Wednesday, February 3, 2010
NAMM Part II
Earlier that day:
Fri. Jan. 15, 2010 11:15am
Walking into convention center I hear a loud voice from above, it’s a giant image of a uniformed female, dressed like a cross between a flight attendant and news anchor. She's on a flat screen TV welcoming all of us to NAMM. Her message repeats. "Welcome to the 2010 Winter NAMM Show." It's so futuristic, reminds me Woody Allen’s ‘Sleeper’ where he's frozen in 1973, then wakes up two hundred years in the future.
People staring at me. I try not to stare back. Surreal experience. Constant distractions. Noise, noise, noise. Maneuvering through the sea of people. People I think I recognize and those who recognize me. A few try to get my attention. I hate to act like a rockstar, ignoring people, but the fact is I only have fifteen minutes before I have to demo my signature guitar at the Heritage booth. I still have to pick up my badge, locate the booth, it's five thousand four hundred and something I, I forget, and I'll be lucky if I get there on time.
Where do you get the badges? Downstairs, that's right, I remember. Whoa, just passed by John B Williams, from the Arsenio Hall Show on TV, the house bass player. Was on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson too. That's really weird seeing him because I just heard his name mentioned this morning from Uriah.
Uriah had seen me in line at the airport gate at 7am, then saved a next to me on the plane (Southwest Airlines has open seating). Despite it being a painfully early hour for musicians, we totally hit it off, both involved in 'non-metal' projects professionally but can step into metal easily, like wearing a suit. He showed me a video of him in a blazer, hair tied back, backing an R&B singer on bass, followed by a picture of him, hair out, leather pants, playing with Whitesnake- they'd found him on the internet and despite him being more of a funk/soul player, they liked his look and sound. He's been playing with them for the last couple years. We took the same airport shuttle in, agreed to meet later and are telling everyone we're ‘BFF’s.’ (God, that sounds gay, lol).
Can't believe I have to play guitar for people in a few minutes. This is one of those times when one of the best skills I've ever learned, mental practicing, comes into effect. Right now I'm doing some guitar patterns in my head, imagining my fingers on the neck, ignoring all the oncoming noise as I enter the convention floor. This type of visualizing is essential and isn't easy. But I am hearing the notes in my head as if I was improvising with a guitar in my hands. With a 7:30am flight here from the Bay Area this morning and having only minutes to check into my hotel upon arrival, there was no way I could warm up properly.
Someone walking in a group says. “Hi Alex!” She stops, as does the whole group. “Hi!” I answer back. I forget her name. God, I’m such an asshole. I have to keep walking, no time to explain or chat. As I do so, someone else waves calls my name. I yell “How are you, Steve!” and by the time he's answered, I'm gone. Fortunately I had seen his name on his tag.
Ok, here I am, this should be the...Where the fuck is Heritage? They moved. They were always in this same spot every year. God dammit. I knew I should have grabbed one of those guidebooks with all the booth numbers.
Shit. Now it's 11:30, I'm supposed to be there right now, playing. I phone my rep at Heritage and my manager, I'm sure they're wondering where I am. Neither of them pick up, it's hard to do so at NAMM I understand, it's too loud and you're always in conversation. I leave voicemail for both saying I'm close, just lost.
"Excuse me" I'm saying to some random guy looking at the guidebook. "Can I borrow that for a second?"
"Sure" he says, handing it to me.
"Thanks so much."
He sees my name tag. "Alex Fucking Skolnick. No way. Can you sign that for me buddy?" I do so, head off to Heritage. Fortunately, it's close.
A crowd has gathered waiting. I arrive, apologize for being late, say hello to a few people, reps, my manager, some friends. David Becker, a great jazz guitarist and fellow Heritage player is there and we decide to play together.
Within minutes the guitar is in my hands, and the sounds are dialed in. Time to clear my head of the madness and make some music.
To be continued...