2003 NAMM Summer Session
National Association of Music Merchants Trade Show
July 18-20, 2003 Nashville Convention Center

Click any image to see the slide show

The opportunity to work this year's annual summer NAMM session in Nashville fell into my lap almost by accident. I had an extended vacation from work coming and was planning my activities. In addition to some traveling with my wife Rasa, I also contacted Greg Howard regarding heading out to Charlottesville when he told me he would be attending the summer NAMM show in Nashville and suggested I come along. Stick Enterprises had not been represented at a summer NAMM session in quite some time. Emmett was not planning on attending personally and, at that point, Greg was the only one signed up to work the booth. I checked my calendar and quickly agreed to help out. During our planning stage, I also discovered that two of my fellow Detroit Stick players, Steve Osburn and Gary Jibilian, would also be attending. Gary had already signed up to perform on his NS/Stick at the Euphonic Audio booth and Steve, being a store owner, was attending as such. Gary agreed to add the Stick Enterprises booth to his schedule of performances. In addition to our booth, Greg was also scheduled to perform at the EMG booth as well as the Moses Graphite booth. With only two of us at the SE booth, Greg and I figured that a third pair of hands would help out considerably when things got real crazy and while Greg was performing elsewhere. At that point, we asked Steve if he would be willing to fill that role and he agreed.

Just a few days prior to the show, boxes began arriving in Charlottesville and Detroit containing all the elements of the booth as well as merchandise and instruments. On Wednesday the 16th, we hit the road for the nine hour drive to Nashville. On the morning of the 17th, we loaded all of our boxes into the Nashville Convention Center and began assembling the booth. Our space turned out to be in a great area. We were up on the 2nd floor mezzanine. The convention center was three floors and the layout of these areas on each floor was booths around the perimiter with open railings, stairs, and escalators in the center. That meant that none of the mezzanine booths had another booth directly in front of them. It also meant we didn't have the constant noise that you get in the main room and we also had a lot of foot traffic which is good when you're trying to get as many people's attention as you can. Our sound system worked out really well too. Both Greg and I brought our racks and we both used Greg's SWR amplifier. The speakers were supplied by Bag End. We picked them up at a local music store on the way into the convention center.

Our setup took several hours and we didn't get out of the convention center until after 6:00PM. Our booth was flanked on one side by Traveler Guitars and on the other by Moog Music. We all introduced ourselves since we would be seeing a lot of each other this weekend. In addition to those outfits, I also had a chance to meet Ned Steinberger and Roger Linn, both legends of 80s musical instrument culture and Ned, of course, being the co-designer of the NS/Stick.

On Friday morning, it all started. We got in early to pull out the instruments and merchandise before the 10:00AM opening of the exhibit hall. At 9:00AM, Greg performed in the atrium of the Gaylord Entertainment Center across the street. This was also the show registration area giving Greg an opportunity to perform for a lot of people and also direct them over to our booth. While he performed, I put the last minute touches on the booth.

10:00 came and when the announcement was made that the exhibit hall was open, people began pouring down the escalator from the third floor and many found themselves at our booth as their first stop. Greg had just returned with the sound system and we were feverishly getting it all hooked up. We did our best to answer questions while plugging in cables at the same time. Once the system was up and running, I was standing their with my Stick on and Greg looked over and said "knock yourself out". I guess that was a cue to start making some noise.

The first day went really well. We managed to generate quite a bit of attention due to our location and also the performances that went on all day. Greg performed twice at the EMG booth that day as well as once at the Moses booth. While he was away, Steve Osburn filled in working the booth with me and he and I took turns performing. Gatherings around our booth became commonplace over the weekend. It was nice to hear Steve play too. It's something I don't hear nearly often enough.

All day we worked the booth. During the morning hours, I had watched Greg (being a veteran of these shows) working with people interested in the instrument and took direction from what he was doing (some things just don't change I guess). By the time the afternoon rolled around, we were all strapping Sticks on to anyone interested and even some who didn't start out interested. Having the various preamps with headphones hooked up was a huge plus. Usually our line about "we have headphones ... nobody has to hear" was the final straw that got people to strap on an instrument.

During the lunch hour, I went up to the food court which took up the entirety of the third floor and discovered another benefit of our location. I had been through the buffet area and was in line for the cash register when I realized that, above all the noise, I could hear the unmistakable sound of Greg Howard playing Pachelbel's Canon. From where we were setup, his playing permeated all of the third floor whenever he played in the booth. That went on pretty much the entire weekend and was really cool.

At one point during the day, a couple of guys, Ryan and Robert, from Low Down Sound came by with a questions about dealing instruments. When they gave me their business card, I noticed that their store was on 9 Mile Rd in Ferndale, Michigan. My badge actually said Woodland Hills, California so they didn't realize I was from their area. That really broke the ice when I told them they were in my neighborhood (or at least just a couple of blocks from where Coup Detroit rehearses). They came back later on and got Denise Jibilian to snap a picture of the two of them, myself, and Gary. As the weekend went on, I had a handful of similar experiences with Michiganders stopping by.

Among the notables that I managed to see or meet on the first day were Steve Mosher who makes the graphite Stick XG™ blanks for Emmett, Villen Khanagov who makes the PASV-4™ Stick pickup, and Wooten brothers everywhere I looked.

Day two started out just like day one. Greg hauled the sound system over to the atrium to play at 9:00AM while I got the booth ready. Today, we met up with long time Stick player David Parr. David lives in the Nashville area and we'd called him up and asked if he wanted to check out the NAMM show. David met us at the convention center and spent most of the day at the booth. We had actually intended getting him into check out the exhibits for his own benefit but he ended up helping out at the booth a lot that day. He answered questions and even took some time in the afternoon to perform. Way above and beyond the call of duty and we were very grateful. His playing was really nice too. He had actually grabbed my instrument when I'd taken off a bit to grab some coffee. When I came back down, he started to hand the instrument back over. Not wanting to stop a good thing, I motioned for him to carry on and sat back and listened for a while.

Steve Oz was back on Saturday as well pitching and playing. He had to split for a while at the same time Greg was doing some performing elsewhere so he got Aaron Wolf to help out a bit. Aaron is a really good player and knows a lot about the products (he works at Oz's) so he worked out really well in Steve's absence.

Later that afternoon, Gary Jiblian came by and played tunes for about a half hour or so showing off the NS/Stick. His playing was really good and his appearance was real timely as the NS had been getting a lot of attention over the weekend. He ran a bunch of tunes from his "Galaxy Rodeo" CD and managed to draw several people to the booth.

After Saturday's session wrapped up, Greg, David, Steve Mosher, and myself went and had dinner at a place called "Tin Angel". Someone at the show had recommended it to Greg and it turned out to be fantastic. We were in there for quite a while eating and chatting. Great fun.

Sunday was the last day. Greg opted out of any additional performances with the exception of the Stick Enterprises booth. Things were just a little bit slower than the previous days but we still managed to get a lot of attention at the booth. It was a day also that everyone just seemed to get a little looser so we had more interaction with the other exhibitors around us. When 4:00PM rolled around, the summer NAMM session closed it's doors.

We had just started to pack up when a couple of the Oak Ridge Boys came by the booth. One of the members of their band is Ron Fairchild who plays Stick with them so they had actually come looking for us (even though Ron wasn't with them). I'm not really a fan and don't even know their stuff so I didn't know who they were until they introduced themselves. We really enjoyed talking with these guys though and they really were two of the nicest guys you would ever want to meet.

Our pack up went quite a bit quicker than the setup (although it still took quite a while). We got everything we brought packed neatly back into boxes and hauled it all out to the cars. From there, we grabbed dinner and then went back to the hotel. In the evening before we retired, Greg was kind of enough to sit down and do a Stick lesson with me which I appreciated very much. Especially considering we'd both been playing and talking constantly about the Stick for three straight days. This was, of course, considerably more low key though and a nice wrapup to the weekend.

Monday morning, we both hit the road bright and early. The trip back was, again, a nine hour journey and I managed to avoid the worst of the storms rolling into Tennessee and Michigan. Back at home, I unloaded the boxes from SE and re-packed them for shipping back to California.

With the boxes packed, the laundry done, my car unloaded, and several days before I have to return to work, I did the only thing I could do after that.

I plugged in and played Stick.