Image courtesy of Denise Mercedes
By Laura Lee Flanagan

A few months ago, I couldn’t help but gush over one Denise Mercedes, queen of the underground music scene since forever. A New York native who was definitely born to rock, Denise has been attributed with spearheading the hardcore music scene in NYC with her notorious late-day punk band, The Stimulators, and her introduction of the Bad Brains. That was after she played all over London with Rat Scabies of the Damned, and well after Dylan bought her her first guitar.

Endlessly devoted to the music industry (she’s the “real deal”), Denise traveled to California to congregate with industry insiders, and was excellent enough to report back to us. Ever the New Yorker, D made sure to find out what folks really think about our city:


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NAMM, the North American Music Merchants, is the biggest and most important gathering of music providers in the world. Held in Anaheim, California every third week in January, the star-studded event draws attendees from all corners of the globe. Here one will find the newest entries of instruments and gadgets, along with the most long-standing companies involved in making of every type of music imaginable. Everyone is showcasing their fabulous wares in grand style: from thousands of bedazzling guitars, percussive instruments, horns, accordions, child-sized instruments, classical strings and pianos, sound equipment, and accessories, along with offerings from the international community. The 3-day weekend convention draws thousands of enthusiastic attendees who walk the four gigantic floors of exhibitors all daylong. In addition to endless eye-popping displays of artistry and inventiveness in the world of music, there are multitudes of varied live performances and demonstrations of equipment by notable recording artists of different genres.

Denise Mercedes 628x1110 Offbeat: NAMM, Yo!
Image courtesy of Denise Mercedes

I attended this year’s NAMM courtesy of Bob Elliot’s Guitar Docks: the portable clip-on guitar stands. One must be invited to the coveted event, akin to a combination of the magical city of Oz and Elysium to musicians, because this legendary music biz extravaganza is not open to the general public.

It was my good fortune to speak to some of the movers and shakers in the music industry and ask them for a very short answer to the question: What did they like or dislike about New York City. Time was short for everyone and a one-liner would have to do.

Seeing two knockout performances on Friday by rock vocalist extraordinaire Dilana was thrilling. This stunning South African born singer/songwriter was an immediate fan favorite on the famous TV show Rock Star Supernova — the vehicle which thrust her into the mainstream rock spotlight as a top notch and compelling artist. She has performed with such legends as Tommy Lee and Mick Mars (Motley Crue), Dave Navarro (Janes’s Addiction, Red Hot Chili Peppers), and won over audiences as the opening performer for Aerosmith. All this was accomplished in addition to recording her own songs and touring the world. Dilana was charmed by New York and said, “I love Central Park. It’s where I lost and found myself.”

Dilana 628x615 Offbeat: NAMM, Yo!
Image courtesy of Denise Mercedes

Tim Drale of Monster, specializing in audio electronics and high-end headphones, had introduced himself to me as a longtime fan of the Stimulators, my former NYC punk band, having known of us in his old punk stomping ground of Detroit. Tim had this to say about our fair city: “I don’t like that there is no more Coney Island High. I love Patsy’s Pizza and running into Vinny Stigma. I love the history of New York; it’s like a musical version of ‘The Warriors.’”

Diana Cameron is a vocalist in the San Diego head banging metal group Unicorn Death, which has mostly petite and very talented girl members. The group is inspired by ancient myths, Nordic legend, the brutality of Middle-Earth warfare, and Iron Maiden. Their song titles include “Eaten by Trolls” and “Battle for Vengeance.” Said Cameron, “New York…everyone was really nice no matter where I went. You always hear about how cold New Yorkers are, but I never had any bad attitudes. Even the bums were really nice saying ‘excuse me’ when walking past.”

Bassist Armand Sabal-Lecco hails from Cameroon and is one of the world’s leading session artists. He got his big break from working with Paul Simon in the early ’80s and continued on to play and record with many jazz musicians. His take on New York: “It’s such a mix of different influences and cultures. It’s so creative and that helps the balance of music. Being in New York, it’s like being all around the world!”

Armand Sabal Lecco 628x1110 Offbeat: NAMM, Yo!
Image courtesy of Denise Mercedes

Platinum-selling Alice in Chains frontman William DuVall was busy signing fan autographs when we got to speak for a few minutes. Noted for a career that covers many genres, including his punk band Neon Christ, he replaced original AIC vocalist, lead singer Layne Staley, following his death in April 2002. He was right to the point: “It’s where the action is!”

William DuVall 628x1110 Offbeat: NAMM, Yo!
Image courtesy of Denise Mercedes

Peter Baltes, bassist of German heavy metal legends Accept (who doesn’t know “Balls to the Wall”?) was promoting Warwick basses. His band’s distinctive blend of metal, hard rock, thrash, and classic rock has long established Accept as one of the most respected and influential bands in the global metal music community. Regarding visits to New York, he had this to say about his favorite thing here: “I love the Macy’s Day Parade. I really love it.”

Peter Baltes 628x1110 Offbeat: NAMM, Yo!
Image courtesy of Denise Mercedes

Oakland-based Stacy Maisenbach, aka Bassy Stacy, currently of Heavy Metal TV and former bass player of all-girl California tribute Kisser, is a NAMM regular, well-known scenester, and local rock musician. When asked for her thoughts on New York, she said, “I like that there is always something to do…plays, music, art, and lots of cultures. But it’s kinda dirty…”

Inventor of Guitar Docks portable guitar stands Bob Elliot, who also runs the popular Music Makers of New York school and pro rehearsal studio in New York City, had some words about the City he has called home for 30 years: “I love the New York energy and creativity. But I hate the escalating rent prices.”


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With the music industry resembling corporate America more and more each year, I can’t think of an insider more authentic to find out what people in the music industry really think about our town. It is always illuminating to hear about New York from the outside, Macy’s Day Parade and all!

Thanks, Denise, for representing fantastically…as always!

Triple Guitar Offbeat: NAMM, Yo!
Image courtesy of Denise Mercedes

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