Last week we offered a sneak peak from the floor at NAMM, the mammoth trade show of the musical-instrument business. (That’s when we revealed the inside word on Gibson — a you-gotta-be-kidding story that is still not being reported.) Now that everyone’s back home, we asked industry vet HP Newquist, Executive Director of the National Guitar Museum, to tell the Punch-In what caught his attention at the four-day show.

Despite the economy, the mood was upbeat at NAMM. There really was nothing too radical by way of product introductions; manufacturers are sticking to the tried and true, and taking few risks this year, which is probably a smart move. That said, NAMM is as much an experience as it is a product showcase, so here are the experiential takeaways from Anaheim, CA this past week.


Green Diamonds

Blue is the new red. Every amp manufacturer worth its salt has replaced the glowing orange/red of tubes and the red on/off gem lights with glowing blue lights that resemble the inside of a New York afterhours goth club. (Diamond Amplification is bucking the trend with green lights on its 2008 Phantom head — maybe for the holidays?)

If you have a 4-string bass, you’re missing a string. Every custom bass builder, and most of the majors, all sported 5-strings and shuffled the 4-strings off to a little corner of the booth where they wouldn’t be noticed. This did not stop Stu Hamm from rocking the hell out of his 4-string at Muriel Anderson’s All-Star Guitar Night.

If you like the furniture in your grandparents’ house, you’re going to love the amp styles coming your way. From brown and tan vinyl to brass hardware, retro-style amps are in, looking like amps that were made before amps were actually made (this even includes Marshall and Randall). The only thing missing is the matching avocado-green refrigerator.


Weasel Trap

Do you really need a capo that sits high enough off the fretboard to activate string harmonics? Well, you’ve got one now thanks to Weasel Trap. And believe it or not, this little thingby is rather cool.

Martin had one of its D-100 deluxe dreadnoughts featuring more inlay than Madonna’s bedroom. Asking price is a mere $109,999 — and for a brief moment, when the showroom lights were hitting the pearl just right, we could actually believe it was worth it.


Agent Orange

Over 80 Orange amp cabinets formed the walls to an immense booth, creating more cool orange-osity than you’ve experienced since your first glass of Tang.

Orianthi wowed the attendees with a show in the Convention Center lobby. The lobby, which is wide but not very deep, is incredibly ill-suited to concerts, as there’s no room for a front-of-house board. Thus, the coolest part, other than seeing a young woman who can Vai-shred effortlessly, was watching the sound tech mix the show live while moving through the crowd with a wireless tablet running Studio Manager.

Brown’s Guitar Factory showed off its ongoing efforts to popularize the “Fretted/Less” guitar, which has no frets above the 12th fret and allows players to play “fretless.” Weird concept, but it does look cool.


Pyramids of Power

3rd Power displayed its triangle-shaped cabinets, which form a pyramid when stacked together. Looks cool — but we’d hate to be the guy who has to load those suckers in the truck.