Legends and New Icons: Gibson Reinvents with Pre-Opening Party, NAMM JAM

The sentiment of hailing back to the brand’s roots while moving forward echoed at Gibson’s Winter NAMM Jam opening party, January 24 at the The Grove of Anaheim. Featuring performances from past icons, such as Peter Frampton and Nancy Wilson, to the present with LA’s Lauren Ruth Ward.

The return of Gibson at The NAMM Show was exhilarating for many. After a successful first day, Gibson continued the party at The Grove of Anaheim, January 24, for their Winter NAMM Jam. Continuing the sentiment of past to present that was displayed at their NAMM Showcase, the night hailed to the legends, upcoming icons, and the focal shift for the new era of Gibson.

Featuring performances by Billy Gibbons, Nancy Wilson, Peter Frampton, Robby Krieger, Emily Wolfe, Black Pistol Fire, Cam, Jared James Nichols, Toby Lee, and Lauren Ruth Ward, while the “house band” — comprised Jimmy Vivino, Kenny Aronoff, Darryl Jones, and Jeff Young — kept the night at a consistent level of excitement, Gibson intended to make their presence known.

James “JC” Curleigh and Jeff Garlin, Winter NAMM Jam (Courtesy of Gibson, Chelsea Lauren)

Hosted by comedian Jeff Garlin, the opening monologue allowed for attendees to gather food and drinks before the festivities. James “JC” Curleigh, Gibson’s new President and CEO, took the center stage with a sense of confidence and humility (who we later spotted in the pit), thanking the team and those who have been with Gibson during the “obstacle course.”

Explaining the uncertainty of how to introduce himself as the “new kid,” Curleigh eased in with a recital of the first stance of Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are A Changin’.” “We’re putting the band back together and we appreciate the support so far,” expressed Culeigh. Now pivoting from an obstacle to an opportunity course, there seemed to be a sense of relief to all involved in Gibson, especially Curleigh. “We want to be the most relevant, we want to be the most played, and the most loved music brand in the world.”

Toby Lee and Jimmy Vivino, Winter NAMM Jam (Courtesy of Gibson, Chelsea Lauren)

Immediately diving into the music, a well rounded collection of musicians graced the stage. Wisconsin born singer-songwriter, Jared James Nichols, brought back classic rock against a pickless Epiphone and scuzzed his way through an energetic display of licks. Emily Wolfe’s vocals matched potency, and protruded with a heavy blues-rock growl and easily created newer fans after her performance.

Days before his 14th birthday, the then 13 yr old blues-guitarist Toby Lee took to his Firebird and belted out a soulful jam alongside Jimmy Vivino. Heart’s Nancy Wilson gave an equally passionate, Americana rendition of Paul McCartney’s “Let Me Roll It” — which graciously stuck out — while Cam highlighted a sweeter, country hum of the night. LA’s Lauren Ruth Ward melted hearts by joining The Doors’ Robby Kriegar for a special take on “Love Me Two Times.”

As the stage bridged the gaps of generations, a theme that Gibson carried all throughout NAMM, the night anxiously awaited Peter Frampton who cut his performance with Humble Pie’s “Four Day Creep.” Rightfully placed came Frampton’s take on Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun,” which seems to always bring a mixed bag of emotions. The longing rendition allowed for Frampton to wail with precision, of course with his iconic voice box, but resurfaced a somber reminder for the late Chris Cornell.

Peter Frampton, Winter NAMM Jam (Courtesy of Gibson, Chelsea Lauren

Billy Gibbons then took to the stage and ran through hard rock classics such as ZZ Top’s “Thunderbird,” and Hendrix’s “Foxy Lady.” Charming the crowd throughout his set, Gibbons eventually pulled everyone on stage for an incredible jam session which closed the night. Gibbons directed each act on stage — Toby Lee, Kevin McKeown, Jared James Nichols, Frampton and Emily Wolfe — to bless the crowd with a solo, and if possible, made the night more complete.

Billy Gibbons, Winter NAMM Jam (Courtesy of Gibson, Chelsea Lauren)

Extending for a good twelve minutes, the jam session instilled Gibson’s notion: past to present. Celebrating 125 years and echoing Curleigh’s challenge to bring the aged spirit into the future, the revamp and new approach became prevalent yet not boastful; knowingly what else needs to be done, but one hell of a start, as Curleigh’s words rang true. “And now we stand here in 2019 and we’re gonna figure out the future together.”


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