I’m grateful that I can't recall the second gig I ever played in my life; mostly because I still have a photograph someone took of me at my first gig. I vaguely remember seeing a flash bulb erase the dots on my guitar and that the final picture made Gilligan from Gilligan's Island look like the ultimate stud in comparison. I shutter to think what I looked and played liked during that second gig at the beginning of my career, but somehow I survived as a performing musician.
Fast forward a few decades to a different type of gig on the other side of the stage. Once again I found myself invited to lend a hand to one of my sponsors during a trade show. This time I appeared, for the second year in a row, as a behind the counter assistant for Shubb during the 2012 NAMM show in Anaheim, California.
For those who have not experienced this kind gig, first imagine you’re at a major airport on the busiest day of the year for flying and literally everyone has their own boom box playing every imaginable genre of music simultaneously at the infamous 11 on a 10 scale rating with an increasing crescendo of intensity as the days pass. Then imagine that they are all blindfolded and moving in multiple directions at totally different speeds. My friend, Roxanne at Audio-Technica, said that it reminded her of speed dating as everyone with various agendas navigated from booth to booth in search of a new product, to renew old friends, or to score a deal.
This is the atmosphere at the show and the folks behind the booths are actually the real players in the music industry. From the manufacturer to the rep; distributor to the dealer, this is the true worldwide collective that keeps the musical ball rolling to service past, current and future generations of musicians of all levels. It is the time when orders are taken, contacts are made, and ideas for new products are tossed around. From the weekend warrior to the seasoned touring professional, the NAMM show is truly an experience every year and it’s not just an honor to be involved – it’s downright fascinating to monitor the inner workings of the planetary musical machine.
All that being said, my roll in this recent event was to assist my friends at Shubb by alerting any and all who showed up to their booth about the new additions to the Shubb line, the current catalog, and to answer questions. One minute I found myself discussing Shubb Lite, the new super-lightweight aircraft grade aluminum capo in multiple colors, of which I'm particularly fond of the red one, and the next minute, until Raul came to my rescue, I tried to converse with an international distributor for Shubb who spoke little English. I found myself reading up on the Fifth String banjo capos, since I've been playing my GoldTone banjo more than I care to admit, and the ukulele on my wall is now much happier when I use one of the Shubb's newbies - the ukulele capo (weighing less than 1 ounce) that was actually introduced just last year.
Once more it was an eye opener to be on the other side of the aisle and combine my experience as a player with products that actually work and hold up under the rigors of touring. With each gig on the opposite side, I gain a better understanding of the thought process and craftsmanship that goes into each of the capos as I spend time with Rick Shubb. It's no accident that the 2012 capos adhere to the uncompromising standards of that very first guitar capo he introduced in 1980.
Another perk of my off stage gig were the friends and fellow musicians, such as Lisa Loeb, Tony McManus, Tim May and Muriel Anderson, who stopped by the booth to greet me with a hello, a hug, a question, or simply to share the latest joke. Too often we just pass each other on the road or in the airport going from one gig to another.
I’d like to believe that my second Shubb booth appearance was better than my second gig when I was just 18 years old, and as long as the folks at Shubb are willing to have me, I think I’ll keep this occasional day job. Many thanks to Rick Shubb, Gary Mobley, Raul Reynoso, and Mike Phelan for their friendship, guidance and of course tolerance!
By the way, I still have that first gig photo, hidden in a private vault that Thunderbolt and Lightfoot couldn’t get into on their best day. (Legendary Clint Eastwood film as a premiere safecracker, in case you don’t know your 70’s films.)