Well, another NAMM has come and gone; the music aficionado’s annual four days of Christmas. A semi-private gathering (of thousands) for sauntering around the 1.6 million square feet of floor space in the Anaheim Convention Center, checking out the latest products from practically any manufacturer of guitars, drums, amplification, brass, lighting, accessories, etc. in existence. 2017 saw scheduled appearances by Dave Mustaine (Megadeth), Brian “Head” Welch (Korn), John Mayer, even Stevie Wonder, and so many more.
As a seasoned veteran of the festivities (and my second year as an official media member), I have grown accustomed to the comings and goings of the weekend; what to expect and how to prepare. This year, however, was my first experience dealing with the elements, as the show was heavily influenced by Southern California’s recent downpour, especially on Sunday, ironically enough. We seem to finally be all but past our lingering drought, but despite the inclement weather there didn’t seem to be much of a drought of people attending NAMM. Once inside the building, the only real signs of the outer conditions were the occasional drops of water from the ceiling, scattered throughout to reveal freshly discovered leaks in the arena’s roof.
My primary focus will be on the events of Friday evening at the City National Grove of Anaheim. Located just down the street from the convention center, the Grove plays host to what many attendees consider to be NAMM’s official after-parties. For the first night, Jackson guitars put together a lineup consisting of acts almost exclusively known for their individual members as opposed to the groups themselves.
Following a brief appearance by opening band Railgun, the night was set for Gus G and his metal four-piece. Gus G is the stage name for the guitarist from Greece, known best for his main band Firewind as well as the most recent guitarist for Ozzy Osbourne, replacing Zakk Wylde who would headline the following night. He also had a brief stint with Arch Enemy, the headliners for last year’s NAMM Party.
Highlights of Gus G’s 40 minute set included his singer’s incredible range into the upper register, his drummer’s ability to keep pressing on despite noticeable issues with his right foot kick pedal, and of course, the guitar wizardry of Gus G. The band’s musical style harkens back to an 80’s metal vibe, while maintaining some modern heaviness. They closed the set with an extended version of a solo release anthem “I Am the Fire,” allowing the crowd chances to chant along to the chorus.
Up next was Megadeth alum Marty Friedman, performing instrumentally with a visual hodgepodge of backing musicians. After playing guitar in Cacophony for a few years, Friedman spent the ‘90s as Mustaine’s axe player before venturing off to focus more on solo projects. Their set was mostly high energy, punctuated by the female bassist and ghoulish drummer, both slight of build but neither lacking for intensity. Friedman was the pro he has long been known to be, sprinkling some works of his own band, mostly notably the thunderous “Tornado of Souls.”
The headliner of the evening was none of than Metal Allegiance, whose official website describes the band as “a massive chunk of a heavy metal encyclopedia” and “more than a supergroup.” The band has playing duties shared by multiple musicians, while also supporting guest appearances by many others, definitely a who’s who of the genre.
The focus of Friday night’s show was “Fallen Heroes” and the set included 20+ cover songs, each representing lost brethren in the metal community. For those in the crowd that could stand an additional two and a half hours of music (my feet were already screaming from all the additional workload of the weekend), the Metal Allegiance act was a great treat. Tributes were paid to Dio, Lemmy, Dimebag Darrell, Freddy Mercury, Phil Lynott, even David Bowie and Prince. Member changes were made just about every song, with Mark Osegueda, Chuck Billy, and Chris Jericho sharing the bulk of the singing duties.
The pinnacle of the evening took place about halfway through their set, when bassist and founding member Mark Menghi explained that the main reason for the project’s conception and his playing in general was the influence of Cliff Burton. Before plowing into Disposable Heroes, he brought up on stage and elderly man who turned out to Cliff’s father Ray, attending as a special guest.
As the night was drawing to a close and the band was notified that they needed to wrap it up soon, they geared up to honor Dio with a heavier version of “We Rock,” one that I enjoy performing in my own cover band. Vinny Appice was brought up for his solitary appearance behind the kit.
This was followed by the final song of a long but equally rewarding event, every participant came up on stage (no official count but there were well over 20) to lend their services to one more Metallica classic, “Seek and Destroy.” For any metalhead, it was a vision to behold and a night to remember.
Metal Allegiance Set List
Pledge of Allegiance
Can’t Kill the Devil
Suffragette City (David Bowie cover)
I Don’t Know (Ozzy Osbourne cover)
War Ensemble (Slayer cover)
5 Minutes Alone (Pantera cover)
Murders in the Rue Morgue (Iron Maiden cover)
Dragon Attack (Queen cover)
Stone Cold Crazy (Queen cover)
Emerald (Thin Lizzy cover)
Bonded By Blood (Exodus cover)
Disposable Heroes (Metallica cover)
Rust in Peace… Polaris (Megadeth cover)
Peace Sells (Megadeth cover)
Chloe Dancer (Mother Love Bone cover)
We Die Young (Alice in Chains cover)
Let’s Go Crazy (Prince cover)
Riff Raff (AC/DC cover)
Iron Fist (Motörhead cover)
Space Truckin’ (Deep Purple cover)
We Rock (Dio cover)
Seek & Destroy (Metallica cover)