Bobby Vega's NAMM Notes

April 15, 2015

Bobby Vega is a world-class collector and vintage bass freak of the first order. The gear is real. The stories are true. The dates are foggy. And the names of the innocent have been changed to protect their identities… and save Bobby’s ass!

Man, I’ve been to the NAMM show so many times, but every time I go, it’s like the first time. I’m always excited. I never know what or whom I’m going to see. It’s like the biggest, coolest car show you’ll ever see. There are a few other events like it in other countries—Musikmesse in Germany, for example—but NAMM is the big one in the U.S.A. So if you ever get the chance to go, take it. Every musician should visit NAMM at least once.

The fun started even before the doors opened. I was going to fly to this year’s winter NAMM show, but then oops… change of plans. I had to drive, but that turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to me. By the end of the trip, I knew I’d met my soulmate and the future Mrs. Vega!

This year, January 22 was day one: Get up. Go eat breakfast. Go back to room. Get stuff. Catch the shuttle bus to the show. Get that NAMM show credential/badge at will call. Where’s will call? Found it. Flash smartphone email and ID. Of all the different show badges, the mack daddy of them all is the exhibitor’s badge, which allows you to get into the show early—and that’s a good thing.

Now I’m in the show. It’s 8:45 on Thursday, and the doors open at 10:00. The best way to see the show is to have a plan. I grab a NAMM show map that tells me which exhibitors are here this year and where they’re located in the huge Anaheim Convention Center. Otay, go!

I start the show by checking in with my family—for me, home base is EMG Pickups—and after I say hey, I’m off to see the show. I love this event! It’s where you can see the largest group of manufacturers in one building. First I like to see the luthiers and guitars, then the amp companies, and then the pickup manufacturers, and so on and on.

The show is cool this year—there’s lots of high-quality stuff for bass players. There’s so much that I can’t see it all, but my antennas are up. Not every bass builder was there, but most of them are, including Warwick, Framus, Fodera, M.T.D., NS Design, F Bass, Sadowsky, Spector, Rickenbacker, Mike Lull, Marleaux, Elrick, Nordstrand, Ken Smith, Carvin, Dan Lakin, Ernie Ball, Modulus Graphite, G. Gould, Brubaker, Pedulla, and Gibson. There’s so much to take in, and between the sound of all those people and the product demos all happening at the same time, the sound level at the show is about 80 to 85 dB. It’s loud!

The bass amp companies are there, too, of course, from Epifani, Aguilar, Phil Jones, DNA, and TecAmp to Baer, Orange, AER, Gallien-Krueger, and Markbass. Every string company you can think of—D’Addario, La Bella, GHS, Rotosound, DR, MJC, Thomastik-Infeld, Black Diamond, and so many more—had booths.

I know I missed some, and it was hard to actually hear anything clearly at the show—there’s so much visual stimulation that sometimes it’s hard to even think!

At NAMM, I’m like a kid in a candy store—and I get to see the greatest players in the world in one huge room. This year, I ran into so many players that I couldn’t possibly list them all—folks like Alain Caron, Etienne M’Bappe, Hadrian Feraud, Robert “Bubby” Lewis, Doug Wimbish, Quentin Berry, Doug Johns, Victor Wooten, Marcus Miller, Mononeon, Wojtek Pilichowski, dug Pinnick, Ray Riendeau, Cody Wright, Tom Barney, Uriah Duffy, Phil Chen, Chip Shearin, Jahmal Nichols, Frescia Belmar, Federico Malaman, Janek Gwizdala, Henrik Linder, Angeline Saris, Tony Levin, Nathan East, Brian Bromberg, Leland Sklar, Chuck Rainey, Jonas Hellborg, Guy Pratt, Darryl Anders, Felix Pastorius, Steve Bailey, Byron Miller, Andrew Gouché, Ralphe Armstrong, Andy Irvine, Ariane Cap, Norm Stockton, Armand Sabal-Lecco, Norwood Fisher, Vuyani Wakaba, and Elgin Seals, just to name a few.

I had a great NAMM show! The highlight? This picture with the great Chuck Rainey. It’s proof that dreams do indeed come true.

May the groove be with you.

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