AfterNAMMth: 2017 Edition

Thousands descended into Anaheim for the annual NAMM convention. This convention showcases all of the new and exciting gear that manufacturers are excited to debut, and gear heads like myself, are even more excited to check out. I found myself making daily wish lists of gear that I had to have, and that list is constantly changing – even weeks after the show has ended.

One of the first booths that I checked out was Earthquaker Devices. Their pedals are gaining popularity with an assortment of musicians and it’s one of those booths that remains crowded from the start of the show on Thursday till the shows end on Sunday. The two new pedals that were debuted were the Space Spiral delay and the Transmisser reverb pedal. Both of these pedals offer a variety of unique and functional sounds that will have the user spending hours with each exploring their tonal options.

Gibson’s booth is always a treat and this year was no exception. Their True Historic guitars are fantastic and the first thing that I check out are the Custom Shop models. A standout at their booth was a Custom Shop Les Paul Jr. that was so meticulously built, you would’ve thought that this was the actual guitar from the late fifties. Another highlight was the joint collaboration between Johnny A and Joe Bonamassa on a new Johnny A model. This model, didn’t have the f-holes associated with his previous models and is much lighter. This is one of those guitars that can do it all and won’t take a toll on your back after hours of gigging. 

Photo: Steve Rose

Photo: Steve Rose

The Ernie Ball/Music Man booth was very eventful as St. Vincent discussed her signature model guitar and three new finishes were introduced for this popular model which debuted at NAMM 2016. Owner, Sterling Ball, mentioned that this guitar is one of the more popular selling models for their brand and that there has been discussion of possibly developing a short scale bass with St. Vincent. That will be something to look forward to at next year’s show.

Photo: Steve Rose

Gretsch consistently has amazing guitars, but this year they unveiled the “Salute” Jet, which is a Malcolm Young signature model made by the Gretsch USA Custom Shop. This was my favorite guitar at the show and a fitting tribute to such a famous Gretsch musician. Another model making it’s debut from the Custom Shop is the Tom Petersson 12 string bass. This instrument has long been associated with Tom and it was great to see him honored with this bass.

Photo: Steve Rose

Photo: Steve Rose

There was a great deal of buzz around the Supro booth now that they’ve added a few awesome looking guitars to their already successful line of amps. These guitars will be popular with both vintage enthusiasts and garage rockers looking to have a unique, cool sounding guitar slung across their body.

Photo: Steve Rose

Martin makes some unbelievable guitars, and as a Martin owner, I can say that their sound and build quality are second to none. This year, my two favorite guitars that they unveiled were signature models for Dwight Yoakam and John Prine. Each of these artists are giants in country music and these guitars reflect their stature. Dwight’s DD-28 had the best inlays that I’ve seen on a guitar. The pair of deuces inlaid on the fretboard is a great touch for this guitar. 

Photo: Steve Rose

NAMM 2017 is in the books and I’m looking forward to how these companies will try to outdo themselves at next year’s show.

NAMM 2017

Photos by Steve Rose

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David Crosby was Spectacular at Segerstrom Hall

Photo: Steve Rose

Photo: Steve Rose

David Crosby’s performance at the 2,000 seat Segerstrom Concert Hall in Costa Mesa was nothing short of breathtaking. For over 2 hours, this legendary singer-songwriter entertained the sold out audience with stories, political opinions, and some amazing guitar playing and singing. David told the crowd that he flew in from New York earlier that day, but showed no signs of jet lag or fatigue. He was candid with his stories and admitted that he gets in trouble on Twitter from time to time.

Throughout the evening, David switched guitars between songs and would usually alternate between a few Martin D-45s or his custom built McAlister guitars. He said that the McAlister was the best guitar he’s ever played and they did sound amazing all night. David’s fingerpicking was articulate and inspiring. David was not backed by any band, it was just him, the guitar, and a microphone. He didn’t need much to have the crowd in the palm of his hand and it’s a testament to him as a performer to play the entire show so exposed and never make a mistake. His musicianship is fantastic and had the crowd in a daze as he played such songs as “In My Dreams,” “Rusty and Blue,” and “What Makes it So.” His iconic voice is familiar, memorable, and has not diminished in any way.

David Crosby is such an important figure in music and to music history. He is a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee and has been a part of some of the most iconic groups in music. He has also been successful as a solo artist and his newest release, Croz, is an example of the type of great music that he is still creating.

This was the first stop on his tour so don’t miss the opportunity to see this legendary performer if he is playing a venue near you.

David Crosby @ Segerstrom Hall

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Heart Doesn’t Miss a Beat at the Hollywood Bowl

photo: Stephen Rose

photo: Stephen Rose

It’s always special to see a show at the historic Hollywood Bowl and the Heart show on Friday was almost magical. The Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, led by conductor, Thomas Wilkins, joined the Rock and Roll Hall of Famers in a magical night. The band and orchestra opened with the first of two Led Zeppelin covers of the evening. The first was Kashmir and I think it was a great way to kick off the show. The mix of the band with the orchestra on this particular song was pure sonic nirvana. The way horns and strings accented and accentuated particular parts really brought a lot of definition to the music. They later closed their set with Stairway to Heaven.

photo: Stephen Rose

photo: Stephen Rose

Ann Wilson is a fantastic singer, and on this song she could’ve given Robert Plant a run for his money on any given day. Throughout their 90 minute set, Heart played a great mixture of chart topping hits and fan favorites. Some of the highlights, aside from the Zeppelin covers, were Kick It Out, Even It Up, and (obviously) Crazy On You. Another notable cover was Elton John’s, Mona Lisa’s and Mad Hatters sang by Nancy Wilson. During this song, she used her signature Martin HD-35. Nancy played a couple of Martins, Fenders, and a great Duesenberg Starplayer throughout the set. I can easily say that her Duesenberg was my favorite; it’s such a cool looking guitar. To close the set, the band also played a fantastic version of Stairway to Heaven, which featured Nancy handling the rhythm parts and lead guitarist, Craig Bartock handling those identifiable lead lines on this iconic song.

photo: Stephen Rose

photo: Stephen Rose

Heart is a high energy, high output, high caliber rock and roll band that simply puts on a great show. To see this band with the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra was a real treat. The Wilson sisters feed off of each other’s energy and it really comes through with their performance. If you haven’t seen them live, you really should. And if you have, then you know what I’m talking about.

Set list

Kashmir (w/orchestra)
Heaven (w/ orchestra)
What About Love (w/ orchestra)
Dreamboat Annie (w/ strings only)
Dog & Butterfly (w/ orchestra)
Kick It Out
Straight On
Even It Up
Mona Lisa’s and Mad Hatters (w/ strings only)
These Dreams (w/ orchestra)
Alone (w/ orchestra)
Stairway to Heaven (w/ orchestra)

-Encore-

Barracuda
Crazy On You

Heart

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Martin LX1E Ed Sheeran Signature Edition

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Photo by Steve Rose

 

The Ed Sheeran LX1E is a limited edition model that Martin released last year. I purchased this guitar based on it’s portability and features. It’s nice to have a guitar that you can just pick up and play while sitting on the couch or take with you when playing around a campfire.

Playability

While this is a smaller scale, travel-type guitar, it doesn’t feel like you are playing a small guitar. It fits well when in your hands and has good balance whileon your lap. I was concerned that I would have some playability issues given the smaller sized neck and fretboard, but that was not the case. Whether you’re flatpicking or fingerpicking, the notes ring out well and sound great on this guitar. I may not choose this over a D-28, but it is a nice option for those looking for portability or someone starting out and looking for a quality instrument.

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