’ with him from the Dio era, so for Geezer to say; “oh, I want to play ‘Slither", and rehearse it with him, it’s just cool. Steve Stevens is an amazing guitar player as well, so it was cool that they were able to say; “hey, let’s do this”.
Going on to talk about the nuances that the Black Sabbath man brings to the track, Matt said; “[there’s] just different subtleties. It’s maybe a little bit heavier, slightly, based on Geezer”.
It was also the night of the annual She Rocks Awards honoring women in the music industry, with voice of a generation and role model Lzzy Hale, decorated song writer Linda Perry, and original leather clad glam rocker Suzi Quatro all receiving gongs.
Getting the party started however, the Yamaha All Stars Concert on the outdoor Grand Plaza stage ignited the NAMM atmosphere as night fell, and signaled party time as Kenny Loggins set the crowd Footloose during his thrilling set, and Earth, Wind & Fire reminded everyone what Friday night in California is all about; music, dancing, and fun!
Nine inch Nails and Guns 'n' Roses guitarist Robin Fink signed for fans at Reverend guitars, Deftones’ Stephen Carpenter demonstrated his Fishman signature pickup, and Fear Factory's Dino Cazares showcased his powerhouse riffing at Seymour Duncan, while Black Star Riders discussed and played Sawtooth acoustic guitars, acoustic bass and cajon at booth #6752.
In a day of highlights which included a rip-roaring set from Halestorm's Lzzy Hale and Joe Hottinger at Marshall amplification, it was perhaps John Rzezenik of Goo Goo Dolls' intimate solo gig at Taylor guitars that ranked among NAMM's highlights. Putting in a charismatic star turn during which he chatted, teased and proved utterly hilarious, the singer performed a thirty-minute acoustic set, which included hits ‘Name’, ‘Broadway’, and of course, a closing ‘Iris’
Gibson meanwhile, competed with Jackson for the longest queue of the day. While the latter had former Anthrax band mates Scott Ian and Rob Caggiano, former Machine Head man Phil Demmel, and Sepultura's Andreas Kisser, the former staged a joint meet and greet with Alice in Chains’ Jerry Cantrell and Doors legend Robby Krieger.
Founded in 1901, as the 'National Association of Music Merchants', NAMM has evolved from a national retail association into an international association whose members now include commercial companies, distributors, affiliates and manufacturers.
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Check out our gallery from NAMM 2020 below. All shots courtesy of Getty Images.