Just got back from the "Las Vegas" of gear shows: the Winter 2007 NAMM show, in Anaheim, CA.
I hadn't been there in three years, so it was quite a shock to see just how much the show has evolved and honed its technique. The exhibitors are largely manufacturers, and they display all their new gear (sometimes the ship date is months way), as well as highlights of their product line.
All the big guys are here: Roland, Yamaha, PRS, Gibson, Fender, Korg/Marshall/Vox, Taylor, Martin, Peavey, Crate, Mackie, Washburn, Apple Inc., Digidesign/Avid, MOTU, Steinberg, Cakewalk, Sony, DigiTech, Tascam, AKG, Audio-Technica, Shure, Blue, etc.
It's probably easier to name the companies who were not there.
One of the highlights of the show were the performances. Sure, there's a lot of "in-booth wanking," but there are world-class performances and concert experiences at night, in the ballrooms and makeshift venues. I saw Johnny Hiland twice, and was just blown away. A few years ago he was a delightful Tele-picker. But as amazing as that was, it wasn't that uncommon.
How far he has come. He now plays and endorses Paul Reed Smith guitars, and he's playing rock and roll with the best of them. His sound is steeped in the humbucker sound, and he's gone way past the lickety-split chicken-pickin' stuff. Rich, emotional, and lyric lines pour forth from his fingers. He's staying close to his southern roots, for sure, but his rock vocabulary has expanded, and he's now emerging as one of the pre-eminent voices in that genre -- right up there with Warren Haynes.