Sunday, January 27, 2013

NAMM 2013: Brian Wilson, Tower of Power, Gary Hoey get first official day underway

What can I say? Since Wednesday of last week I have been pretty much living full time in and around the Anaheim Convention Center covering the NAMM Show. Here is the first of several overviews I'll post today and tomorrow with my coverage of the show. I'll also be providing links with the work of Ben Wener, George A. Paul and, of course, the episodes of Music Worth Buying that I work on with TJR. A special thank you to photographer Bob Steshetz for the use of his fantastic photos shot at NAMM. I also appreciate The Orange County Register video reporter Mark Eades allowing me to post a link here too. Here goes!

Here is a link to view a video report that TJR and I did at NAMM on Thursday, Jan. 24.

Here is a link to view a great video report that reporter Mark Eades did covering the media preview day held at NAMM on Wednesday, Jan. 23.

Here is an extended version of my post that originally ran on the Soundcheck blog on The Orange County Register site on January 25, 2013:


Gary Hoey fires up some licks Thursday at the NAMM convention. Photo: Bob Steshetz, for the Register

With the NAMM Show getting more massive every year, attendees no longer have to wait until Friday or Saturday to catch key performances at the Anaheim Convention Center and neighboring venues hosting the world’s largest music trade show.
That was clear throughout Thursday’s (Jan. 24, 2013) opening as heavyweight Brian Wilson kicked things off early and other strong performances played out throughout the day and evening. Performing with a backing trio inside the Gibson Guitars booth, Wilson and company  (including his long-time music director Jeffrey Foskett), his four-song set of Beach Boys classics included the opening salvo of "California Girls" and instantly-wonderous "God Only Knows." The 15-minute set closed with the summertime vibe of "Surfer Girl" and "Surfin' USA."

While morning rain threatened to wash out a number of sets later that afternoon, it stopped drizzling in time for plans to proceed. I caught the last part of Redondo Beach-based Smiles, a talented young band that featured songs from its coming debut Sharing, due Feb. 10. The quintet closed with “Learning How to Shuffle,” an ambitious song that boasts a freewheeling, Arcade Fire-like groove.
Also performing outside was Tinsel Korey, a Canadian singer-songwriter and actor best known for her role as Emily in the Twilight films. Backed by a five-member group, she turned in half-hour of original songs from her Seize the Day EP as well as several retooled covers. Her material ranged from the infectious pop of her title track and the jazz-tinged “Game of Hearts” to the ballad “Letter,” but she displayed her most powerful vocals on a bluesy cover of the Civil Wars’ “Barton Hollow.”
Even stronger performances were to come, with guitar virtuoso Gary Hoey attracting a large crowd to the Monster booth. Armed with fantastic material from his new Deja Blues album, he opened his short set with its eponymous cut, a strong original that allowed Hoey to flex his mastery on a Fender Stratocaster, his fretwork recalling the late Gary Moore of Thin Lizzy fame.
On “Boss You Around” he unleashed more blues guitar but added potent vocals, then served up one of his best instrumental works, “Utopia,” artful in its progressive structure and distinctive melodies. Few guitarists can master the blend of styles Hoey can. He continues to gain new fans through shining sets like this one.
Taylor Guitars hosted back-to-back, polar-opposite appearances from singer-guitarist Phil Brown and up-and-coming country act the Farm, both of them terrific. Brown’s set showcased loose playing and effective storytelling, plus an inventive take on Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower” that would have fit on a Police disc.The Farm, meanwhile, a young trio out of Nashville, endeared itself to the crowd with an energetic blend of sweet three-part harmonies, excellent fiddle work and infectious songs such as “Sweet Sweet Sunshine” and the aptly titled “Fresh Off the Farm,” plus a singalong to Johnny Cash’s classic “Ring of Fire.”
Capping my day was a performance on a surprisingly beautiful night (no rain!) from Tower of Power. The Oakland troupe brought its seasoned brand of soul, funk, blues and rock to an energetic performance that featured uptempo classics such as “I Like Your Style” and “Only So Much Oil in the Ground” as well as R&B ballads like “Willing to Learn.” Thousands of NAMM attendees jammed the new outdoor plaza area and grooved throughout the full-length set, notably on the “You Got to Funkifize.”

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