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The 2018 NAMM Show was jam-packed with more thrilling moments than was possible to keep up with. Everywhere you turned you were witnessing one incredible live performance after another, catching a glimpse of a brand-new innovative product, taking in an important lesson in music education, or perhaps, simply getting lost in the convention center - where you could just as easily run into an old friend as you could your favorite celebrity.

This year’s live performances really captured the love for all genres of music. OK Go took over the Grand Plaza Stage for Thursday’s opening night show. Friday, Jan. 26, the YAMAHA All-Star Concert on the Grand 2018 welcomed a group of special surprise guests. Melissa Etheridge, Butch Walker, Marc Broussard, Lindsay Stirling and Dave Koz all made appearances. Bernie Williams and the Manhattan School of Music Electronic Jazz Ensemble also performed for fans. While Saturday, Jan. 27 brought in the annual Imagine Party with Andy Grammer and Bootsy Collins.

Incredibly, there are also live concerts randomly popping up all-day long during the entirety of The NAMM Show. Just walking through the grounds or by a booth, you could have caught the electronic rock group Infected Mushroom, an acoustic set from Everclear, Flavor Flav just playing the piano, or Imani and Bootie Brown of The Pharcyde. Among the celebrity sightings on the floor this year, were artists like 311 and Adrian Young of No Doubt, who were there signing autographs.

Paying tribute to those who have made a difference through music is a huge part of what NAMM does as well. The celebrations kicked off on Thursday, honoring Dead & Company’s Bob Weir with the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) “Music for Life” award. The award was presented by NAMM President and CEO Joe Lamond, in recognition of the Grateful Dead co-founder’s 50-year contribution to the arts. “If you’re always going for it, the muse is always leading you in some direction. If you have faith in your muse, you’re going to get somewhere — if you put shoulder to the wheel. Every artist of any stripe is a storyteller, and the way you weave it together represents what makes life worth living,” Weir said to the audience.

The weekend also highlights some incredible awards shows such as the Parnelli Awards, the She Rocks Awards and the TEC Awards. This year’s TEC Awards, the show honoring achievements in technical excellence and creativity, was hosted by comedian Demetri Martin. Lucky guests were there to see Jackson Browne reunite with The Section to perform “Running on Empty,” after both having been handed prestigious honors. Also spotted in attendance were Kenny Aronoff, Jacob Salvato, guitarist Steve Lukather, The Doobie Brothers and Steely Dan guitarist Skunk Baxter, as well as Linda Perry from 4 Non Blondes and producer Kerry Brown. You can click here for a full list of winners.

Of course, another one of the most important parts about The NAMM Show is discovering what’s new in product development. 2018 brought about some cool finds. Yudo Inc. displayed a kit made of cardboard that converts ordinary text-input keyboards into MIDI keyboards to play music. There was some cutting-edge virtual reality technology by Survios. KAGURA, by Shikumi Design, developed the only AR musical instrument that allows users to remix music with their body motion without touching anything. And, Enhancia exhibited a MIDI ring controller which was originally created for disabled children so they can interact with music. It interprets the movements of your hand in order to improve control of your digital instrument.

The Fender booth also showcased an array of exciting new gear. Embodying that classic Fender feel while giving things a modern twist, their new acoustic series represents the ultimate Southern California vibe. With fun shapes and colors, the Malibu, Newporter and Redondo offer different sizes to suit the player for a supreme level of comfort and satisfaction. Launching within the Squier line, is a new series that veers away from the entry-level stuff it’s generally known for. The redesign gives the Squier different capabilities and has some unique styling points. The new development is the just the start of what’s going to take shape over the next three years involving a much bigger series with Jazzmasters, Jaguars and Basses. Fender Play, their guided online learning program, is expanding its repertoire, too. They’ll be adding metal and R&B, new instructors, as well as lessons for the bass and ukulele. It’s all about more instruments, more genres and more lessons. Because the more you play, the happier you are.

The 2018 NAMM Show gave us so much. There were drum circles, marching bands, important talks, breakfast sessions and happy hours, but in the end, we all experienced the same thing – a sense of community.

For more on NAMM, be sure to check out their website.