NAMM 2009: The Fan’s Perspective
By Jesse Rivera aka illasever, Bakotopia.com contributor
First off thanks to Chris Richards and California Keyboards for getting this music fanatic into NAMM!
Wandering around the convention floor at this year’s NAMM Show, on Jan. 17, at the Anaheim Convention Center, I noticed three types of people - worker, hustler, fanatic.
Allow me to explain:
1) Worker: Company sales reps you could tell were tired of fake smiling and hand shaking but were ready to turn it on in a second to sell some product.
2) Hustler: People from the bottom of the big music industry food chain. These people were just hustlin’ whatever it was they were there to sell, and themselves in the process.
3) Fanatic: I was one of them!
NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) is a group of international retailers of musical instruments and accessories, who throw seasonal trade shows, giving companies a chance to promote their latest products and give fans a chance to meet their musical idols - some in prime form, others in washed-up mode.
I’m just a huge fan of music, so I just walked around star struck all day long - not minding the long lines for the chance to snap a pic and get an autograph from some one of the many musicians doing the NAMM thing. The NAMM show lasts all week (Jan. 14-18); however I was only there on Saturday. Here’s how my day went. It might seem boring to some but it was a day I’ll never forget!
When I get there, I feel like a kid in a candy store, walking around in awe of the massive scene. There are vendor booths all around with a list of names and times that their artists will be signing autographs. The first booth that caught my eye was the REMO Drums booth that listed an 11:30 a.m. signing time for Stephen Perkins - drummer for Jane’s Addiction. I had just watched the “3 Days” DVD about the ‘87 Jane’s “Relapse Tour,” so Jane’s was still fresh on my mind.
We got in line early and there were only two people ahead of us - a couple of super fans who had way cooler Jane stories than us, so they deserved to be first in line. Stephen was way cool and signed an REMO drum head for me. After he signed it, I mentioned to him how much I loved his band’s music and he said to me, “It’s all coming back, too, this time with (bassist) Eric Avery.” Yes! The Jane’s Addiction reunion rumors are true - Stephen Perkins himself confirmed them for me!
After my Stephen Perkins encounter, we walked and gawked some more, then spotted my next autograph opportunity - Sheila E. and the entire Escovedo percussion clan were signing at 2 p.m. on one corner and Jerry Cantrell of Alice in Chains was signing at 3 p.m., just 15 feet away! I told my friend, U2 Chick, “You go wander around, I’m staying right here.” Sheila E. is as hot as ever and her dad and brothers are class acts. Something weird though, Sheila E. wrote my name backwards, “To suseJ.” Weird...
After Sheila E., I walked over to the booth where Jerry Cantrell from Alice In Chains was going to sign - just to verify that he was going to show - he is a rock star you know? After inquiring I was informed that he would show but he was running late. Oh well I thought I found me a quiet little corner with a chair and took a load off for a quick breather. I happened to have sat down in a little tiny Lee Oskar (original WAR harp player) booth.
It wasn’t much of a booth just a picture of him on the wall a display case with a bunch of nice harmonicas and TV screen that was playing a short, 3-minute Lee Oskar infomercial. I sat there for about 20 minutes, just people watching, having a chill time while waiting for Jerry Cantrell. Then this little older dude shows up and starts setting up an amp and mic. “Am I in your way sir?” I asked the dude. “No, your OK,” he replied back and then it hit me, That’s Lee Oskar! I turned red. “Let me get out of your way, Mr. Oskar,” I said to him. He just smiled and kept setting up.
Turns out he had an interview scheduled, and I stood 3 feet away watching him perform for a journalist (some young British looking kid) and do the interview. Afterwards, he was nice enough to pose with me for a pic.
So now it was Jerry Cantrell time! The line went by pretty quick, and before I knew it, there I stood in front of the man who was once one half of some of the most beautiful heavy metal harmonies I’ve ever heard alongside the now departed Layne Staley, vocalist for Alice In Chains.
“I saw you guys on Lollapalooza ‘93 at the Shoreline, and Layne had a cast?” I asked. I have often tried to remember if Layne Staley had a cast on when I saw Alice In Chains or not, but my memory isn’t quite what it once was. “Yeah he had a cast on his foot, he broke some bones messing around on Ozzy’s ATV,” Jerry answered. At long last, my foggy memory was cleared up by none other than Jerry himself.
Then I got the real news ...
“Los Lobos are performing at 5 p.m.,” U2 Chick informed me after I posed for my pic with Cantrell. We split up for awhile, but all made it back to the Fender gear area to get in line for Los Lobos around 4. The line wasn’t too long when we got there, but was way long by 5 p.m. and it’s a good thing we go there when we did because they only let 100 people in! Los Lobos were amazing! I’ve seen them several time before, but never in such a close intimate setting. They laughed and joked with the crowd, and even gave a fan a hard time when they requested, “La Bamba.”
“Ah, not La Bamba,” Davis Hidalgo joked. “I hear that song in my sleep.” They did play, “That Train Don’t Stop Here Anymore” with J.R. Lozano (son of Lobos bassist Conrad Lozano) of The 44s on drums. The set finished with a blistering version of their classic, “Don’t Worry Baby.”
We left the Fender stage walking on air. How could we not be? We had just been treated to an amazing free show by one of L.A’s all-time great bands.
-NAMM 2007 - The Berzerk Files
Also printed in Bakotopia magazine, issue 48, 2-19-09