Fear and Loathing in Nashvegas Day 1: Summer NAMM 2015...a vengeful oyster in the VIP section...descent of the senses

“This is your captain speaking, ahhhh…

…looks like we have ahhhh mostly clear skies today for our flight to Nashville.  Just want to let everyone know ahhhh, this is a pretty old plane and sometimes she makes some loud and strange noises throughout the flight but ahhhh no need to worry…”

I leaned slowly towards my comrade…

“Are you f@!#$%& kidding me?”

The man let out a toothy laugh, gave his eyebrows a raise and pushed a ten-dollar pair of ear buds into his head.  This was it.  I was all alone.  My only associate had disappeared into his music box and left me to wilt in the sun.  No book, no music, no previously downloaded gaming app of the avian variety…just a copy of SkyMall and my own morbid imagination.

Andrew Simmons was the sales manager and events coordinator at Mojotone– he would harpoon this expedition with grace and precision no doubt.  Simmons and I had been sent to make a presence at the 2015 Summer NAMM show in Nashville, TN.  Normally we would have been working a booth, but this year we had been sent to shake hands.  A presence was to be made.  Meetings were to be held.  An article was to be written.  As a seasoned veteran, my associate would guide us through the madness…I would follow and observe.

As the plane carried on, so did my imagination…

“This is ahhhh your captain speaking, ahhhh looks like we are gonna have a pretty rad trip to Nashville today ahhhh…occasionally I like to fly this sucker right into a mountain but ahhhh no need to worry cause I’m pretty sure you can use your ahhhh seat cushion as a floatation device.”

 

Note to the reader : images will be inserted at random…

jumping ahead a bit…

We entered the Nashville Music City Center and proceeded up a well-contoured set of stairs to retrieve our NAMM badges.  The building was beautifully constructed and perfectly air-conditioned.  Our identities were verified by a pair of identical middle-aged women and we were set loose on the inside.

Suffice it to say, there was plenty of stuff in there.  Glass display cases filled with effects pedals;  Zombified patrons seated in neat rows donning headphones in order to attend “silent” seminars.  The floor was covered with banjos, mandolins, guitars, dobros, straps, keyboards, electronic drums, amps and strange devices of every shape.  This was overwhelming to be certain, but we had to maintain our wits lest they catch on to us.

On this first day of our visit, we had plenty of business for tending, so our browsings were kept brief.  We walked the entire floor to get an idea of the spread–up and down each and every aisle with haste.  My associate had to pull me away from the Yamaha booth and the Moog booth and the 3rd Power booth…eventually I got the point.  We had more important things to do than sit around fondling ring modulators.

but why?

It was time for a lunch meeting with a couple of old friends; Anna Blumenthal of Guitar World Magazine (who is just the sweetest), and Mr. Richard Goodsell of Goodsell Amplifier Company (who is just…the sweetest).  We met in the lobby and walked a few blocks over to a restaurant called The Southern.  Once seated, we quickly scared our hostess into oblivion…never saw the poor girl again.  Our waitress approached…

“Hey guys I’m Janice.  I’ll be taking care of you today…”

Note to the reader : “Janice” was pronounced “Jah-neice”

Goodsell interjected…

“Is that your real name?  I wasn’t sure if you were giving us your Twitter handle or what…”

“This will be an entertaining fellow,” I thought.              It was time to order drinks…

Water.                sweet tea.               water.

No beer…damn.

“Yes, I’ll uhh…I’ll have a water,”  I said as I surveyed my cohorts.  This was, in part, my way of making sure these animals were confident in their decisions…I had to be certain there would be no beer.

The restaurant was proud of it’s oyster offerings and both Goodsell and Blumenthal were oyster enthusiasts.  Goodsell spent some time narrowing down the logical oyster selection by explaining the geographical regions from which these oysters were being transported in conjunction with the corresponding maritime conditions this time of year.  At first it seemed trivial, but as he carried on it became clear to us that years of thought had gone into his monologue.  As a result, his selection was impeccable.  Before placing the order, he needed to be reassured that the oysters’ origins, as denoted by the menu, were genuine; their freshness was likewise drawn into question.  After prodding the waitress a bit, we were assured the oysters were sincere; the salty bastards were even flown in daily.  RELIEF.

It was 100 degrees outside

We passed by the new hostess on our way out, trying not to push her to the same end as her predecessor.  A woman who wears that much perfume is covering something up.  I held the door open for Blumenthal as the hostess called out…

“It’s Friday in Nashville guys.  It’s gonna be hot out there.”

My associate and I needed sleep.  An early flight mixed with the stimulation from the show had dimmed our senses.  It so happens it was time for check-in at the Hampton Inn.  We made our way and promptly took an intermission in hopes of having our spirits lifted in time for the Little Walter Endorsee Jam.

6:30 pm – We paced 3rd Avenue towards Lindsley…our destination was the intersection and homonymous establishment of “3rd and Lindsley”.  Our names sat at the top of the guest list.  We received our passes and entered the venue.  There was time to kill before the entertainment began…and there was beer.  I’ll try any product of any kind whose title contains the word “goose.”  Two beers in, we stepped into the green room to meet with Phil and Carol Bradbury — the owners of Little Walter Tube Amps.

The premise behind tonight’s event was this:

Phil and Carol had realized a unique and engaging way to promote their amplifiers.  They held an annual Endorsee Jam in which all of their highly talented endorsees would come together, learn some songs and perform them using only Little Walter amplifiers.  The names on the bill included but were not limited to Paul Franklin, Brent Mason, Dann Huff, Andy Reiss, Randy Kohrs and Abe Stoklasa.  We were told that Vince Gill would even be making a surprise appearance.  Once the music began, a series of incredible numbers were played by different configurations of musicians.  Everyone played 2 to 4 songs and then rotated.  Phil Bradbury himself even made a number of showings throughout the evening…who knew Phil was such a badass.

Four pints in now.  I’d been bouncing back and forth on photo duty all evening and our server had curdled.  We were due to meet with a few other NAMM vendors for a night out and the hour was approaching.  Again I felt the dimming of senses zeroing in…I would have to fight.

one irish goodbye and ten minutes later…

…we found ourselves hailing a golf cart for whatever reason.  Evidently in Nashville this is some sort of thing: golf carts manned by stoned twenty-somethings offering rides to strangers on a gratuity only basis.  We got in and told our driver the destination…our life was in his hands.  My associate, eyes glued ahead, said aloud…

“Man I’ll bet you could really kill it without the governor on this thing!”

Our red-eyed motorist turned his head and shouted…

“Nahhh bro, no governor on here!”

This was the exact moment I realized the vehicle was missing its seat belts.  It was also the exact moment we turned violently from a quiet back road onto the main strip.  We were a tiny worm in a school of red fluorescent fish.  The driver answered his cell phone…

“Hey…oh, where are you…yeah I can grab you…”

are you f@!#$%& kidding me…

We took a detour to pick up the degenerate’s friend.  This was starting to feel like an 80’s movie.  I began to think we would spend the rest of our night cruising the dark side of Nashville and picking up dayglow demons until there were a comical amount of people in the cart. Eventually we would warm up to this nightmarish clown-parade and learn something about ourselves. We would make these people close…exchange addresses and write each other every day of the summer.  What the hell was I thinking?

Our driver’s friend, a timid young lady, slid into the backseat next to me.  She lit a cigarette the wrong way around.  I noticed but didn’t say anything…scientifically I’m not sure how but she managed to smoke the entire filter before noticing.

Soon enough we found ourselves on Broadway.

We were riding on the back of a vibrant beast whose breath smelled of spicy chicken and whose skin was crawling with human beings.  At one point we turned a corner and what appeared to be 10,000 people came barreling down the road on foot…we had been flooded in.

“We’d better just let the tide take us, Giggins,” I said to my comrade.

We entered our first bar after letting a loathsome ogre draw a star on the back of our hands.  “Rubbish!” I shouted, moving inside.  The live entertainment was supreme, and the scenery was a fine complement.  After one drink we moved on.  Bar after bar the music continued to dazzle us.  The players were unparalleled by anyone we had seen in our hometown.  People of all ages, shapes, sizes, colors and dispositions were able to execute their craft with a masterful swagger.  These people knew how to talk to a crowd…a room full of drunks could never resist their charm.  Again, the senses would descend.  We searched for the place they call “Roberts,” but to no avail…it seems the moment we began our search was also the very same moment our search was forgotten.  At one point the strange gentleman standing next to me began having a fit…it appeared he had lost the use of his legs and was struggling to locate his center.  In the end, the beast took him…he lost his dinner nearby and promptly shuffled himself into a cab.  A sick dog knows his limits.

The city was our table…

…and before us was a feast of beer, brisket, brilliant music and beautiful women in cowboy boots.  While we still had a bit of wit with us, we decided to retire.  I know now we would never have made it back to our station if not for its shining beacon glistening in the distance as we stood in front of the hot dog stand…hot dog stand?…my God, we must have purchased hot dogs.  There was plenty of business to be had the next day and the walls were closing in fast.  Our tunnel was narrowing and I could see the fear rising in my associate’s eyes.  But as I said before, Giggins was a mighty leader and a trusted ally.  I would have followed him straight into the abyss…and so I did

5 comments

  • Terrific colorful writing Logan!!! Got to continue your edge of the chair, arousing account of Nashville. When I was there, I was amazed at the brilliant talent in every bar visited. When I got home I knew I had to either burn all my guitars or start burning the midnight oil. What really astounded me was that these no name players, with as much, if not more, talent than Vince Gill, Brad Paisley or Keith Urban, could make their Telecasters bark like Jimmy Bryant, Arlen Roth or James Burton. Who will be the next generation of the Masters of the Telecaster??? I’m just an old Mississippi Delta Blues player. The confidence I have is in the Tone I get from the Mojotone amp kits I build. Now, I’m interested in the Rest of the Story!!!

  • Logan, you are quickly becoming my favorite contemporary writer… I will buy your book if you will write one… I was honored to have you guys at our event… After all, you made every cabinet on the stage…

    • Logan Tabor

      Phil you’re too kind. There will be a book one day…I’m just not sure what it will be about. Let’s brainstorm!

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