Loud, very loud. Like garage-rehearsal loud --- if there were 5000 bands all rehearsing in your garage at the same time. To put it in perspective, take any given Guitar Center at around 6PM (the kid "warming up" the 8V8's in a Marshall he's "probably gonna buy" as he stumbles through "Sweet Child O' Mine", the knucklehead "testing" the double bass drum pedals and china cymbals at full volume, and the 13 year old working out his slap bass who claims he is "Flea's second-removed nephew-in-law" and who "knows a guy that lived with Jimi Hendrix's aunt so he can probably get you some gigs") and amplify that by about 80x. It's what I like to call "NAMM loud". You don't technically hear "NAMM loud". Thankfully, the genetics of musicians have acclimated over the years to extremely high decibel levels (due largely in part to the 1980s; see-"Wikipedia: Manowar"). As a result, musicians have developed an involuntary, reflexive, biological act of self-preservation when confronted with "NAMM loud". This musico-genetic adaptation in musicians tells their to brain shut down their ears in much the same way your body instinctively closes your eyes when you sneeze --- less your eyes would pop out.
The best people watching of the year. We saw too many weird/odd things too mention. And unfortunately, most of which we were afraid to even try to stealthily photograph to share with you. A favorite was probably the guy walking around with a black leather jacket with masking tape spelling out "SCABS" on the back, and a prosthetic tail hanging out from underneath it. I should say, I assume it was a prosthetic tail. But, it's LA... a toss up at best.
A tease. Every possible gear-nerd dream-come-true is at your fingertips all at the same time! There are enough effects pedals to cast a distorted, dotted-eighth reverb to the moon and back. And don't get me started on the guitars. You could strum each guitar one time and your hands would wither and fall off before you got to all of them. And yet... you're there on business and have to "watch the booth" so you can do what you're there to do.
Inspiring. For months and months we work on new products - designing, redesigning, sampling, cutting, sewing, starting over, making notes and sketches in the middle of the night, and tinkering until the 11th hour. And then on Jan 18th we pack up our best efforts and fly to California to show it to the world - or at least everyone who walks by booth 4285 in Hall C of the Anaheim Convention Center. And for the next 4 days we get to see people look at and react to all the countless hours we spent in our workshop in the basement of an old Montgomery Ward department store on Meridian St. in old downtown Anderson. Because in reality, for 361 days of each year, we toil away making straps that we are so proud of and so passionate about without ever seeing anyone actually react to them in person. We cut tens of thousands of feet of leather, sew miles and miles of stitches, and for 361 days never see the expression on a person's face when they pick it up, put it over their shoulder, and simply react to it. But for the 4 days of the year we are at NAMM we get to watch folks walk up to the booth, pick up the straps, smell the leather, contemplate if it would look better on their Les Paul or Stratocaster, if their D-15 or Hummingbird would look better with black or brown leather, if they're too old for a chrome Skull on their guitar strap (to which the typical reaction is "screw it, you're never too old to be a badass", or if whatever strap they are holding is going to make them feel a little bit closer to whatever and whoever they want to be up on that stage... behind the microphone, in front of their amp, under the lights, and belting it out for whoever is lucky enough to be in the crowd that night.
So, yes... NAMM makes your ears bleed and want to wash your hands. But, it also is a good kick in the you-know-what to remind you why it is you do what you do. And to be completely honest --- any company, like us, at NAMM can look around and see 50, 100, 200 companies who are all going after the same business. And that is one heck of a reminder of why it is so important to be critical of our craft and why it is crucial to always keep an urgency to improve.
Now that we are back on Eastern time, surrounded by snow-dusted cornfields instead of beaches and palm trees, we have re-learned two important things from our 4 days at NAMM.
1. We are doing a great job and can take a lot of pride in our straps.
2. It can always be done better- and we need to hustle to make sure we are the ones who figure it out first.