NAMM International Music Market ’99
Los Angeles Convention Center, Los Angeles, CA • January 28-31, 1999
Once again, I’ve converged upon NAMM, haven to rock stars and music merchants, alike. Each year gets better in terms of navigating the 800,000 square feet of music merchandise and mayhem. Yet when many attendees weren’t complaining about aching feet, impatient thoughts, anticipating NAMM’s return to its more convenient home of 22 years in Anaheim (reconstruction to be completed) in January 2001, weren’t far behind…
This year’s ongoing theme? “Making music makes you smarter.”
Arriving early makes one smarter, too, I learned. That way I’m ensured an “all access” pass to that cracker box of a venue, the famed Viper Room, to see the likes of Stevie Salas play, and Warrant, Dad’s Porno Mag, and G’NR alumni Gilby Clark and Duff McKagan perform across the way at the Whiskey A Go Go (where I posed with the incomparable Joey Buttafuoco) on Saturday night.
There are numerous other industry parties, and manufacturers and retailers conferences, that go on throughout the week, many of which conflict with one another making it terribly difficult to be hip in more than one place at the same time, rendering one indecisive about what to attend. Many events require an invitation, in addition to the NAMM badge. Most are a free for all open to all NAMM badge holders such as the “All-industry Drum Circle” (sponsored by Remo Drumheads and NAMM) where a couple hundred people assembled at the front entrance of the convention center with percussion instruments in hand. And for those eager to paint the town red at a discount, that meant flashing a NAMM badge at select eateries and various tourist traps.
As always, the facility was aglow with many a celebrity endorsee, as diverse as former teen heartthrob and soap star Rick Springfield, Slash, Bootsy Collins, Dweezil Zappa, Shiela E., John Tempesta, to Beach Boy Brian Wilson, who I encountered on the first day near the west hall as a stoic zombie sitting behind a Liberace-esque Kawaii piano playing with about as much enthusiasm as a sour grape. (Let’s hope he didn’t take that same act on the road with him when his scheduled tour kicked off in March…)
Alice In Chains bassist Mike Inez signed autographs at Dean Markley and chatted about the impending new Alice In Chains box set, which will feature three new songs, due out this spring. Edward Van Halen made his usual ballyhooed appearance at the Peavey amps booth, relying more on legend than skill to awe onlookers as he tinkered on the guitar nearly an hour for a by-invitation only performance. Those excluded from the festivities were allowed to watch the concert simultaneously on closed-circuit television. Also at Peavey were P-funkster George Clinton, and Brett Michaels and his band, who was later joined on drums by Poison drummer Rikki Rockett for three Poison songs and Kiss’ “Rock and Roll All Nite.” Before hitting the Coconut Teaser that evening, Krunk performed tunes from their new debut record, Krunk’s Greatest Hits , including their L.A. theme song “Ten Shots to the Back of the Head.”
Despite all of its visibility and hoopla, the convention is not the single most important thing that NAMM does. It’s the positive outreach programs NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) maintains, in order to create more music makers, that mean most, according to Director of Communication for NAMM, John Maher.
In addition to collaborating with VH-1 to “Save the Music” in the inner cities, NAMM carries out its mission “to unify and strengthen the music products industry and create more active music makers” through three programs: “New Horizons” for the elderly, which promotes wellness through music therapy, “as well as getting the old folks together, and having a good time,” adds Maher.
“Weekend Warriors” for the Baby Boomers: “People like myself who grew up with the Four Tops and the Rolling Stones, and had to get a real job. So they put down their guitar, drum, or microphone and garage bands, and got on with life. Now they’re at a point where their kids are grown up, and they’re looking for something to do. So what the music store does is creates a pathway for these parents to come back into making music by giving them a venue and place to practice with other people their same age. And then a venue where the families can all get together… They see mom and dad up there doing ‘I can’t get no satisfaction’ for the first time in thirty years. And it’s a great family-oriented synergy that takes place. [Oftentimes] a tearjerker to watch.”
Finally, for the next generation of music makers, there’s “The Charlie Horse Music Pizza Experience,” an extension of the Shari Lewis PBS television program. With the help of schools, head-start programs, and inner-city groups in conjunction with participating music stores, the goal is to give kids ages 3 to 8 a hands-on experience with music and musical instruments for the first time, consequently, helping them to learn firsthand that music can be fun.
“If a kid plays music, chances are he’s not going to run around in a gang,” believes Maher, whose son is a recent Berkley School of Music graduate. “If a kid plays music, chances are he’s going to learn discipline. If a kid plays music, chances are he’s going to be popular. [Finally], if a kid plays music, chances are he’s going to grow up happy, and that really is the bottom line.”