It was a NAMM good time
By Naughty Mickie
Photos by Dave Schwartz and Keith Durflinger
In previous years we have told you the history of the International Music Merchants Association (NAMM) and educated you on what the organization does and how it affects the entire music industry, as well as children's education, senior health and more. If you're new to all that, then please go to our archives and do some reading-- you'll be surprised. For those familiar with the annual Southern California convention, here's a look at what made it such a NAMM good time!
The Scene
The displays usually do not change remarkably from year to year, as equipment and instruments can only be shown in so many ways, but there were a few perks.
The Ernie Ball booth is always a crowd-pleaser and this time 'round it didn't fail to thrill. The salesmen were all dressed as bikers, complete with tattoos and roadrash, while there was a scattering of custom bicycles and motorcycles on display. The back part of the booth had been turned into a roadhouse with a stern motorcycle cop guarding its swinging doors. It was tough to concentrate on the new merch being shown with all those purty bikes!!
Jones Soda shared a booth with Ashdown Engineering, which had two cute girls seated atop a stack of amps greeting passersby with chocolates. Smushy (Ryan Fannin) of Street Marketing was plying Jones' tattoos, stickers and postcards. I attempted to call his bluff by saying that I would proudly wear a tattoo if he would put it near my cleavage and he grinned. A wet paper towel appeared and Smushy gently applied a tattoo in a most gentlemanly manner while trying not to blush too much. He then handed me and Dave a couple of cold sodas for the road. Yes, I wore the tattoo all day... and for the next two days... those darn things stay on through soap and water (but I finally tried my secret tattoo removal trick and it worked- sorry Smushy!).
Two beauties manned-- or rather womanned the Body Glove booth with finesse. Dressed in fitting girly tees, short skirts and suede boots, the perky gals were pleased to pose for photos or take the time to chat with anyone who paused in their vicinity. I convinced Dave that he needed a memento from NAMM and that a photo with the dynamic duo would be just the thing. His normal confidence waned as he stood between the two, but he somehow managed a grin just the same. Geez, Dave, it's OK to have a little fun while you're working!!
There was other adventures to be had, you just had to look for them. I spoke with many interesting people and eyed the latest stuff to hit the streets until I was ready for a good nap!
The Style
I've heard it said that clothes make the man, well the NAMM show is certainly one big fashion show. It seems that it usually ranges from those who don't care who sees them and blend into any crowd to those who scream to be seen and dress as outrageously as possible and then there's tons of black clothes with even more black clothes in between.
One of the most sadly amusing attires spotted during the day was of the look at me category. A rather normal appearing guy with pasty skin, thinning hair and a goatee had decided to become the leather king. He had snakeskin-style leather pants, snakeskin boots, a black shirt opened to reveal a white T-shirt and he topped the affaire with a long black leather duster and a black cowboy hat. Perhaps there was some spaghetti western event up the street and he got lost... perhaps not... I noticed him trying to chat up any pretty girl at a booth and attempting to gain attention pounding out some vague rhythms at a drum booth (sans duster and shirt which was a definite step up on the fashion scale).
Another lost soul was a cute-figured Asian woman who looked as if she couldn't quite make up her mind when she dressed that day. She had a casual long-sleeved T-shirt topped with a worn denim jacket and a guitar (or was it just a soft case acting as a purse?) flung over her back-- so far, so good. To this, she added red and white striped tights, orange hightop sneakers and a fairy-length light purple tutu and had pulled portions of her hair into two ponytails atop her head. The ensemble may have worked had she stuck with one or two colors, but the mix of fabrics and hues was just manic. And then she turned around-- her face looked tired and aging, but the real shock was her bright blue eyeshadow and really red lipstick. Her makeup was so bold that I could see it clearly from quite a distance away... need I say more?
Then there was the zebra guys. I dunno, maybe it's some kind of new cult or a band trying to gain attention. The guys were dressed pretty normal rocker/goth style with spikey, yet hanging longish hair and they had painted any part of their bodies which showed with white and black makeup in zebra stripes. As the day wore on, so did their makeup, which transmuted from clear lines to more of a dirty smudge. The strangest thing was that they never seemed to be in one place all together, instead you would see one going one direction, while another one was at a booth. You would think the zebra guys would have traveled in a herd for protection ... from the wondering looks and stifled giggles.
The Stars
NAMM, as always, was a revolving door of musicians. It would be hard to list them all, so I will stick with some of the more interesting gatherings.
A small crowd was garnering autographs from drummers Raymond Herrera of Fear Factory and Rocky Gray of Evanescene. The two seemed to get along, although they were as night and day as they appeared. Long-locked Herrera spoke easily, while stream-lined haircut Gray grinned nervously as he talked. Still, they seemed happy to oblige everyone with a signature and a few kind words.
A great pairing was that of guitarists Craig Goldy and George Lynch. They smiled for cameras, whipped their pens across photos and took a genuine interest in their fans. But the most notable part was their respect and enthusiasm for each other. The booth where they were perched was more akin to a favorite hangout to swap stories and greet old friends.
If you peeked into the roadhouse at Ernie Ball, you would have seen a meeting of the musical minds. It was lunchtime for Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Michael Schenker and a few other guitarists, who were enjoying the break from the roar of NAMM. Tres kewl!
Over at the Dean Markley booth a crush of fans waited in long lines to get autographs from the entire Ronnie James Dio band.  Over the years Dio has consistently been in large demand at NAMM.  Seated with Dio was guitarist Craig Goldy, bassist Rudy Sarzo, drummer Simon Wright, and keyboardist Scott Warren. 

Dave Navarro snuck into the Paul Reed Smith booth on Friday to sign a few autographs and attend a press conference with Carlos Santana and Mark Tremonti celebrating the 20th anniversary of PRS guitars. 

Other sightings included Beefcake the Mighty from Gwar, Tommy Shaw, guitarist Alvin Lee, Kerry King of Slayer, Jim Marshall and a role of regulars....

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