Monday, January 17, 2011

NAMM 2011 coverage: Friday

My report originally appeared on and can be viewed on the paper's Soundcheck blog. 

Friday afternoon’s festivities in the Taylor Guitars suite at NAMM got off to a rousing start thanks to The Airborne Toxic Event. The LA-based rock band did a mostly acoustic, 20-minute set that showed it can often be just as stirring - and switch instruments with similar dexterity - as Arcade Fire in a live setting.

Although lead singer/guitarist Mikel Jollett looked as if he hadn’t been awake very long, he still delivered some intense vocals on the freewheeling “Missy.” As is custom during the quintet’s concerts, the song segued into a feisty take on Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m on Fire” (Jollett even nailed The Boss’ falsetto howls) and Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues” (Noah Harmon’s standup bass work really propelled the rhythm) before circling back to the original melody. Modern rock radio hit “Sometime Around Midnight,” propelled by Anna Bulbrook’s graceful violin strains, had a dramatic uplift and sounded wonderful. 

Across the hall in the dimly lit Pioneer Electronics room, Chicago house music DJ Kaskade spun tunes - including a remix of Nomad’s “(I Wanna Give You) Devotion” - as various people tried out the newest mixers and decks.

Ed Robertson and Kevin Hearn of Barenaked Ladies immediately followed ATE. The Taylor suite was packed and the doors had to be shut well before the Canadian pop/rock musicians hit the stage. For 40-minutes, both guitarists (Hearn alternated between electric and acoustic, while Robertson stuck with the latter) thoroughly entertained the crowd. Their trademark comic banter and strategically-placed humorous lyric changes were a hoot, especially amid a fast-paced “It’s All Been Done” and “Pinch Me.”  

“We aren’t the guys who do masterful things onstage and they immediately spread virally online,” noted Robertson at one point. Still, they engaged in a bit of intricate picking on “For You” and the strident pace of “Ordinary,” from last year’s “All in Good Time.” Hearn handled the fragile lead vocals on the title track rarity that didn't actually make the album cut.

Elsewhere, “Blame it on Me,” from 1992 debut “Gordon,” came across more ruminative and dramatic in a stripped down format, while the whimsical “Thanks, That Was Fun” was prefaced by a story about how Robertson accidentally ripped off Neil Young in the intro. Finally, big hit “One Week” capped the lively performance

Out in the Anaheim Convention Center hall, Lisa Loeb held court before a large crowd gathered around the theater-styled (and I must say, awkwardly-placed) Alfred Publishing booth. “I feel like I’m playing in a puppet show,” she sheepishly admitted.

Armed with an acoustic guitar, the pop/rock songstress did an amiable version of old song “Wishing Heart” and a new tune from her upcoming “punky” album produced by New Found Glory’s Chad Gilbert (!).

Loeb enthused that NAMM “was like being in the hugest store ever” before doing equally big hit “Stay” from the “Reality Bites” soundtrack. Amazingly, her supple voice managed to cut through all the racket going on everywhere. Loeb finished with “Best Friend,” an endearing song from her 2008 children’s album “Camp Lisa.”

Ed Robertson photo from Nov. 2010 in New York, courtesy of

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