After the pandemic, NAMM, like many public gatherings and festivals took quite a hit in the way of attendance and industry participation. NAMM 2024 definitley felt the absence of large companies such as Fender, Gibson and Ziljian. However, of the more than 62,000 in attendance at this years' NAMM, 10,000+ were international attendees from 125 countries, regions and territories. Attendance at NAMM is still down significantly from 2020's record breaking attendance of 115,000 (just before the pandemic really began), compared to the last three years.
This year I noticed the product floor being way more sparse. The chaotic noise was at a lower volume compared to NAMM at its height pre pandemic. The drum section is where I always gravitate to and it was greatly reduced in size, and a tad disappointing. Zildjian usually has a wall of cymbals and a guy in a small booth creating cymbals pounding with his hammer but not this year...It seems some of the large companies are taking a break or have opted out of showing at NAMM altogether. I guess we will see in the next couple of years if they all come back. I do hope so. This year brought the international attendees back in what felt like full force. NAMM friends that I only see at NAMM from around the globe were present this year whereas in the last couple years they were absent. So that was lovely to see them back at NAMM 2024.
This year I took in a huge amount of the live music on offer. And OMG it was fantastic! Whilst glancing on the showtime itinerary signage around the lobbies of the Marriott and Hilton hotels, and the main stages, I rarely see names that I recognize and this year was no exception. But I met loads of people that were hanging where the live music was and some of them informed me not to miss this name or that and one of those names belonged to the fourteen year old Australian guitarist, Taj Farrant who took my breathe away.
Taj is accompanied on tour by his band and his family, his mum and dad and 13 year old sister Jazel. I was told by Tajs' dad that his daughter Jazel is also an amazing young musician....and she's a drummer!
She doesn't play in his band, as his drummer is Dylan Halacy, a fantastic hard hitting drummer (and a super nice guy). Tajs' dad introduced me to Jazel and I look forward to seeing her perform on March 5 in Novato at the Hopmonk along their tour. I believe the plan at the moment is that she will be opening for Taj. There were lots of other great acts this year on all the stages around NAMM. But for me, Taj Farrant was at the top of my mind blowing acts. After Taj and band finished their set, the MC at this stage announced that no one wanted to follow Taj so he stepped in and played a few tunes until the crowd 'got over' seeing whatever it was that we saw when Taj was playing. As Tajs' father told me whilst Taj was onstage. absolutely "wowing" the audience....Taj is a 'freak of nature'.
Check out Taj Farrants' music (amazon affiliate links):
No Words: https://amzn.to/483zRpZ
Hit the Ground: https://amzn.to/4bmFFhg
I also loved a band called Down North with the super charismatic frontman, Anthony Briscoe. Anthony was sitting next to me at the table with a group of us at the Marriott. We chatted a bit, and I didn't know he was an artist, and suddenly he jumped up on stage and blew everyones minds with his absolutely electrifying performance. Afterward, I said to him in the heat of the moment, "wow, you could've at least warned me that you were gonna blow my mind". I love when that happens! The band was great and Anthony was amazing! He was a mix of James Brown and Ty Taylor (from Vintage Trouble). Anthony and the band were on fire!
Then there was a 4 piece Bluegrass band called Water Tower. Something I may have not been so enthusiastic about until I saw them. Another electric performance by a very talented band. Frontman Kenny Feinsteins' huge personality takes the crowd and has the audience clambering for more. I think this band may go far with Feinstein on board as he seems to be that 'difference' for a bluegrass band. It doesnt hurt that all four musicians are talented at playing but in many cases one needs more than mere talent to make it and Feinstein is that extra electric ingredient needed to take this band to heights it deserves.
And keep in mind that this
is written by a non lover of bluegrass...I like it but would never go out of my way to seek it out. But with Water Tower, I'd definitely be down to see this band again. And I'm pretty sure they'll be at a Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival sometime in the near future-at least I'm hoping so!
On the Yamaha stage in the center of the two hotels I caught music with some of my pals coming from, a fantastic as always, Safe Harbour meeting. Jon McLaughlin an American singer songwriter from Indiana was onstage and the crowd seemed to be enjoying his music. I think it was a good safe set with plenty of fans that turning out for him.
A band that really drew a very 'knowing' crowd was seasoned musician, Larry Mitchell. During Larrys' set he got a bunch of other musicians from the audience to join him onsatge by merely stepping into the crowd and putting a guitar into the hands of many of the audience members. The pro musicians weren't hard to find as so many of the audience was comprised of pro musicians. Guitarist Andy Timmons being one of them that stepped onstage and played with Larry Mitchell. By the end of his set, ending just after 1am and there were about 10 musicians onstage closing the live music in the Marriott at NAMM '24.
Check out Larry Mitchells' music: https://amzn.to/3UnlF8d
Of course I go could go on for ages about all the good music at NAMM but these were a few of my personal highlights, Taj Farrant at the top. I hope to interview Taj when he gets to Northern California, so stay tuned for more Taj in a future issue of TMS.
NAMM always provides cool demos by musicians at many of the booths. There's where one runs into the likes of Stevie Wonder and hundreds more that are either demoing for the company or trying the new gear out for themselves. One of my favorites, Ron Artis II was demoing for Martin guitars, (pictured below with The Music Soup sticker on his guitar case).
Chris Gamper, a drummer I know from Northern California was demoing for Ef Note, Eric Moore demoing for Gretsch, and too many others to name. The thing I did not make mention yet are the sessions on marketing, mastering, engineering, music copyright, digital influencing and many more educational topics. A friend of mine, Michael Romanowski, owner at Coast Mastering in the Bay area, lead many sessions at this NAMM on what he does best, music mastering.
Romo spoke to a full house to many very grateful attendees. It was a pleasure to attend and hear Romo speaking and answering questions from the audience about his expertise in this field. Michael has already won four Grammy awards and is up for more at this years' Grammy Awards. Romo is one of the best in his field for sure!
I cannot end this NAMM blog without making a mention of my favorite event of the weekend, the all industry drum circle. Sponsored by Remo and going strong in its 31st year at NAMM, it is by far my favorite event at every NAMM Show. The drum circle is attended by about 300+ people outside the convention center in Palm Court and is lead by Arthur Hull, the same guy for all its 31 years. Hull leads the group like an orchestra leader and is great at what he does.
For me, being a part of the drum circle is a feeling rather than a doing. You dont have to know anything about drumming, you dont even have to have rhythm to participate. Being part of the drum circle at NAMM brings me such joy, as I always walk away from it with a smile on my face. And one of my golden rules is, "Never regret what makes you smile." Here's a link filmed at NAMM 2023 from the terrace above, so you can get a feel of what I'm describing: https://youtu.be/z6dAT9PZDJI?si=bXiSVlBiYFp_OCYP As I hear it, this year was a real super spreader event of some virus that was going around, and many others came home with Covid. In any case, hoping we all get through any illnesses we came away with (or not)...and as always, a big thank you to all that make the NAMM Show happen each year!
Here is a gallery of photos from the NAMM Show 2024 January 25-28: © Cheryl Alterman Photography 2024