WHAM BAM THANK YOU NAMM!
Metal Sludge covers the annual NAMM convention, and boy did we have fun
ANAHEIM, Calif., USA — The NAMM convention was a huge success once again, as the annual industry event gets bigger — and better — every year, and the 2016 version was off the charts in terms of an overflow crowd, an amazing array of equipment vendors and, best of all, a series of riveting performances by many of the world’s most popular Rock artists.
Metal Sludge and our coterie of associates were there for the duration, of course — and we have the scars to prove it.
The festivities began in ernest on Thursday, Jan. 21 for a heavily-anticipated twin bill featuring headliners Vixen and fellow all-girl act Femme Fatale at House of Blues just next door to Disneyland.
Femme Fatale never quite got their due back in the day (probably because Lorraine Lewis and Co. were signed to MCA, which did a poor job of breaking new artists during the Wasserman era), and it has taken a long time for the underrated band to renew what limited popularity they had in the first place.
But Lewis still looks great, and she sings her cute little ass off. The crowd was already swelling up nicely by the time drummer Athena began bashing away for the intro, and overall the set went very well and seemed to fly by by the time “Waiting For The Big One” rolled around for the finale.
Then it was Vixen’s turn, and these gals proved they still have life. The band still features originals Janet Gardner (lead vocals), Share Pedersen (bass) and Roxy Petrucci (drums), and the group showed they meant business from the very start with the opening “Rev It Up.”
We were surprised how many familiar songs followed. Vixen was more popular than you might think. Like Femme Fatale’s Lewis and Athena (no more last name, like Madonna or Cher!), the Vixen ladies have remained in good shape by (presumably) taking good care of themselves.
Afterwards, we celebrated deep into the night at a hotel party with members of Quiet Riot (Chuck Wright), Sweet (Richie Onori), Black ‘N Blue (Shawn Sonnenschein), Giuffria (Alan Krigger) and London (Nadir D’Priest and Krigger again).
On Friday, after a reasonable amount of time to recuperate, it was time to check out NAMM itself in all its glory, including literally miles of booths featuring every kind of musical instrument and accessory you can imagine. All the biggies like Gibson, Marshall and Ludwig were representated, along with about a million others.
When the evening arrived, it was time to hit the Bonzo Bash at M3 Live club just down the road, and what a spell-binding series of performances we enjoyed, as the Moby Dicks, led by singer Chas West (Bonham/Foreigner), guitarist Brent Woods (Sebastian Bach/Vince Neil/Young Gunns), drummer Brian Tichy (Foreigner/Whitesnake) and bassist James Lomenzo (White Lion/X-Drive) really tore it up.
These guys do Zeppelin in a way that would make the late John Bonham proud, and had Robert Plant, John Paul Jones and Jimmy Page been there, there is no doubt the three of them would have been standing and applauding.
With a few guests like Skid Row drummer Rob Affuso subbing in here and there, the group literally played non-stop for four hours. The soldout crowd ate it up, too. Everyone was going crazy.
All this was preceded by a highly entertaining performance by buzz band Blacklist Union, led by singer Tony West, who absolutely killed it. You have no idea how hard it is for a relatively unknown band to impress one single person at NAMM, where most of us have seen it all, but Blacklist Union pulled it off with a fun set that did not last particularly long (about seven songs) but was non-stop hooks and killer riffs and spine-tingling vocal harmonies.
The end of the night found us enjoying a midnight concert at the Hilton (right in the thick of things) by Hot For Teacher, a Van Halen tribute act that doesn’t look much like Eddie and the boys but sure sounds like ’em.
On Saturday, we found ourselves back at the convention center. Iron Maiden drummer Nico McBrain was signing autographs for long line of attendees at the Sonor booth; Night Ranger guitarist Keri Kelli was making all the girls swoon at S.I.T. Strings; and Motley Crue bassist Nikki Sixx (Markley Strings?) even made an appearance that created quite a buzz.
Soon it was time for what turned out to be the crowning jewel of the weekend, the Randy Rhoads Remembered event at M3 Live. Promoted by Tichy (who played drums) and scenemaking impresario Joe Sutton, the Ozzy songs sounded incredible, especially with original Ozzy bassist Rudy Sarzo in place.
There were some amazing vocals performances by Jeff Scott Soto, Warrant’s Robert Mason and several others, but the one who stole the show was a 16-year-old female guitarist from Las Vegas named Lexii Lynn Frazier, who absolutely shredded on “Crazy.” If this little lady is not a star on the rise, then Metal Sludge knows absolutely nothing about rock and roll.
Truly a spectacular event overall. God we love Ozzy and miss Randy.
Alas, good times can’t last forever, but they can last until dawn, right? So we partied it up back at the Marriott in a double-suite that served as headquarters for band-aids the Seattle Sirens, led by chief hostess Angel Hanson, a model who doubles as a Microsoft executive.
We had wanted to check out Montrose Remembered featuring Keith St. John a bit earlier yet couldn’t fit it into our schedule, but wouldn’t you know it, St. John showed up at the party with a bunch of other A-listers (at least in our world), as we toasted cocktails and passed around high-fives; the last few hours became kind of a blur, but we love the nights we can’t remember with the friends we can’t forget.
Gerry Gittelson can be reached at email@example.com