NAMM 2020

Tried something new this year: only used the phone for communication and navigation and didn’t worry about the selfies and gearporn shots. So…

Day One: I sat thru some AES/NAMM panels, had a nice chat with Adrian Belew, saw Mike Watt, lotsa purty geetars and wave one of the hairband has-beens. Test drove a couple reverb pedals, which was unusual for me. I usually don’t play anything out of self consciousness and keen awareness of my musical limitations. Booths seem to be overrun with shredders on break from Musicians Institute

Day Two: More AES. Saw a presentation/interview with Finneas O’Connell. Had my annual catch-up meeting with Brad Hogg, and then…

Wandering the floor, late in the afternoon, surrounded by noise, I hear from somewhere behind me,


I turn and see a familiar face that my brain is failing to attach a name to. Then, as I look at the name badge my brain grapples with the idea that standing before me is Jason “Fish” Harper, friend and former drummer, who I haven’t seen in 30 years. Thousands of people milling about and he was able to spot me.

Day Three: Panels, and because it’s Saturday; people, so many people! Highlights? Had a lovely chat with Steve Lawson who is demoing for a handful of gear companies. Remarkable bassist and supremely nice person. While every other bass player is slapping away at inhuman(e) speeds, Steve is tasteful and melodic while still being sonically adventurous.

The other highlight was the X-Jam concert. I had the best seat (3rd row center) for a lineup that included the Travis Larson Band and Andy Timmons Band followed by Mike Keneally, Ray White, Scott Thunes, Bobby Martin and Joe Travers. All except Joe are alumns of the Zappa band (most from the ’88 band) and Joe is in charge of the Zappa archives. Never thought I’d see these guys play together again. The mix was sub-par but the performances stellar. Met Scott post-show and told him he did a great job. I was also reminded how much of a master Keneally is.

Day Whatever: SO. MANY. BASS. PLAYERS. Sheehan, Watt, Bootsy, Sarzo, Wimbish, Chaney, Hellborg, Hamm, Bromberg (haven’t seen him since just before leaving L.A.), and I know there are plenty I saw but can’t remember.

So, gear takeaways? The guys at Tech 21 seem to be intent on me picking up the bass again. First it was the Dug Pinnick pedal, then the Geddy Lee pedal, THIS year… a new Geddy Lee pre-amp/DI and a Steve Harris pedal. Takeaway # 2: There are too damn many tasty reverb pedals. Takeaway #3: MOD Devices showed me how I can replace my entire pedalboard with one small box (and a midi controller). Just have to decide which would hurt more, my wallet or my lower back. Weird side note: people take the idea of Fred Armison as a drummer for real. Saw him presenting something on a panel at a booth.

Now, the grueling journey home.

Note: my spellcheck just suggested, in place of “grueling”, “gruel lingerie”. I hope that’s not a real thing.

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