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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Dream Theater Deliver a Masterful Performance at The Wiltern

Photo: Steve Rose

Photo: Steve Rose

Dream Theater brought their tour for the futuristic album, The Astonishing, to the Wiltern in Los Angeles. The band’s latest release, a 34 track double album set in 2285, came to life visually and sonically, as the band played the album in its entirety to a packed house. The band played in front of 5 interactive video screens which added a visual accompaniment to this dystopian concept album. The design, production, and performance of this show must be quite the undertaking, but the sensory rewards are much greater and a sheer delight for the fans in attendance.

Photo: Steve Rose

Photo: Steve Rose

Dream Theater, comprised of John Petrucci, Jordan Rudess, John Myung, Mike Mangini, and James LaBrie are all masters of their craft. James LaBrie is a supremely talented vocalist, who’s voice seems to get stronger on each album. When performing live, there’s no doubt that he has the pipes and his performance on The Astonishing is a great example. Mike Mangini and John Myung are rhythmic powerhouses who were locked in the entire night. Myung, who plays a 6 string Ernie Ball Music Man Bongo bass, moved up and down the neck with great dexterity as he held down the low end. Mangini, almost octopus-like behind the kit, made use of every drum and cymbal, as he filled, rolled, and crashed through the band’s most challenging material to date. Jordan Rudess, a wizard behind his customized hydraulic keyboard stanchion, wowed the audience with his fleet fingered phrases as his keyboard rotated and tilted throughout the band’s extended set. John Petrucci, not only a highly technical guitarist who produced many jaw dropping fretboard fireworks, but was also the mastermind behind The Astonishing and it’s well thought out concept, characters, and locations. Petrucci, played a few of his signature Ernie Ball Music Man guitars through his new signature heads from Mesa Boogie and they sounded great together. I’m certain many a guitar player went home that night and started researching and plotting their next gear acquisitions…I know I did. 

Photo: Steve Rose

Photo: Steve Rose

There have been mixed reactions to the material and band’s direction on The Astonishing. Some have questioned the seemingly overly theatrical elements of the songs, while others, follow the band along the twist and turns of it’s musical journey. Having listened to the albums a handful of times, it comes across much heavier live, and deserves to be seen when the tour comes to your town. Any skeptics of this newest release will be pleased when they see this masterful performance play out as Petrucci envisioned.

Dream Theater @ The Wiltern

 

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