NAMM isn’t just a destination:
It’s a full-blown rock n’ roll experience!
Written by Alison “MetalBabe” Cohen
NAMM isn’t just a destination: It’s a full-blown rock n’ roll experience that lasts almost an entire week and includes all aspects of music, from live performances (inside the show and out), musical equipment, product demonstrations, meet n’ greets, and parties. It is the largest annual trade show of its kind, and features the introduction of new musical instruments and technologies, ongoing concerts, interactive demos, workshops, and artist appearances throughout the event.
This was the 114th year for The National Association of Music Merchants, (NAMM) which was founded in 1901. This year’s show had a record breaking 99,342 registrants from over 100 countries, which is the largest gathering to date in NAMM history. This year’s show also had a 6% increase in exhibiting companies since last year, an 11% increase in International registration, and a 2% increase in buyer numbers.
My NAMM ‘week,’ began at the NAMM Metal Jam 2015 on Wednesday, January 21st, which was a benefit show put on by Von Badsville and Neil Turbin where net proceeds were donated to the Ronnie James Dio Stand Up and Shout Foundation and Dick Wagner’s Rockers for St. Jude. Immortal Guardian, Ghosts of War, Leatherwolf, The Death Riders, and Michael Angelo Batio performed.
In addition, musicians rotated on and off the stage for five metal jams throughout the night, performing songs from Ozzy, Dio, Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, UFO, AC/DC, Motorhead, Accept, Deep Purple, and Thin Lizzy. The back room at The Slidebar in Fullerton was packed full of metal heads rockin’ out dozens of super talented musicians fronted by vocalists including Neil Turbin, Zak Stevens, Howie Simon, Jeff Martin, Dave Keckhut, Charlie Saban, Kleber Mandrake, and Michael Oliveria. I am so glad I was able to be part of this intimate experience.
You can watch video of Michael Angelo Batio performing at the NAMM Metal Jam here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sYgWv7xgg78
I attended the NAMM Show at the Anaheim Convention Center Thursday through Sunday, and made a point to catch the Circle II Circle signing on Thursday at the Rock-n-Roll GangStar booth. Circle II Circle, who is fronted by Zak Stevens (Savatage) has released six studio albums to date, is currently putting the final touches on their seventh, and is starting production on a documentary called “Dreams That Never Die.”
Rock-n-Roll GangStar always has a crowd, and had quite a few signings scheduled throughout the convention, so I made a point to stop by here and there. Some of their other signings included Jack Russell’s Great White, James Kottack, (Scorpions) Rob Marcello, (Danger Danger) Robin McCauley, Chris Jericho, (Fozzy) and more.
I kept the Rock N Roll Industries booth as my primary home base, and this year we hosted a ‘Meet, Greet, and Giveaway’ on Friday with some Metal Babe Mayhem schwag with David Shankle (DSG/Former Manowar) and Zak Stevens (Circle II Circle/Savatage) and on Saturday with Les Warner (The Cult) and Tony West (Blacklist Union/Malfunkshun). Both were a lot of fun, and gave us a chance to talk, hang out, take pics, and give away some free stuff.
In addition to the above, Rock N Roll Industries also had signings with Dave Ellefson, (Megadeth) Brandon Gibbs, (Cheap Thrills/ Devil City Angels) Eric Brittingham, (Cinderella/Devil City Angels) Great White, Crazytown, Xno, Trippy the Clown, Angelo, (Fishbone) Archer, September Mourning, and more.
I spent some time during the show with Corky Byer and Larry Dean from the Rock N Roll Autograph Show talking about our future plans for September’s event in Las Vegas, which is a benefit for St. Jude. We are in the planning phases of this year’s event, and really excited that things are moving forward in such a positive direction.
I made a point to walk as much of the floor as I could, covering Main Halls A through E, and the 2nd and 3rd floors as well. However, most of my time was spent in Halls C and D, where the majority of the guitars and drums are located. On Saturday Mike Starr’s sister Melinda Starr unveiled a Limited Edition Mike Starr Signature Bass at the Spector booth. They had free drinks, and Rudy Sarzo, (Quiet Riot/Ozzy/ Whitesnake) Rachel Bolan, (Skidrow) and P.J. Farley (Trixter) were hanging out at the booth, so it was definitely a fun party vibe. I waited with Tony West (Blacklist Union) for the unveiling, while taking advantage of a couple free drinks, and chatting with Marten Andersson, (Lizzy Borden) Bjorn, (Soul Sign) and Marty O’Brien (Lita Ford).
During the show, I did ‘on the spot’ interviews with Richie Ramone, (Solo Artist/The Ramones) Conquest, (St. Louis Metal Band) Jeff Duncan, (Armored Saint/DC4) Troy Elizonda and Carlos Bates Cruz from Stonebreed, Wornstar Rock N Roll Clothing. and Zak Stevens (Circle II Circle/Savatage).
Richie Ramone recently released a video for the title track of his solo release “Entitled” that they shot in L.A. and on Hollywood Blvd. Richie said, “For videos you gotta really be on your game and actually have the music really loud so that you’re really singing, and the veins are popping out of your neck.” The video was directed by Steve Appleford and edited by Brett Smith.
Richie just spent five weeks touring Europe, and plans to go to South America for a few weeks in February, play a few West Coast dates in April, and then go back to Europe. Richie has a lot of fun on tour, loves seeing fans sing along with the new songs, and thinks it’s important to come out after each show, hang out with the fans, and listen to what’s on their minds.
Conquest are a pure breed of heavy metal influenced by bands like Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, and Metallica. The “old school metal band with a new vibe” is in the process of recording two records; a tribute record and an original record. The tribute album is a tribute to the ‘Metal Gods,’ including songs by Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, and Slayer. The new original CD has five songs tracked so far, and is going to be heavy. They have titles for “Black Skies,” “Creator,” and “New August” so far.
They also completely shocked me by telling me that they recorded a cover of Bon Jovi’s “Wanted Dead or Alive” for b-movie horror flick ‘Jezebeth III.’ They redesigned the song, without f*cking with the melodies, and made sure to keep the form for the purists. I look forward to hearing that!
Jeff Duncan is gearing up for the Armored Saint tour and is looking forward to playing some U.S. dates with Saxon, and European festivals this summer, including Hellfest in France, Alcatraz Hard Rock and Metal Festival in Belgium, Bloodstock Open Air in England, Wacken Open Air in Germany, and a few shows with Queensryche.
Armored Saint are also working on the follow-up to ‘La Raza,’ and Jeff said “It’s always been ten years in between albums, and this time it’s been five, so we are making progress.” In Vegas, Jeff is playing with The Bones with his brother Shawn, and he plays in all star 80’s Sunset Strip tribute Let It Rawk with Stacey Blades, Jamie St. James, Jimmy D’Anda, and Sean McNabb. “We’re not wearing wigs and stuff… Fortunately we all still have our hair.”
I’d been hearing a lot about Wornstar Clothing lately, and got the rundown from the company’s owner Steven. He told me they are a small brand out of Chicago that have been around just over five years that does printed rock n’ roll clothing and custom rock n’ roll handmade stage clothing. Their main motto is ‘They are worn in to wear out.”
Stonebreed was hanging at Wornstar, so I caught up with Troy Elizonda and Carlos Bates Cruz, who are getting geared up to play Farm Rock this summer. Carlos said that Farm Rock is supposedly going to take place in Atlanta this year, as well as Sturgis, and that there is a possibility that Farm Rock will be coming to Southern California. Carlos said that the band has five new songs, and are going to record an EP and video before they head on the road this summer.
Being that Savatage is one of my top favorite bands in the entire world, I truly enjoyed hearing Zak Stevens tell me the story about how he first met the Oliva brothers when he was living in Hollywood and going to VIT (Vocal school at the Musician’s Institute). His friend Dan Campbell, who used to guitar tech for Criss Oliva, invited him to see Savatage play during the ‘Gutter Ballet’ tour and they hung out all night until the sun came up. Zak saw Savatage again when they came through Boston on the ‘Streets’ tour, and Dan gave the band his demo from Wicked Witch, who he was playing with in Boston at the time.
Zak recorded five Savatage albums in ten years and plays a selection of Savatage songs during his live shows with Circle II Circle. CIIC is planning on going to Brazil in October, and then Europe in November/December.
Right after I finished up my interview with Zak, I popped by the Rock N Roll Relics booth where Gilby Clarke was signing. I walked up and he said, ‘Hey, that’s cheating!’ Funny, since I have known Gilby since 1994! It was great to see him signing, and I look forward to catching him on a Wednesday night jam night soon at Lucky Strike in Hollywood.
It was also great to have run into C.C. Deville from Poison not one, not two, but three times throughout the weekend, and to see Rikki Rockett twice! There definitely is no a shortage of rock stars at this show!
The California Music Fest, which is a Tichy/Sutton Production where hundreds of talented musicians have an opportunity to pay tribute to their heroes over a three night time period, took place at The Observatory Theater in Santa Ana on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night. The Bonzo Bash (John Henry Bonham/Led Zeppelin) was Thursday, Randy Rhoads Remembered (A Celebration for a Guitar Legend) was Friday, and The Ox & the Loon (John Entwistle & Keith Moon/The Who) was on Saturday.
It was great to be able to share my love for music with so many like-minded music fans, and also to have the opportunity to represent Metal Babe Mayhem as a proud sponsor of the event. The Observatory Theater was filled with genuine love for music, from the VIP area in the back, to the mind-blowing musicians performing onstage, to each and every person in the venue.
You can see some footage from Randy Rhoads Remembered of Joel Hoekstra, Rudy Sarzo, Brian Tichy, Chas West, Jeff Watson here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TCIHLR8QgeA
Los Angeles hard rockers Blacklist Union killed it Friday night with their first show of the year as direct support for Randy Rhoads Remembered. The band took the stage by storm with “Alive N Well Smack in the Middle of Hell,” the first single from their upcoming 2015 release ‘Back to Momo.’ Vocalist and founder Tony West donned an Indian headdress for the first song, and then unleashed his dreads for the remainder of the set. The entire band had a great look, energy, sound, and stage presence. Tony West has such great charisma that commands attention of everyone in the room. Blacklist Union played a high-voltage rock n’ roll set with seven brand new songs including “Shake it Off,” “Mirror, Mirror,” “Evil Eye,” the Rose Tattoo cover “Rock N Roll Outlaw,” “SuperJaded,” and the title track.
Bands played a second stage during the Fest too, and I stopped in to watch a song here and there. I enjoyed watching the Alice Cooper Tribute Band Nightmare’s fun and theatrical performance on Saturday, which involved a cast of nine and quite a few props and actors, including Frankenstein (who actually had a Metal Babe Mayhem shirt on), a nurse, dominatrix, coffin, electric chair, gas can, and a straightjacket. They played fourteen songs, starting with “Welcome to my Nightmare” and ending with “School’s Out.” Highlights included “No More Mister Nice Guy,” “Billion Dollar Babies,” “Ballad of Dwight Fry,” and my all time favorite Alice Cooper song “Poison.”
The ‘Step and repeat’ flowed each night as artists who arrived were greeted on the red carpet by a slew of professional photographers and on the spot interviews. It was truly an honor to have my Metal Babe Mayhem logo on the red carpet, along with the likes of Ludwig, Remo, D’Addario, Jackson, and Remo.
In summary, it was a great week filled with enough rock n’ roll fun and musical memories to last a lifetime. Thank you NAMM 2015, we will see you next year!
Special thank you’s go out to: All Access Magazine, Joe Sutton, Brian Tichy, Jessica Johnson and the entire crew at Rock N Roll Industries, Grant Masson, Aaron Bennett Dystra, Russell Finch, Rob Chevelle, Cindi Hoskins, Wendy Morgan Dent, Tony Rockwood, and Lori Hutchinson.
Additional thank you’s to everyone who showed me and Metal Babe Mayhem support and LOVE over NAMM weekend. You know who you are!