It’s the same song every year at NAMM: New guitar colors, new guitar body sizes, new guitar pedals (so many new pedals)… Even for a rabid guitar fan, it becomes a bit of a blur.
But, as we returned from the 2019 NAMM Show – the massive music industry trade show that takes place every January in Anaheim, California – a few highlights stood out. And, at the end of the long weekend, there were more than a few pieces of gear we’d actually like to take home and try out.
Take, for instance, the Taylor Grand Pacific. This is an instrument that we’ve secretly known about for a few weeks, thanks to our friends in El Cajon, California. It’s their new take on a slope shouldered/dreadnought but with all sorts of refinements. It has all the Taylor playability you’d want and a great tone but, most importantly, it also feels broken-in, like an old pair of Red Wing boots. The neck is amazing and we suspect it’ll sway more than a few non-Taylor players to give the brand a chance.
Over at the packed Fender booth, we relished in the fact that while everyone was looking at the Jimmy Page Telecasters and Acoustasonics (Fender’s take on a hybrid Tele-acoustic with modeling), there was a cute little tenor Telecaster shown on display (alongside a killer looking Electric XII) as part of the company’s new Alternate Reality Series. The tenor, made in Mexico, will be priced at just $499. Sign us up.
Perhaps the biggest buzz of the show was the return of Gibson. With new leadership in place, Gibson upped their game when it comes to fit and finish and focused on the gear that people are still talking about. I don’t know who is doing their finish work but there was a whole series of electrics that were lightly aged and all looked incredible, from a 1964 ES-330 VOS to an accurate looking Trini Lopez model, to a re-make of Johnny Winter’s 1964 Firebird V. Heck, Gibson even trotted out Trini himself on Saturday for a rare appearance and Q&A. They also procured an Orville Gibson-made guitar that was prominently displayed alongside all of the new guitars. It’s hard to imagine the old Gibson brass caring for their roots like this. We hope it’s a sign of good things to come.
There was a lot more, of course. NAMM is a massive show, filled with boutique makers, overseas suppliers, iconic brands, crackpot inventors and everything in-between. With that in mind, here are a few of our favorite NAMM-things. Click on each photo to read our captions.
Photo above: Scott Walker Guitars at the Boutique Guitar Showcase.