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Australian Musician editor Greg Phillips offers his thoughts on day one of Believe in Music Week, a virtual NAMM Show of sorts

My trusty alarm goes off this morning at 6am … exactly as I set it. Funny about that … just like clockwork! It’s NAMM week … day one… but this is not Anaheim, California. Normally my first call of duty would be to head downstairs from my hotel room, use my Hilton Honours membership at Starbucks to access the short queue and order my coffee with a yummy egg and cheddar roll. Nothing is more important than the first coffee of the morning to get your NAMM day started. However, it’s January 2021. Covid -19 has spoiled everyone’s party and the NAMM Show this year has been replaced by a virtual event called Believe In Music. I’m actually at home in Australia this year and instead making a bog-standard coffee in my own kitchen … but there’s still a NAMM show to attend … it’s just all happening on my computer this year.

Deering session

I slap on some half decent clothes … well, top half anyway. I log into the Believe in Music website and the first session I catch is hosted by Deering Banjoes. SNL’s Kevin Nealon is talking about the importance of music … and banjoes and the relationship between art and music. Interesting! Oh damn, I have an appointment at Guild Guitars in two minutes. Hang on wait, I don’t have to haul myself half way across the NAMM convention centre to get there. Jay Buchann from Rival Sons is playing a beautiful Guild Guitar and sounding great. In the meantime Korg has announced via email the release of two new Vox products and I need to quickly write up a news item. Before I know it, the next session is upon me and my focus turns to a Line 6 Helix 3 demonstration. So much to take in and only so much time in the day… sounds like a NAMM Show to me!

As I’m at home, life needs to go on. A follow-up doctor’s appointment is an unwanted item in my Believe In Music calendar. The health clinic waiting room is sparse due to Covid restrictions. Fortunately the fine people at NAMM have offered us a fabulous Believe In Music Week phone app. While I await my doctor’s appointment (nothing serious folks!), I can still tune into Boss pedals’ sixth annual lifetime achievement award, which this year is being presented to Johnny Marr. I can’t help but think how wonderful it would have been to witness this moment face to face with the great guitar man. In the same breath though, I realise how amazing it is that I can watch this session live and chuckle to myself as I simultaneously listen to the conversation between a nurse and the guy who can’t understand her muffled, masked voice behind the covid-safe perspex shield. It’s at this point I also gleefully discover that all of the Believe In Music sessions are continuously viewable, even after their scheduled session times have passed, so you don’t need to miss a thing. This is particularly pleasing because being on Australian time, a lot of the sessions I’d been keen on viewing had finished well before I got out of bed. Consequently I was able to circle back to a 4am (Australian time) session and check out the Gretsch Renown 57 and Full Range drum series for 2021.

Gretsch drums session

Another part of my regular NAMM week would usually be the interviews that I conduct for NAMM’s Oral History program, something that I am extremely honoured to be a part of. Facilitated by Dan Del Fiorentino, I’m usually allocated somewhere between 6 and 8 interviews for the program for the week. Clearly there’s no Oral History interviews happening for me this year but I do note that Dan is presenting a range of archived interviews over the Believe In Music week. There was a fascinating one early this morning featuring Peter Vogel and Kim Ryrie, founders of the Fairlight Computer. I urge you to keep an eye out for daily Oral History interviews in the Believe In Music Week schedule.

As with any NAMM Show, the product releases keep coming. Mackie have announced their Onyx Series Premium Analog Mixers with Multi-Track USB and SRT Powered Loudspeakers, so it’s back to the editing desk to file news items. Oh that’s right, I’m home and never left the desk! It’s also usually around this time that I unsuccessfully attempt to grab some lunch from one of the NAMM food courts and give up due to the size of the lines. No such congestion in my kitchen, as I construct a damn fine chicken sandwich. There are perks to this virtual trade show caper!

German luthiers

As North America begins to call it quits for the day, it gives me the opportunity to go back and check out some of the sessions that were held earlier in the day while I was fast asleep on the other side of the world. The Bitwig Studio session was illuminating, as was the Oral History Vignette on the Lutheiers Of Bubenreuth, the incredible story of a group of independent luthiers in Germany who reinvented themselves after WWII in producing hand-crafted musical instruments that inspired music and music makers ever since.

My Believe In Music day one is done (spoke too soon, Roland has just released some new product which i need to write up) and unlike a NAMM Show, my feet aren’t killing me from walking non-stop for the last 8 hours. Sadly, I can’t end the day catching up with my Australian music industry colleagues at the Marriott Hotel back-bar as is tradition but that’s gotta be a healthier thing too! However there will be opportunities to enjoy virtual drinks with my American NAMM colleagues later in the week. They might be on beers while I’m still on my morning coffee but that’s ok, nothing a symbolic cocktail umbrella in my coffee mug won’t fix. So much more to look forward to in the week. Check out the schedule HERE and make sure you REGISTER. While it’s not quite the same as being at the Anaheim Convention Centre, I have to congratulate NAMM on presenting an enjoyable and innovative alternative, given the difficult circumstances the world is dealing with. Keep the faith and Believe in Music!

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