by John Baccigaluppi
The music industry trade shows, and the NAMM Show in particular, have always been a mixed bag for me. Every year, for the last 20 years or so, Larry and I, along with Geoff, Scott, and Marsha (We miss you Andy, Dave, and Laura!) go to the NAMM Show in January in Anaheim (Orange County, California). We meet with our advertisers, who thankfully place ads in Tape Op allowing us to deliver the magazine to you every two months. We want them to buy ads; they want us to write about (review) the gear they make. to be honest, it’s a bit of a dance. One year, I left NAMM pretty depressed, and feeling like everything we did was stupid, pointless, and really bad for the planet we live on. Part of this was sitting through endless meetings with marketing people showing us audio interfaces that connected to computers while telling me that this new interface was a “game changer” since it now had Thunderbolt instead of FireWire – besides the new hole in the back, it was pretty much the same as the interface they’d showed me at last year’s NAMM Show. It was exhausting, and I left Anaheim pretty bummed out.
But I also love NAMM because I love to see Larry, Geoff, Scott, and Marsha and I love going down to Southern California in January, surfing, and seeing all my friends who live in L.A. I usually stay a few extra days, visit, and hang out and surf. I love to see the people I only see at NAMM and AES, like Doug Fearn, Geoff Daking, Dave Derr, Dave Amels, Tom Der, John LaGrou, the Josephson guys, Dan Kennedy, the Grace brothers, Greg Gualtieri, and Jonathan Little; the list is endless. AES is really fun in a different way, especially since they’re recently skipped the west coast and are holding the show in NYC. We love going to New York as you’ll see in the upcoming issue (#139). Besides the city itself I often take a day or two off to surf in Montauk with my studio partner, Bobby Lurie, and that’s always a fun and relaxing contrast to the show and the city.
Now, as we enter into the seventh month of living under the Coronavirus both AES and NAMM have been cancelled and/or moved into online events. I’m looking back at NAMM as the summer is ending and we move into fall with a bit of nostalgia and I’m wishing I was headed to NYC next month for AES, but I’m not.
Here’s the thing with NAMM and AES: We go to all these meetings, and as most of the meetings are ending the marketing reps want to give you something, usually a T-shirt. I hate to sound ungrateful for being offered a free T-shirt, but the truth is, most of them are really ugly and I don’t want to wear them. But you have to be polite and say, “Sure, I’d love a black T-shirt that doesn’t fit me with 30 different ugly logos on it and some stupid slogan about how the game has been completely changed by your company.” In the back of my mind, I’m thinking I can wear that shirt to do yard work or painting in it, but eventually I always have enough work shirts. So, back at our rental house, Larry, Scott, Geoff and I go through all the T-shirts and say, “Do you want this one?” As I’m the only one who usually drives to NAMM, I end up with almost all of them as everybody else grabs their Lyfts to the John Wayne Airport and I head off to surf. I’ll leave the extra T-shirts where I hope people who can really use a shirt will find them; behind taquerias and at gas stations in rough areas. I hope that some of these ugly black T-shirts end up in the hands of people who need them.
All that said, I still end up with a good handful of NAMM and AES T-shirts every year that I actually wear. I’m gonna tell you, I’m kinda picky about T-shirts. I used to get a lot of free snowboard and skateboard shirts, and I was just as snobby about those. My rule was this: If I was working in the studio, I would only wear skateboard and snowboard T-shirts, and if was snowboarding or skateboarding, I would only wear audio T-shirts. My thought was that I really didn’t want to buy into, or belong to, any group too closely. And I really don’t like black T-shirts, they just get too hot out in the sun and I like being out in the sun.
But as we enter into what looks like a very extended time frame dealing with COVID 19, I find myself very much missing belonging to something. I miss the idea of NAMM, and I miss seeing my friends. So every day when I wake up and pick a T-shirt to wear, my NAMM and AES T-shirt collection has taken on a new meaning as each and every shirt now reminds me of a person, a place, and a time that I won’t be able to get back to in the near future. So, if you’ve managed to read this far, here are my annotated NAMM T-shirt collection notes:
This shirt was from Geoff. He said, “Hey do you want this one? It’s got a surfboard on it and it won’t fit me.” Sure, thanks Geoff. I like this shirt because it reminds me of Geoff and I like Geoff.
This one is just cool. Purple with the MicroFreak keyboard graphic on it. I worked for this one. I saw these at the Music Sound Expo in Emeryville, CA, last year and wanted one, but didn’t know any of the people working their booth. So later I emailed my buddy Ian Martinez there, and he was nice enough to send me a shirt and a MicroFreak tote bag! Arturia makes great gear and great swag.
Every one at Soundtoys is the best from Ken Bogdanowicz on down, but the person who keeps it all together is Maggie Bombard, and she oversees the T-shirts getting made – some of the best in class. Maggie not only makes sure the designs are cool, she sources really nice comfortable T-shirts, not the cheap ones that don’t breathe and are too heavy.
I dig the graphic on this one, simple and clean, with bonus points for the blue shirt. I love the Sonnox plug-ins too. Thanks Rod, Giles, and crew!
Our pal Liz Wilkinson gave me this shirt at the last NAMM, and it’s one of my faves. I love all the Neve gear and have a soft spot for the AMS processors. Thanks Liz!
Eventide always has great shirts, they’re black but I won’t hold it against them as their legacy of gear is in the black panelled H910. How cool is an exploded H9 Harmonizer graphic? I like the red text too. This always gets a comment at the grocery store. Thanks Nalia, Ray, and Tony!
What’s not to like about the cool Reverb logo? Everybody loves reverb right? Bonus points for cool colors.
Universal Audio always has some nice swag. One year they had UA fleeces, which I still wear on cold mornings. This year they introduced LUNA ,which is something I’m behind 100%. We need more alternate DAWs in our audio universe. Plus this shirt is comfortable and looks good. All the folks at UA are the best, and most of them have been there for almost as long as I’ve been going to NAMM Shows, so they must like their jobs. Thanks Harris, Amanda, Erik, Bill, Jim, Erica, and Will!
Speaking of alternate DAWs, I’ve been learning to use LIVE and I dig it. Much of it makes more sense to me than Pro Tools. Thanks to our friend David Reid at Ableton for getting us into their Loop L.A. show in 2018, one of the coolest audio/music events I’ve been to.
Simple, clean, and blue, I like the Cloud gear, and I like this shirt. This is my wife Maria’s favorite shirt; she’d tell me to wear it back when we used to be able to eat out.
This is one of my faves from our pal Russ Jones, who used to run this outfit. In case you can’t tell those are knobs from a Moog, Oberheim, and Prophet synths, and the signatures are Bob Moog, Tom Oberheim, and Dave Smith.
I’ve had this one for a while now and I like the logo and I like the color. And I like the word. Reason. Use reason. Be reasonable. This seems like it’s always been a good word, now it seems like an essential word. Let’s all use reason, Okay?
David and Kirsten Bock are two of my fave people and David makes amazing mics. One year they showed up at NAMM with a boatload of new T-shirt designs in all sorts of cool colors. Way to go team Bock!
Okay, it’s black but the logos are cool, it’s fairly lightweight and thin, and Mark Verbos makes cool synth modules.
Phil Moore is the best and everything about Retro Instruments is the best. Their gear sounds amazing and never needs to be repaired, plus it looks cool, and so do their T-shirts! Bonus points for the white shirt with red neck and armbands!
I got to spend a day with Jeff Lipton mastering Nedelle’s Republic of Two LP that Andy Hong and I mixed. Jeff is great, his studio is tops, and his T-shirts are super cool. Just a simple graphic so that in-the-know folks know you like music. I wore my first few out, so Jeff was nice enough to send me a new one recently, thanks Jeff!
So there you go, the “best of” collection of NAMM and AES T-shirts over the last five years or so. If your company is not on the list, my apologies, but take solace that some unfortunate homeless guy in Orange County has a cool black polo shirt with the Avid logo emblazoned upon his breast and at night when he’s chilly, he can turn up the collar and be just a little bit warmer as the sun goes down.
But in all seriousness, I miss NAMM and AES. I miss my friends at Tape Op. I miss all the pro audio gear people and marketing people, regardless of their political affiliation. Here’s hoping we can find a way out of this mess and hopefully we can all get together safely in Anaheim in 2022!
Thanks to my wife Maria for taking the photos!