At NAMM 2020 back in January, the worst thing you had to worry about was getting NAMMthrax (or NAMMonia), that is, a bad cold from shaking all those hands. We live in different times now; hope you and yours are healthy.
What this year’s winter show lacked in number of interesting product debuts it made up for in decibels. Complaints were constant about being unable to hear the gear, or talk to the vendors. (You can experience this in some of the videos). That said, there were a few cool releases that should appeal to the modern guitarist. If April seems late for the roundup, consider that many of these products are just now shipping.
Sometimes it takes great modern players to demonstrate new ways in which the electric guitar can be used to creatively enhance the song form: Belew/Fripp in King Crimson, David Torn with David Bowie, Stian Westerhus with his band Pale Horses, and now Markus Schneider on his new record Widerspruch, where he intones evocative vocals over glitchy guitar. This Viennese guitarist contacted me and I checked out some live videos, where his cool Hofner immediately caught my eye. I decided an interview was in order.
Summer NAMM in Nashville remains a cozy, guitar oriented affair. The freak show element that enlivens winter NAMM is absent in the more tradition-oriented music city version. Still Gator cases provided some photo ops.There weren’t a great number of new things of particular interest to modern guitarists, but the few there were proved pretty exciting.
This year’s winter NAMM was INSANE! Thursday was as crowded as a typical Saturday and it escalated from there. The noise floor was non-stop jet-engine level. I came home with ears ringing and NAMMthrax. Was it worth it? You bet. Three full days was barely enough to cover all the cool stuff. It opened with a terrific concert band doing a modern composition that incorporated either recorded or live recitations from young people (I couldn’t see from my vantage point) about the difficulties of growing up. This boded well for a forward-thinking show and, in fact, there were ample examples of manufacturers leaving the traditional behind to explore new territory.
Other than the upward trajectory of the business evidenced by the crowd, the only trend I noticed was the invasion of the pedal market by Greece and Brazil. As usual, NAMM often stands for “Not Available, Maybe May,” so stay tuned to the manufactures’ sites and guitarmoderne.com for updates, and, if you would like to hear me talk about this year’s winter NAMM, check out Matt Wakeling’s Guitar Speak podcast featuring yours truly.
After the encouragingly enormous but exhausting winter NAMM, the relative Southern sleepiness of the summer edition was welcome. As usual, it was largely guitar oriented, tending towards traditional, with variations on of vintage guitars, amps, and effects in abundance. There were, however, a few examples of forward thinking.
The award for coolest gear at the show has to go to the Coppersound Telegraph Stutter. Perhaps modern only in a steampunk sense, it is still such a great idea sonically and aesthetically that it wins hands down. See the rest of the report for some of their other offbeat pedal concepts.