Over 100,000 people attend the NAMM music convention in Anaheim, CA every year. No two people have the same experience. There are too many companies displaying the latest gear and too many great concerts every night. I had so much fun this year and can’t avoid committing some of my best memories to paper.
I started Thursday night at the annual @BonzoBash, my favorite event where a bunch of well-known drummers take a crack at honoring our legendary hero, John Henry Bonham of Led Zeppelin. Whether I’m on the roster this year or not, I’m going to have a great time watching close friends like Matt Starr (Mr. Big/Ace Frehley) and Glen Sobel (Alice Cooper) perform. This year’s highlights included teenage wunderkind drummer @AlexeyPlobete. Anyone who’s seen my series HARDCORE DRUM SESSIONS on YouTube knows I have a special place in my heart for students starting out on the drums. The way Alexey plays, she’s no novice.; Alexey’s worked hard honing her natural talent. Speaking of naturals, for the first time I also saw @MikeTerrana play and it was…basically….life changing. Mike’s control, showmanship, precision and strength have to be witnessed live. Brian Tichy closed out the show. I’ve said this before and nobody has killed me yet: Tichy plays Bonham better than the illustrious British icon himself.
After the show we were hanging out in the new @MarcoSocolli tour bus he drove out from NY with Anthony Citrinite and I got to tell Mike Terrana my jaw is still on the floor from his performance. Turns out, like so many great players, Mike is humble about the time he’s put into his craft and his ability. That’s always nice. At the other end of the spectrum is guitarist Howie Klein who is great and tells you so <just kidding, Howie> We stopped by the Mezzabarba guitar amp booth the next day to hear Howie play.
When I think back at new products I best remember, a few things stand out. Gear Secure is a new company that has a wafer-size devise around the size of a dime you hide in your favorite snare drum, guitar, etc. Then, you can track the gear with your cell phone if your precious gear is ever lost or stolen. The company is represented by Adam Mandel, Rob Meives and my friend, Lisa Woodard.
A visit to NAMM is incomplete without saying hello to the sponsors who support me so generously. I was feeling the smooth action on the new@DrumWorkshop machine drive bass drum peddle when John Good (the “wood whisperer”) reached over to shake hands. John’s accomplishments at DW make John a busy celebrity in his own right. I walked over to speak with the designer of the incredible invention, Rich Sikra. Rich is the engineer behind many of DW’s most innovative advances that have made drumming better for countless pros and enthusiasts. He showed me a new kit DW designed that’s especially portable and looks fun to play.
I visited my friends Bob Kasha and Jeff Moeller of Big Bang Distribution. These guys always have something new that’s useful to drummers. They came up with a mini-practice that looks around the size of a quarter. I suppose the idea is to build precision but that’s a pretty small bull’s eye to hit. Then I saw something called Drum Tacs that were created by JC Clifford. These reusable sound control pads are like MoonGels but seem to stay on better, seem to work well to control the ring of cymbals, and are great on the bottom (resonant side) of drum heads to reduce overtones.
One of the fun things about NAMM is seeing people, making new friends and meeting fans from all over the world. One of my biggest fans in Japan, Kenny, wrote his friend—a drummer from Italy named Marco—that he had to meet me. NAMM brings music fans from all over the world together. NAMM blurs the line between performer, music wholesaler, retailer. Because the greatest musicians are also music fans. You simply don’t get good unless you love listening closely to music.
Friday night was invited to the annual Sabian “hang” at the Sheraton. This year starred one the most all-around drummer I know, Joey Heredia, who bought in and played with two groups. Joey warmed up the crowd with a Salsa group that featured famous timbale player Ronnie Gutierrez. After intermission, Joey brought in the big guns, his trio starring Renato Neto (Prince) and Marco Mendoza (Thin Lizzy, Ted Nugent).
Drummers love watching other drummers play. People might think it’s a competition thing, or maybe to cop ideas. Since no two drummers play the same, I think it’s more about awe and inspiration (at least for me). I’m probably not the only one. I’ve seen one of the world’s greatest progressive drummers, Dave Weckl, at several of Joey’s shows. Knowing the 3 of us are sponsored by Sabian, I went over to say hello to Dave, whose jaw dropping drumming means so much to so many.
Finally, I want to toss a nod to the vagabonds who crammed into a suite for several days draining the hotel bar, pre-gaming every night, snoring like truck drivers and waking up early enough to roam around NAMM in a confused stupor.
Left to right: me, guitarist @PaulKillion, photographer @ChuckWalker and drummer @LewyStix