Sunday, January 6, 2008

2007 Guitar Center Drum Off

so I come home from work yesterday afternoon and Sara wisks me away to downtown Lala land, specifically the Henry Fonda Theatre (aka the Musicbox) for the finals of the Guitar Center drum off.

'What the fuck's a drum off?" I ask, wanting only to consume copious amounts of beer and chicken after a hard day in retail hell.

"Thousands of try-out contestants from GC's all over the country have been widdled down to four finalists. They play tonight, amidst a bunch of bells and whistles, for the winning spot."

"What are the other bells and whistles?" I ask now imagining a mostly empty room, hardly filled by about one hundred geeky looking guys wearing Dream Theater t-shirts and gesticulating constantly with Trekky-like enthusiasm. Perfect for me to bring my paperback Terry Pratchett novel and a thirst for over-priced Irish whiskey from the upstairs bar at the Fonda, where a couple months previous we witnessed the Melvins play 'Houdini' start to finish followed by Mudhoney performing 'Superfuzzbigmuff'. Decent seats up on that balcony, maybe Sara can skim the nerds for her story and I can finish Wee Free Men and score a buzz.

"We're not staying for them, believe me. I want to get the story and get home in time to watch some more Lost."

Okay, I'd never let her down, so here we go.

I've been up since 6:30 in the A.M., so I'm tired. I sleep a little on the way down sitting cobain. I wake up just before we park, to the sound of Sara saying, 'Oh, they have spotlights.' Spotlights? I think, for a drum off? This confuses me. In my sleep-swaddled head I try to fit the images of a Hollywood funciton that warrants spotlights with the images of the nerd train I had in my head.

Try as I might the two would not reconcile, and then we were moving.

Sara, far more important in the musicians community than I often remember, is on her phone immediately with a gentleman named Robbie. He's a head rep something-or-other-big-shot for GC and she's giving him a step by step guide to our approach, as apparently he is coming out to usher us into the ...VIP? Wouldn't VIP at a drum off be the equivalent of VIP at an action figure collectors show?

Boy, am I wrong.

Robbie meets us on the corner and after a quick introduction he leads us back toward the entrance to the club.

THRONGS, yeah, that's the word alright, THRONGS of people are waiting in a line that wraps around the block and is flanked on either side by MASSIVE, Hollywood, MGM Grand style spotlights. The entire city block is alive with hipsters, metalheads, parents, kids, poseurs, minor celebs... I think I spot Wes Borland off to the side of the entrance arguing about his name's status on the list and I give him the finger as we're wisked past EVERYONE and installed in front of a kindly lad who plants a fourescent green wristband on each of us before we're allowed in.

Robbie gives us a brief tour of the facilities as they operate for the evening, ie - general admission, balcony, and thrid floor where the VIP seating is located within stones throw of the bar with the whiskey. He sees us seated and runs off, no doubt a list of a thousand people to greet and welcome similarly. We scope out our seats and then hit the bar. No reading here. This is set up as much a rock show as any rock show I've been to, and more so than some. It's packed, its noisy, its dark and its ALIVE WITH that expectation. Did I mention the name ANGELS and AIRWAVES on the marquee when we entered? No? Well, evidently they're the presiding rock icons to close the show after the competition (making me wonder how many of these people are here for them alone and if a version of this shindig without them would look quite abit more like the original image in my head) Shortly after we sit, the show begins.

Now, Stephen Perkins, drummer from the late Jane's Addiction is the host of the show. Interesting. Stephen holds the unique honor among his Jane's peers as being the only one of the three I do not find a contemptible douche bag. How could I, he's the only one that hsn't at some time in post-Jane's time tried to whore himself out for as much spotlight as possible. He comes out, harmless enough and says a few words, then introduces the opening act.

Opening the show was the Street Drum Core. Never heard of 'em? Neither had I. Here's what Amazon throws down as a description: "Street Drum Corps is a punk rock version of Stomp, a tightly choreographed mix of street drumming and pop-punk tunes..."

Now, go goggle them and look at some of their pictures on Myspace or wherever. The French have a word for folks like this, La Dil-Do. Seriously, a punk rock version of Stomp? Does anyone want to see this? ANYONE? Their performance was wretched. Granted, there were some interesting layers of rhythm and lights that made we wish for halucinogens (which would have been a mistake based on the shitty timbre of their music itself) but overall this was like fifth generation Slipknot knock-off run by high school theatre kids swept up by the 'all image, no substance' moniker often associated with Hollywood. TERRIBLE and they make Shawn's SIT THE FUCK DOWN list (to be addressed in a future post cuz its a looong list).

After the faux-punks (my how I wish we could eliminate that word from the popular lexicon) here's Mr. Perkins again. He comes out to introduce the two guys from GC who put the whole thing together and to introduce the living legends they are honoring this year. The more Perkins talks, the more I take a cynical view. He sounds exactly like my good friend Sonny impersonating 'whitey'. Seriously, this guy just sounds so white, there's no other way to say it. Of course I'm probably just looking for a reason to complete my disdain for the entire Jane's cast, and I try to keep this in mind and give him a fair shake. In the end I do, but still, he's getting made fun of after this. The word 'parradiddle', a drum training exercise, came out of his mouth SOO many fucking times I almost gained the ability to successfully anticipate its arrival.

'Wow, you guys, there are so many paradiddles going on backstage.'

'We got hits, grooves and more paradiddles coming at'cah in a few minutes.'

'Someone just jumped me backstage and force-fed me a piece of posterboard with the word paradiddle written on it in stinky permanent marker.'

The first two are half-remembered paraphrases and the third is a bit of a fantasy, but you get the drift. So out comes Alan White from YES, last years award winner, followed by Steve Smith from Journey and Dave Garibaldi from Tower of Power who won this years awards. Everyone on stage had a grand old time and I must say even though I'm not a drummer and really have no idea who these people are, really, its good to see great musicians get recognition. Okay then, that being said, the rest of the night went pretty well. HTe four finalists came out and played, we saw the winner coming a mile away I think, but still, it was actaully pretty cool. Then Robbie found us and wisked us away again so Sara could meet the CEO of GC, they brought us out to the VIP patio and after a few more minutes we left, wanting to get that early start before Angels and Airwaves showed their pointless tattooed asses.

All in all, one thing about this night was how indicitive it was of why I love Sara. I sometimes make up my mind about things based on nothing at all, and she often comes along and shows me differently, thus she adds layers to me that I do not add to myself. But I guess that's what's really meant by a 'soul mate'. The ying need the yang to make a complete circle.

1 comment:

Big In Day-town said...

I love my girl and her writing. But that, my friend? Was an ass-blisteringly funny synopsis of what sounds like a typical Sara assignment.

"C'mon, go with me to see Insane Clown Posse! I'll buy you dinner! Pleeeeze!" LOL