"I do not like green eggs..."
It's not for everybody.
Much like the storied green eggs of Dr. Seussdom, NAMM looks, from the outside, like something you'd steer clear of. Thousands of rowdy musicians, retailers, industry types, etc., converge on Anaheim every January, and much of February is spent by those same folks making sales, signing deals, and searching for sequined underwear they knew they had on at the Hilton party....
However, for many, one bite, years ago, was enough to get 'em hooked, and every year they fork up again to get a plate full of old friends, new products, and debauchery served with enough irreverence to make us all feel like rock and roll is still edgy, damnit, still raising high the collective finger to the establishment- and we're still cool enough to know it.
"Every bad penny you've ever known in music turns up at NAMM".
I heard myself say it on Friday, but didn't realize the truth of it until I collapsed Sunday with about a buck fifty's worth of characters in my weekend. Some gave me pause, and others gave me claws, but none failed to leave me with a smile for one reason or another.
For me, it's always a treat to see the Prophecy gang. Years ago, I sang in a hair metal band with a shady crew of dudes in Orange County, who became the lately defunct Queensryche tribute band, Prophecy. Since then, I've seen almost all of them at different times for different reasons, but it's always fun, and they are some of the nicest people I know. This year, they had the beautiful Pamela Moore with them (Sister Mary, Operation Mindcrime), and guitarist/artist Jeff and his girlfriend Laura were there with the guitar he's designed for Michael Wilton (Queensryche). The rest of the crew just seemed to assemble around them. Tony DeVita, who has sent many vocal opportunities my way since then, was there with his wife snapping pics, and Nick, who I've been doing vocals for this year in his new studio, was ill and was only there via text, but his ex-yet-perennial friend Sabrina was on hand to hang out with. And Jimmy, still in guyliner and clad in black, was talking about his new band and sniffing the groupies.
Saturday Jeff had a party in his room at the Hilton that hosted the quote of the weekend:
"Where's the rum?"
"It's in the Skippy jar over there."
But for all the reunion-esque fun of NAMM, there is work to be done. There was a particular seminar that I attended... Many of the ideas were good, and all of the speakers were earnest and well-intended. But it was hard to not feel as if some of it wasn't more chastisement from the wings to artists who already are inundated with condemnation.
If any of you dear readers are an indie artist, you know what I mean. Any given day you can open your inbox and find an email, a newsletter, a link to an article telling you what you're NOT doing, how lazy you are, how everything you ARE doing is WRONG, and how you need to do 1,000 times MORE. And while some of these are truly attempts to be helpful, some are thinly- veiled demands to do all the groundwork (and then some) so someone else can swoop in and make money once it's done.
As artists, to be successful in today's climate, you need to have up-to-date recordings, perfectly representative press shots, gig regularly, draw a crowd/audience by promoting your show/music/etc. on 5 or 6 social networking sites, maintain a youthful/attractive/fit appearance and good health while still being 'cutting edge', continue taking lessons to improve your skills, have stable relationships with partners/family, be available for meetings/auditions at a moment's notice, and to PAY for all of this, somehow hold down a day job. For the artists who actually ARE doing all this, constant condescending speeches are not only frustrating, but ineffective.
Because they're preaching to the choir- If we're reading the superlative-laden email, or attending the seminar or lecture, we already care about our career, and we're doing all the things we've been told we must.
All that said, I took a few notes, mulled over some thoughts, and re-girded my musical loins to take on 2010! And the rest of the show downstairs.....
It was Sean's first NAMM, and by noon on Saturday he was just dazed- he didn't know where to look or what he was seeing once he did. My Jerry Cantrell sighting was not to be outdone by my Kenny Aronoff sighting, and Sean contributed by pointing out the dude from Cypress Hill.:)
Walking past Ovation, I saw Neil Wharton, and stopped to see what was going on with him. Neil is one of the good guys. I interviewed him and his band, The Rock and Roll Junkies, at Flashrock a few years ago.
He's the son of Motley Crue's Vince Neil and, when he talks or sings, you can definitely hear it! But what struck me most about him is why he sings- for the Skylar Neil Memorial Foundation, which raises money for pediatric cancer research and other children's diseases. When I met them, the Junkies were all holding day jobs and donating every penny from their music to the Foundation. http://www.myspace.com/rrjunkies
A lot of people like to throw around generalizations about Los Angeles and rockstars, and here is a guy that, for all intents and purposes, could have become an entitled douchebag. But instead he's a humble, generous philanthropist, who seems happy just to make the world better.
So I was very happy to see him and hear what's been going on with his new venture, a restaurant/music venue in Las Vegas, and I updated him on Whiskey or Water. Then it was back into the fray....
I grew up in B-boro, PA and went to Daniel Boone High School- it housed grades 7-12, and when I was but a wee lass in 7th grade, Richie Kotzen was a senior, skulking around the halls.
Now, B-boro is one square mile in size, making it the largest borough in the whole county! So you can imagine that in the nineties, in a town that small, a dude with elbow length hair and chains had no little trouble going unnoticed.
It's always seemed absurd to me that we haven't run across each other at any point; the veritable circus of musicians I've met/worked with from various states and countries is vast, so how is it that I've never bumped into the ONLY other one to ever come out of my hometown?
Well, there he sat, pen in hand, NAMM wearing on him a bit, and so I walked up and said,
He blinked. He squinted. Then:
"You went to my high school?"
"Yup. Lived in B-boro."
He wrinkled his nose.
"Oh my God."
Yes, I'd thought that many times myself. I smiled and trotted away. That was all...I just wanted to say, hey, someone else got out, too.
I popped by Stagg then to see Andrew. Stagg gave me Ruth, my black acoustic; they're part of EMD Music, and Andrew Swift is the peach of a guy who brings me to NAMM each year. He was busy as a one-armed paper hanger when I got there, but I hung around and talked to their LA rep for awhile. Then Andrew finished with a client, and he showed me a pretty little mandolin that I think must be mine.
But then we pressed on- so much to see!!!!
And the rest...
I saw a handful of others, such as Bob Leggett and Eric Holden, my bassist, that I see more than once a year, who I stopped to commiserate with before we both plowed back through the crowd, and some who I don't, who I passed a minute or 30 with....:)
By Sunday, I was exhausted; my Skechers shapeups had done as promised, and from walking in them non-stop around the convention center, my abs actually were sore.
To my fellow revelers- it was a pleasure, as always. May this year bring you endorsements and success and empty Skippy jars to fill with spirits for next year!!!