The 2016 edition of the NAMM show was the biggest yet. Thousands of exhibitors, buyers, performers, guests, and media descended upon the Anaheim Convention Center to view, test out, make connections, and broker deals. As exhibitors duked it out to show the superiority of their products, one could not help but notice spontaneous lines forming and snaking around the floor. At the head of the lines was the one aspect of NAMM that is sure to garner buzz and attention: artist appearances. Whether it was a performance or a signing, industry members are a sucker for the opportunity to meet one of their favorite musicians. There is no doubt the question of the show was “Excuse me. What is this line for?”
Day one of the 2016 NAMM convention got off to a rousing start as the halls of the Anaheim Convention Center were packed early and stayed that way throughout the day. As most of the unveilings were to begin after noon, a line stretched from the Reverend Guitars booth. At the beginning of that line was none other than legendary Smashing Pumpkins front man Billy Corgan there to promote his Reverend Billy Corgan Signature BC1 model. While often perceived as a reclusive guy, he was rather at ease meeting his fans, though not entirely comfortable with having his picture taken. Most people in line were surprised that he would even do such a signing in this hectic of an atmosphere. Not only did he, but his autograph was reminiscent of many Smashing Pumpkins album covers and artwork. All in all, a great start to NAMM with one off the biggest names to appear this year and a good beginning and buzz for Reverend Guitars.
As crowds wandered in and out of each booth, some of whom stopped by the cash bar, hundredsof Eagles fans could not pass up the opportunity to meet former guitarist and “Hotel California” co-writer Don Felder when he stopped by the Ernie Ball booth. This particular line was unique in that
it was mostly made up of an earlier generation (i.e. noticeably older compared to fans for most ofthe other artists). Having the highest selling album of anybody at NAMM, it was quite a surprise how he took the time to engage every fan, sign anything, and take pictures. As a result of the slow moving line, it was cut off early, leaving some disappointed. It only goes to show, any NAMMgoer must decide if it’s worth an hour’s wait to meet some of their favorite artists if it means missing out on visiting some exhibitors on their list.
Another highlight was Steel Panther’s Satchel (Russ Parrish) demonstrating his pick ups at the Fishman booth. The crowd steadily grew as he cracked jokes and touted the advantages of the Fishman brand. Noticeably more Grated than usual, Satchel invited several fans to get up on stage with him and shred. After being impressed by all the undiscovered talent, he posed with fans, took photos, and signed autographs leaving his fans contented and garnering exposure and Youtube videos of his appearance for Fishman pick ups.
One of the most anticipated appearances was that of the rock band Sixx A.M. with none other than Nikki Sixx on bass. Coming fresh off a highly successful farewell tour with Motley Crue, being able to meet and greet Nikki was a high demand proposition. The Korg booth offered up wristbands for people to meet the band at show’s opening at 10 AM on Saturday. They were quickly snatched up by 10:10 AM, leaving hundreds of fans disappointed. All hope was not lost however; they would be signing at the Shure and Schecter booths with no wristbands required.
Most fans who missed out on the highly coveted wristbands, headed straight over to the Shure booth and waited the hour and a half for the meet and greet. Nikki was kind enough to sign a limited amount of Motley merch, but it was minimal at best. If attendees happened to wander by the Korg USA booth once more they may have noticed some familiar riffs emanating from a closed area. Classics from Alice Cooper and Iron Maiden are unmistakable even in the hectic atmosphere of NAMM. These classics came courtesy of Nita Strauss and Chuck Garric of the Alice Cooper band. Nita also played with all female Iron Maiden cover band the Iron Maidens. Lucky for those who were not able to squeeze into the small demo room, windows along the side and audio seepage through the walls allowed passersby to headbang along. Following their performance, Nita and Chuck joined Shavo Odadjian of System of a Down and Billy Duffy from The Cult to meet and greet NAMMgoers. Each took their time to engage fans and take pictures… even when security scolded them for it!
Any bass guitar enthusiast or buyer could not help but be impressed by the who’s who of bass players gathered at the Framus & Warwick booth. Over an hour’s wait brought a plethora of ultra-talented musicians waiting to greet the patient masses. Among those chatting it up with NAMM-goers were Robert Trujillo from Metallica, Rex Brown formerly of Pantera, and current Bon Jovi guitarist Phil X. All were so willing to engage with fans, that it must have been in their contract to be overly friendly at NAMM! Awkwardly, there were so many musicians gathered that it was impossible to recognize all of them. Nothing is stranger than asking for an autograph from a talent you have never heard of. Even more awkward is that usually they can tell when a fan has no idea who they are.
Sunday is usually the relatively least mobish day of NAMM. This year was no exception. Most exhibitors know this and brought out the big guns Thursday through Saturday. However, nobody told Dean Guitars about this. They brought out legendary thrash metal pioneer Dave Mustaine from Megadeth for his only appearance at NAMM. Dave showed up with his wife and a sizeable entourage and was flanked by Megadeth mascot Vic Rattlehead. After a tour of the Dean exhibit and the unveiling of his new Signature Guitar USA VMNT Holy Grail, he tried his best to accommodate fans even as security did their best to hurry them along. To his credit, he stayed and signed posters until every fan left satisfied garnering much goodwill for Dean Guitars. Free t-shirts also didn’t hurt. Many fans were seen clutching Megadeth’s new album Dystopia, even though security made it clear he’d only sign the provided posters.
Perhaps not so coincidentally, Megadeth bassist David Ellefson was also seen in the area at the Jackson Guitars exhibit
promoting his new Signature Basses. Always one of the nicest and most approachable people in metal, David was also there to promote the all girl rock band on his label, Doll Skin.
There was no shortage of star power at the 2016 edition of NAMM. Whether it was Phil Anselmo, Steve Vai, Dave Mustaine, Yngwie Malmsteen, or anybody in between, exhibitors fought for crowds and buzz that they hope will carry them throughout the year. For those lucky enough to snag a pass through an industry connection and who have the patience to brave long lines and crowds, there is no doubt that they will meet more legendary musicians in one weekend than they perhaps will for the rest of their lives.