After The Fire
NAAM 2022 - Signs of Recovery
As we on the west coast understand all too well, large forest fires wreak havoc on ecosystems and civilizations. They rage indiscriminately destroying everything in their path. Yet when they mercifully begin to subside, spring inevitably comes with signs of rebirth and life. During the years of 2020 and 2021, the rages of the pandemic, world economics, and major shifts in trade and energy policies ravaged our precious instrument and equipment landscape. The worldwide fires of lockdown and virus-generated panic ravaged our sensibilities and lifestyles.
NAAM stands as a reminder of the creativity and productivity of music and media professionals. A virtual forest of productivity teeming with musical instruments and equipment familiar and new, and novel methods to create sound and video, record, and perform. These flourished like a verdant rainforest.
I wish I could say that NAAM 2022 was all this and everything its predecessors were, but unfortunately for all concerned, it was fairly obvious to me that the effects of a crushing pandemic, the economic fallout of a world economy hobbled by sanctions and disasters, had taken its toll on the event. Several of my colleagues echoed my feelings. Yet the signs of spring were there nonetheless. Eager vendors, perhaps not as many as in 2019 proudly displaying their wares. Familiar and new names, craftsmen, entrepreneurs, marketers – all vying for the attention of the throngs of visitors who trudged through the display halls, up the escalators, elevators, and stairs, to catch a glimpse and perhaps to fondle or examine a new instrument, gadget. Or perhaps just to ogle at the colorful displays.
My normal inclination has always been to concentrate my attendance on the ground floor acoustic instruments and folk and traditional music areas of interest. Guitars, banjos, fiddles, and the like. In previous years, all the acoustic instrument displays were located in one giant display hall and I would wander for hours looking, touching, and playing instruments. Sure, plenty of guitar makers showed up, but there were some obvious absences. Huss and Dalton, Gibson, Santa Cruz, to name only a few, were not represented. They were missed. Martin Guitars had a large display area, complete with an array of representatives to assist. Normally, the acoustic instrument display booths are concentrated on one level. Not so in the 2022 NAAM. In order to see the Taylor Guitar exhibit, I had to take the elevator (escalators and stairs were also available) to a higher floor level and search for the “Taylor Guitar Room”. Once there, the display was formidable and similar to the Martin Guitar exhibit. As mentioned before, Gibson was absent.
Back to level one. This was the main instrument level and there was no shortage of instruments although those of particular interest to any acoustic/traditional/folk player were scattered among the cacophonous array of percussion, performance amplification, and accessory vendors. Unfortunately, listening was difficult this year as the bulk of the guitar and acoustic stringed instruments shared the space with the percussion, brass, and keyboard vendors.
One of my favorite activities at NAAM shows is to wander and find all the “odd” instruments – you know, the creative luthier at work. Although as mentioned earlier, the number of instrument booths had shrunk from previous incarnations of NAAM, there were several worth mentioning. A word about some of the more unique items.
The variety of guitar permutations did not disappoint and perhaps a sentence and photo or two or three or…might help me share the curiosity of exploration when it comes to unique guitars.