Summer NAMM 2009 Review

Well I made it back in one piece from attending this year’s summer NAMM show in Nashville TN. I have to start off by saying that I was a bit skeptical about this show because I heard that many of the top manufacturers and dealers were not going to attend. I have attended NAMM shows for over 10 years and this was the first time that Fender, Marshall, Roland, and Gibson etc… did not attend. Those are usually some of my favorite stops and after parties.

The day before the show started I attended the 2nd. Annual Largest Pedalboard event, this event raises money for the Kidney Foundation. My buddy Aljon does this every year and this is the second time he broke the World's Record for the most pedals connected to one amp, 147 pedals all on at the same time. 
Check out the pics:

I was asked to conduct a clinic and help raise money for the charity and from what I was told they did very well and the show was a huge success.

If you want a laugh check out this link to the video of my clinic: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9VgS6FyOzNY&feature=email
For more info about this event and the charity, go to my buddy Aljon’s website and make a donation to the Kidney Foundation: http://www.tonefreq.blogspot.com/    www.kidney.org

The next day when I arrived at the show the traffic was considerably mild. Usually your being trampled like you’re at the airport, but this year everybody seems mellower than usual. Walking through the convention center and proceeding to the main hall, most of the small booths that usually decorate the walls were not there. I was like “OH S**T!!” What happened to the music industry? Did the economy affect more companies than I originally thought?

It was weird, not seeing the usual suspects out there doing their thang, but when I entered the main hall I was relieved to see many familiar faces and companies there hungry and battling through a weak economy.

Walking through the main hall I noticed that there were many smaller companies in attendance and new companies showing for the first time. That was refreshing to see. I also noticed that all these booths were busy. By who? Dealers!!! Many dealers came to the show, most of them your local shop up the street all looking at new products and new gear to stock in their stores.

There was a ton of business being done and then it hit me. The big companies and dealers that usually distract you from these smaller companies weren’t here to get in the way and now these companies were getting the attention they deserve.

I talked to many frustrated dealers that said: “I allocate thousands of dollars of my budget to these top manufacturers, and they care more about their bottom lines than to come out and show support to their dealer base, maybe I should start giving them less and show more support to the companies that are here and want my business.” I wish I had a dime every time I heard this statement.

The biggest difference about this NAMM show was that the spirit of why we do this was back. The corporate giants weren’t there and it was all start-up companies and Ma & Pa shops all getting together supporting one another.

I think the music industry is on the verge of a huge corporate back lash. These companies have gotten to big and greedy; most of them are all owned by corporations and not by the guy that started the company in the first place. The passion has left these companies a long time ago and we stuck by them hoping to get that spirit back. Most of these companies are sending their entire product lines to China trying to tell you that they can’t build products here, BULL!!!

I’m here to tell you that the name brands that we grew up with are DEAD… Look past these brands and find new products to love because there was tons of cool new gear I saw and most of it was built here in the U.S.A. at an affordable price. I even talked to many European companies that said that they want to set-up manufacturing facilities here in the U.S. because they don’t understand why these American companies would cheapen their brand by sending everything over to China.

Let me exhale and jump off my soapbox and let’s get to the gear…

Like I said there was a bunch of new guitar companies all with new and creative designs. The first company you need to check out is the St. Blues Guitar Company: www.saintblues.com they are based out of Memphis TN. If you know your music history, then you know that only good things come from Memphis and these guitars are right in that tradition. Very cool designs that are fresh and new but have that retro look and feel all mixed together. I heard form a lot of girls (My wife included) that the guitars are sexy looking. What else can I say?

The next company that caught my eye was the T.V. Jones Guitar Company: www.tvjones.com this is the same company that makes the pick-ups for Gretsch and other companies, but they have their own guitar line that needs to be paid attention too. The designs are very retro, but they are not Gretsch or Les Paul copies either. They have their own look and feel to them. I found myself not wanting to put it down, and the riffs just kept flowing, but I eventually did put it down and was very excited to see that the people at the company were excited that I liked the guitars. You could tell that they are very proud of their new babies. That was a nice experience.

This next company I missed the first day of the show, but my buddy Bob came up to me at dinner and was just raving about this new guitar company and how the guitars were the best mid priced guitars he has ever played. Period!!!

So with that I made it a priority to go and see them the next day. The company is the new Indie Guitar Company: www.indieguitars.ca the company is based in the U.K. and distributed to this Canadian company that imports them to the U.S. I went and played a bunch of them and they offer creative spins on some popular guitar shapes, and the colors, features and finishes were perfection.

Bob was right but the guitars I played had to be their top of the line models that were priced easily over a grand. Not a bad price for that kind of quality so when I asked them to show me the mid priced guitars. The two guys in the booth looked at me like a deer caught in head lights and said that all the guitars I played retailed for way under a $1000.00 dollars. The PRS style guitar I liked only retailed for $899.99. I was shocked, Really!!!

In this country we have not seen this kind of quality at these prices for over a decade. Great, great, guitars, and the guys are all players and really cool people, if you’re a dealer? Carry these guitars, if you’re a consumer? Tell your local dealer to carry these guitars. They are truly a product line that will sell well in any music store.

Let’s all thank Bob for this find… THANKS BOB!!!!

Before I move on to amplifiers I have to shed some light on two more guitar companies. One being Guitar Mill: www.guitarmill.com they build relic guitars and guitar parts, but they do it all in Tennessee. Great guys and their relic strats and teles are wonderfully accurate and affordable; ask for Gavin he can set you up with your next relic jewel.

The second company I want to mention is not a guitar manufacturer but a guitar service. The first of it’s kind. The company is called Guitar Affair: www.guitaraffair.com and in most circles you would think this was a bad thing, but it couldn’t be further from the truth, and don’t go telling your wife that Tony told you to go have an Affair. Ha, Ha, just kidding. NOT!!!

This company provides us musicians with the luxury of being able to travel and have access to an instrument. Any musician that has tried to fly with a guitar will tell you that the airlines just love breaking and damaging your favorite instrument.
Check out this Youtube video on the subjecthttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5YGc4zOqozo

Now you have a solution, go to the Guitar Affair website, pick out a guitar you would like delivered to your hotel and it will be there when you check-in. It comes in a case with a Line-6 pod/ headphones so you can jam in quiet bliss.

When you check-out put the return labels on the box and return it to the front desk, that’s it your done. No hassle and no problems. You also have the option to purchase the instruments and they only carry premium brands. This is one of those “Why didn’t I think of that” kind of ideas. Check them out and make sure to try out their service next time you travel or have a gig out of town, you won’t be sorry.

Many amplifier companies did not show up this time. Even some small boutique guys weren’t there, weird. But there were four amplifier companies that I feel need some props.

The first I need to mention is the Mad Professor amplifiers from Finland: www.mpamps.com these amps are very well made, high-end boutique amplifiers. Very, very cool. You can’t make these amps sound bad, they are more expensive than your regular run of the mill production amplifiers but they also sound better than those amps too. The quality and craftsmanship is much higher than most amps I have ever played and their cylinder ports (Allows the heat to escape naturally and allows the amp to not over-heat) on the top and back of the amplifier is probably one of the most useful and intelligent designs I have ever laid my eyes on. They just came out with a new 20 watt amp that is lower in price, but not in quality. You play small clubs? This is a gotta have amp.

The next amplifier company has a very cool story to tell, and when you meet these guys and they tell you their story? You might have just found the next big thing in guitar amplifiers. Meet Blackstar Amplifiers: www.blackstaramps.com they hail from the U.K. and the reason they started this company is that they all used to work for Marshall. You know Marshall Amplifiers?

These were “Key” members of Marshall’s management, marketing and engineering team. They decided to break out and create amps that weren’t Marshall Copies, but new designs that jump into new sonic territories, with features that only players and real musicians understand. The best thing about these amps is that they are affordably priced but sound like you paid three times as much.

Put these amps high on your priority list of things you must own before you die. Yes, they sound that good.

The next amplifier company you need to pay attention to is Egnater Amplifiers: www.egnateramps.com these are the really cool affordable amps you see all the time at Guitar Center, but they are branching out to local dealers and have expanded their amp line now offering 10 new models. All of these amps have that real smooth Egnater sound that is just candy for the ear.

Last but not least is probably one of the coolest looking amps I have seen in a while the 3rd. Power Amplifiers distributed by TSI Distributing: www.tsidistributing.com the company is based out of Nashville and they have come up with a design that has to be seen. I won’t spoil it for you but the cabinet design is unique and makes you wonder why we have made speaker cabinets in a box design for all these years. That’s all I’ll say about that, but this company also offers some really cool pedals that I’d like to review for all of you. Check them out today.

There are a few more companies that stuck out that had unique products. The “O” Port was cool. It’s a ring that fits inside the sound hole of an acoustic guitar. The design pulls all the acoustic frequency that is lost inside the body of the guitar out. It not only increases volume but over-all tonality and response of the guitar: www.dmg-austin.com

This next company had really cool knobs. Literally, they were cool and Chunky. Maybe that’s why they are called Chunky Knobs: www.chunkyknobs.com tell Ed I sent you.

Visual Sound has a new pedal called the “Vans Warped Tour” Pedal, a must have: www.visualsound.net while we are on pedals HipKitty Products has some cool new stomp boxes: www.hipkittyproducts.com while you are experimenting with some new effects you need to put them on something, so go and visit my new friends at Pedaltrain pedalboards: www.pedaltrain.com they made me want to trash my Home Depot pedalboard and join the 21st. Century with a sleek new travel friendly pedal board. Tell Joanna I sent ya.

As you can see I had a ton of fun at the show and the music business is bouncing back, there is a lot of fight left in us. You can’t keep good musicians down, because we are an industry of passionate, creative people trying to come up with products that will inspire the next generation of Eddie Van Halens, Zakk Wyldes, Jimmy Pages, and names we haven’t heard of yet.

If you look back into history you will notice that empires have crumbled and giants have fallen, and the under-dog does triumph sometimes. We are living through strange times and we need to join together and shout in one voice that we won’t allow greedy corporate entities to dictate outrageous prices just because it says “Made in the U.S.A.” Let’s keep jobs here by supporting companies that are fighting to keep Americans employed, and demand that they keep their prices reasonable and affordable.

That’s all I have to say about that, and how did I get back up on this soapbox?

Please check out these new companies and the products they offer, they deserve your business and you deserve better products from companies that still appreciate you the customer.
Tony J. Pasko

P.S. When in Nashville don't forget to check out my favorite barbque joint; Jack's on Broadway.

©2009 Tony Pasko & Fred Russell Publishing, All Rights Reserved. This article can not be used without permission from the Author. To Contact the Author email curt@RockHouseMethod.com

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