A Different Kind of Beast

by Nook Schoenfeld • in
  • Current Issue
  • Editor's Note
  • February 2018
• Created: February 16, 2018

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I had a great time at NAMM. It was a totally different, and at the same time, refreshing show from the usual ones I attend. I put it more on a scale of the Prolight + Sound show than any other trade show, as it featured gear from all aspects of the entertainment biz. Everyone I ran into remarked that it was a great time, some called it a different beast.

Folks gasped when word came out last year that the Parnelli Awards were leaving Vegas. I admit, I was one of the naysayers. I take it back. The ceremony I attended Jan. 26 was one of the best ones ever. Seriously, I saw so many friends, paid my respects to legends like Boomer and Jonathan getting lifetime honors bestowed upon them, and realized that everyone was enjoying themselves.

Everyone showed up early at the opening bar, and the grip and grin was in full effect. We walked into the room on time, and the whole show ran smoothly, finishing at just before 10 p.m. Everyone in the room was down with that. [Note to staff — Double the bars next year. We don’t care about the drink tokens and cash.]

‡‡         Change is Good

What was so different about the Parnellis this year? All the manufacturing vendor reps were there to have fun — they were definitely not in sell mode. They were there as friends who just wanted to have a good time with the designers that use their gear, and not talk shop. Eric Loader and David Milly were on hand to give Smeeton his coveted award. Mark from GLP, Bob from Robe, Brian from ACT, John from Elation, The Cabada Brothers, The Blizzard maniacs, Ray from Vari-Lite, Albert from Chauvet (the list goes on), these are cats who, during LDI, are always busy cutting deals and showing product. A Saturday night at LDI is well spent schmoozing clients. I like that this time all my friends got to hang with their brethren for fun instead of work.

Thirty members of Billy Joel’s touring entourage dropped in to support Bobby Thrasher for his award. (One had to leave early; we’re happy to report that he’s okay.) Rick “Chainsaw” LaPointe, the infamous band roadie who has worked with Boomer for all these years went out on stage along with Steve Cohen, and brought the house to their knees with an extended tribute, a sermon the likes of which the Parnelli Awards has never seen, and may never again. I can honestly say that in my lifetime, this may have been the largest amount of respect I have ever seen one group show for their leader. A table full of Tom Petty’s extended family was there as well, with tour manager Richard Fernandez heading a long list of Parnelli recipients this year. A whole lot of sentimental emotions were spread.

I spent the evening sandwiched between Jim Digby and Howard Ungerleider, while surrounded by Susan Rose, Debi Moen, Bryan Hartley, Celine Royer and others I’ve worked with. Yup, I’m dropping names here, because after 40 years in this business, this is the climatic night where there are no egos. Everyone in the room is glad to be friends with everyone else.

I smiled as Butch Allen stepped up to accept the coveted LD of the Year award for his work with Paramore. It was about time this seriously talented individual was given the ultimate touring recognition by his peers for lighting.

One key to the success of this year’s event was the timing, with January being preferable for folks in our biz to attend. No longer will audio and backline folks have to attend a lighting convention. No longer will road crews struggle with their touring schedules to attend the Awards — most bands take January off. The business itself is slow this month, and the vendors hit their numbers in December, so they are in a great mood. Notably absent were some reps from lighting companies (Dizzy, we missed you), but at the same time, I saw a lot of the usual suspects and a lot of new attendees that couldn’t make it before.

I loved the camaraderie displayed in the lighting section at NAMM. No matter where I turned, I found folks from every company chatting in their competitor’s booths, just talking about life and family and bonding over the gigs we do. I just spent three days in Los Angeles and nobody offended anyone with their booths, a lot of folks took a shot bringing gear here for the first time and, to be honest, I think the dividends will pay off.

Lastly, the talking panels set up in the Hilton were the bomb. I moderated one group of legends and attended a couple other sessions where hugely talented people spoke. I was intrigued to see Avolites offering classes on operating their gear. I tried to attend one, only to find that the room was full to capacity, with folks all the way out the door. Avo could have rented a whole theater just for the amount of people that wanted lessons.

I left the gig today feeling good. About NAMM, the Parnelli Awards and our biz. I have qualms with Vegas — it’s gotten old going every single year. This week was just so much more happening. I look forward to next year. We raised the bar a lot in 2018. Gonna take it to a whole new level next year.

For Nook’s video introduction to the Feb. 2018 issue of PLSN, go to www.plsn.me/201802ednote



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