Tom Tom Takes NAMM 2018

Words and Photos By Shelly Simon

Overall Experience 

Have you ever been to Bonnaroo? Coachella? Even your local Guitar Center? Well,  NAMM was like all those amazingly intense social congregations in one place. Hailing it’s 40th year in Anaheim, the convention center it’s typically held at boasted a new wing; a 200,000 square foot addition. It increased the festival’s capacity by 10%, meaning it’s guesstimated 107,000 attendees from 2017 did increase.

It pumps $89 million into the city’s economy from an industry that generates $17 billion in worldwide sales (according to NAMM, the National Association of Music Merchants). The NAMM Show, which ran Jan. 25-28 at the Anaheim (Calif.) Convention Center, is the world’s largest trade show for the music-products business. Which makes it larger than the recorded-music business ($15.7 billion in global value, according to labels trade group IFPI). That’s a lot to wrap your head around. It’s evident when you arrive at the convention center it’s everyone and anyone who’s gear hungry. It’s like being a little fish in a big sea of sharks.

Luckily when you’ve got women who know their gear, drummers who can demonstrate their skills on the fly and people who are just passionate about their product, it’s a win-win. I dove into NAMM with our tech editor, JJ Jones, a seasoned musician and professional percussion specialist. Those four days of the fast-paced phenomenon were spent in these spaces talking to vendors about their new pieces, meeting rad drummers from Italy, Brazil, France, Australia and more. JJ had her phone at the ready, to grab a Boomerang (an essential GIF creating app of a 5 second video) of any badass woman / non-binary person with drum sticks.

I felt like I was at Hogwarts. Walking around with our drum sticks at the ready – to test any inticing piece of percussive instrument that we encountered. From new PAISTE Master Series Dry Ride to Keith McMIllen Instruments’ Bop Pad to the intriguing Sensory Percussion (by Sunhouse) set up ~ we were wizards/witches spreading magic everywhere.

JJ and Danita ~ navigating a dude centric, young person space with two bold badass drummer ladies

Alongside us for a few days was Danita, a really rad addition to this Tom Tom team. She volunteers with Girls Rock Camp LA (teaching drums!) and plays occasionally. We were a magnetic trio, moving through the masses meeting many musicians who very stoked and aware of Tom Tom Magazine. You feel empowered walking through a space like that with a copy of the Tom Tom’s Sex and Love Issue; at least I did. Knowing the knowledge of what went into this issue and how many minds it will expand was empowering. Showing the physical copy other people, vice-presidents of percussion gear companies, fellow drummers, guitarists from Hawaii, a reporter from Hollywood and more. Like I said, there were many fish in the sea of NAMM.

Women of NAMM reception
On the first night there was an event called “Women of NAMM” reception. As we trekked upstairs away from the array of halls, we stumbled upon a group of 6 women doing “drum stick twirls”. Quick to the cameras, we got photos and videos of the women with their “wands.” It was incredible to interact with these people, talk about where they’re from and why they were at NAMM. Come to find a few of these drummers were part of WIMN (Women in Music Network). We had our new Brazilian friend, Natalia, with us as well. Creating community between continents is always a rewarding experience. The reception was quite large and had an all female Queen cover band. One of the head honchos of NAMM, Robin Waleta (NAMM Board of Directors / President/CEO of West Music Co) was a refreshing representation on stage. She boasted, rightfully, of her presence on the NAMM board being the first female to be president of a company on the board of NAMM.

Gear Highlights

BLUE microphones continuing to push the ICE and SNOWBALL edition, great for podcasters, vocal recordings at home and simple voice-over acting if you want to keep it simple.

D’Addario: We got the pleasure of going into their literal castle that oversaw all of Halls B & C. It was a fortress created to house hundreds of meetings, demonstrations and of course, drumsticks. We tested the Promark Firegrain Sticks “a revolutionary heat-tempering process that transforms ordinary hickory drumsticks into precision tools with unprecedented durability. While keeping their original weight, balance, and feel, FireGrain sticks allow drummers to hit harder and play longer, naturally. No excess vibration, no space age gimmicks, just natural hickory, hardened by flame.” (via D’Addario)

Keith McMillen Instruments: Being able to watch Madame Gandhi demo out the Bop Pad was a really exciting experience. You look at the Bop Pad thinking “it’s only one drum pad, how’s it going to carry out some sound?” In fact, it delivers way more than expected. With four independently programmable zones at a 10” circular design, it’s the perfect sized tool to amplify any acoustic kit or enhance an electronic set up.

Sunhouse Percussion: Long story short, these guys come from a background of math, music and technology. Their resources combined created a hardware + software system that is an overlay onto acoustic drums. The sensor clamps to the side of a drum (snare, tom or kick) and connects to a Mac/PC software via a standard audio interface as a phantom-powered microphone.

EVERYONE HAD CAJONS. Not an exaggeration. Merely an accurate observation.

The 2018 She Rocks Awards

This night was full of lady legends from all across the board. From first-wave punks FANNY (now they go by Fanny Walked the Earth) to Fabi Reyna, Founder and Editor of She Shreds Media, the room was full of inspirational folks. The event was co-hosted by Kat Corbett, DJ on KROQ in Los Angeles and WiMN founder Laura B Whitmore. The Women in Music Network event has been going on for six years, making this year’s show at the new Anaheim House of Blues bigger and more official than ever.

Being able to witness really rad talent perform was a highlight of this hectic weekend; especially from a Tom Tom staff writer! Chloe Saavadra (who worked on the piece on Wax Idols from our Sex & Love issue) is part of Chaos Chaos, alongside her sister Asy. Asy is the lead singer/keyboardist and Chloe is the percussionist.

Unique to this event was the fact Chaos Chaos composed the song “Terryfold” for the tv show Rick and Morty. There was a pre-performance panel involving Justin Roiland, co-creator and voice of Rick and Morty, show composer Ryan Elder and Chaos Chaos. The panel segment touched upon the composition of the show, the inspiration behind the score and general verbatim back and forth between these creatives.

Interview w Chloe of Chaos Chaos

Q: How did this all come together?
A: Honestly not totally sure but I’ve heard Justin say that he was telling Courtney Love how he wanted a Korg synth and she connected him with the Korg people and then they had us on their music panel at NAMM discussing music on Rick and Morty and Asy and I did a short Chaos Chaos set afterward. We’ve had a lot of music on the show like, ‘Do You Feel It’, ‘Terryfold’ and some songs written for the show as well. Anyway, we ended up really loving all the Korg people and inherited some amazing gear; SV1, MS20, Arp odyssey and the micro korg.

Q: Have you been to NAMM before?
A: Don’t think so. It’s insane.

Q: It’s like being in a Guitar Center for 4 days straight, how do you keep your head on?? Especially regarding performing.
A: Exactly haha, it felt like a guitar center bro’s dream which is also my nightmare. We ended up having a great time actually, just hanging with the Korg people, Samash and Sabian people.

Q: What’s a fun way you get to expose people to the Ricky & Morty realm of Chaos Chaos. How did that all happen? Did you enjoy talking on a panel?
A: Honestly I felt super awkward on the panel, I went into it thinking it was a no brainer and then on stage defaulted into my nervous school-presentation self haha. But yeah, we’ve known Justin Roiland for a while because he’s been a fan of our music since Smoosh.

Q: Advice for folks, especially those who are more timid, about attending NAMM.
A: Bring a portal gun to escape if necessary. heh heh, sorry I think that was my first and probably last Rick and Morty joke I’ve ever made.

Q: Other thoughts about NAMM?
A: I guess what’s pretty cool about our recent connections with some music companies is that we’ve been able to get the gear that makes it possible for us to record everything completely on our own. As a woman, it feels super necessary to have agency to do that and just bypass involving a man in some step of the process. For one because we totally can do it on our own but have never had the recording means to do it well, and also because people need to see more women as sufficient and capable in the music industry- we are too often seen and treated otherwise.

[Check out Chaos Chaos’ debut album out this spring!]

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