I arrived at NAMM with some mixed emotions. I’m not really a gear guy or a tech head so fighting L.A. traffic for a couple of hours on my annual pilgrimage got me wondering why I was making the trek at all? NAMM stands for National Association of Music Merchants which means, in short, all the latest guitars, software updates, trumpets, keyboards, stage lights, amps, mics and more ( in my 15 years of attending I’ve never seen a Sarod though). But this huge convention has always been much more for me than gear and this weekend I re-discovered why.
Soon after arriving I stumbled upon an interview with Nick Harcourt and George Clinton. Clinton, whose band Parliament Funkadelic has been making music since the 60’s, talked about how he always looked for and found a way to re-define his music to stay relevant to young people. When he saw that Hip Hop was going to be the next big thing he changed his compositions to make his music easier to sample.
Not only has Clinton’s crew remained relevant from generation to generation, they’ve thrived with shows now featuring both his kids and grandkids on stage as part of the band. I kept trying to leave the interview because of all the gear I wanted to check out but, like gravity, was drawn back again and again. I realized that without artists like George Clinton there would be no gear to upgrade and that the heart of the matter, what was bringing me back to NAMM every year, was the joy of music as expressed by the artists who create it. It was time well spent and I’m looking forward to NAMM 2019.