by John M. Borack
Your weary scribe again battled the crowds, the untenable parking and traffic, and the miles and miles of walking (7.5 miles in one day this year) at the 2017 NAMM Show at the Anaheim Convention Center. Billed as the music industry’s largest trade show, it found more than 100,000 attending over its four day run and saw more than 1,600 exhibitors showcasing every type of music-related item you could possibly imagine – and some you probably couldn’t.
As I spent the bulk of my time on the convention floor this year, I missed out on the multitude of informative sessions that are one of the best parts of the NAMM experience each year. This meant I didn’t make it to panel discussions such as "How to Keep a Big Balance in Your Bank Account.” (Presumably the answer is "Don't become a musician.")
Instead, this time around I concentrated on seeing a few live performances and visiting some percussion-related dealers. My first stop was at the Regal Tip booth, where I checked out the drumstick selection and visited with Michelle Calato, whose grandfather Joe Calato invented the nylon-tipped drumstick nearly 60 years ago. She explained that the nylon tips provide more durability and an audible clarity, particularly on the cymbals. Regal Tip is a second and third generation-run family-run business, and Joe Calato is credited with a number of innovations in the creation of drumsticks. In 2003, Regal Tip introduced the E-Tip, which features the nylon tip, but offers the warmer sound of wood on the cymbals due to small ridges in the nylon. (I can testify to the durability of Regal’s nylon tip; I’ve been using the same pair of their jazz sticks for close to seven years now!)
At the Paiste booth, I was impressed by the look of their Color Sound 900 cymbal series, available in black, blue, red, and purple. According to the Paiste website, the Color Sounds are “Warm, full, focused, with muted brilliance and flexible, giving feeling.” Wait, are they talking about cymbals or wine? No, I know – it’s from a personal ad, right?
Over at Remo Drums, the most interesting item was a little something called the Rhythm Lid, which was touted as being able to “transform your bucket into a drum.” A specialty item for sure, methinks, but probably a handy item for street musicians.
I was able to catch a brief performance by LA-based (by way of Philly) singer/songwriter Rob Bonfiglio at the Rock Cellar Magazine booth, where he played a few fine tunes from his upcoming solo record. In addition to his musically fruitful solo career, Bonfiglio is also the musical director and guitarist for the multi-platinum pop trio, Wilson Phillips. You can find out more about Rob’s music by visiting robbonfiglio.bandcamp.com.
My final stop of the day was the lobby of the Marriott Hotel, where the debut performance of Honey River was taking place. Honey River is a trio that features singer/songwriter Joey Sykes whose Classic New Rock was one of my favorite records of 2016, so I was looking forward to hearing what new musical tricks he had up his sleeve. Unlike the hard-edged power pop of his solo album (and his work as lead guitarist of The Babys), Honey River is influenced by the smoother sounds of the likes of The Eagles, Jackson Browne and others of their ilk. Lead vocalist Matt Cermanski is an outstanding frontman, while Sykes provides some tasty guitar and high harmonies. The talented trio is rounded out by Stephan Hovsepian, who alternated between mandolin, guitar and violin. Their enthusiastically-received 40-minute set featured some lovely harmonies on sturdy originals such as “Save the Ink” and “Peace, Love and Happiness.” Check ‘em out at www.honeyrivermusic.com.
Of course, what would NAMM be without the outstanding people watching opportunities and odd musical gear? Here’s one of my personal favorites: