Damn Yankees photo courtesy of Robert Kinsler
NAMM was back at the Anaheim Convention Center late last week, drawing thousands of music industry professionals from around the world to see and hear the latest instruments and accessories, watch live performances and meet/get autographs from various artists.
The International Music Products Association is the trade association which sponsored the four day event (plus invite only preview day), commonly referred to by its original moniker, National Association of Music Merchandisers (NAMM). There were more than 85,000 registrants and nearly 1,400 exhibitors.
On Friday, I managed to catch highly touted new Scandinavian rock band BigBang on the outdoor stage. Their second Stateside album "Edendale," influenced by late '60s acts such as Cream, comes out next week. Of the few tunes witnessed at NAMM, "Wild Bird" and the sweet harmonies of "Call Me" definitely stood out.
Taylor Guitars always has top-notch talent in one of several medium sized (oxygen-deprived) conference rooms upstairs. This year's crop included Night Ranger, whose hard rock anthems like "You Can Still Rock in America" and the power ballad "Sister Christian" came off well in an acoustic setting. Leader Jack Blades also reunited with his Damn Yankees bandmates (Tommy Shaw, Ted Nugent, Michael Cartellone, pictured above) for the first time in more than a decade. The fun, mini-stripped down set featured "Coming of Age," "High Enough" and The Nuge's solo hit "Cat Scratch Fever."
A colleague and I wanted to stay for Jason Mraz, but it was too hot in the packed room. So we hightailed it over to Disney's California Adventure. That's where Yamaha put on its semi-annual, star-studded private dealers show at the Hyperion Theater.
This year's Yamaha concert was emceed by Damon Wayans (who did a mediocre job) and had a roster featuring punk/pop newcomers Pull Start Rockets, Jon McLaughlin, John Ondrasik of Five for Fighting, Mraz, Vince Gill, Natalie Cole and headliner Michael McDonald. They did between 2-5 songs each.
Mraz was great as usual, especially on an extended freestyle version of "The Remedy (I Won't Worry)" aided by the 30-piece orchestra and 10-piece house band. He left me wanting more than three songs. Now I really regret missing his show at the Hollywood Bowl a few months ago. McLaughlin admitted his nervousness, but still proved enthralling on keyboard-led selections like "So Close" and "Beautiful Disaster."
Ondrasik - quite animated on the piano - excelled on "Superman" and while I'm not a fan of Gill, you couldn't help but be moved by his "When You Come Around."