I am very grateful toThe Custom IEM Companyfor giving me a ticket to theLondon Drum Showon the Saturday 11 October. Here is my take on the day.
Terry Bozzio was on first at 10.00, so I arrived at 9.40 to meet a queue stretching all down the road outside. Forty minutes later and I was in the building, only for the queue to continue round the lower floor to the lifts. Twenty minutes later and I was finally in, only to find I now needed to queue for a ticket to get in to see Terry Bozzio, no chance and the doors were now shut.
Change of plans led me to theMike DolbearMaster Class room to see Ash Soan andPhil Gould. Typical conference centre style room with a flat floor and stackable chairs. Just got there in time for the start and sat near the back. The sight lines were very poor and the sound was so bass heavy and distorted it required earplugs to be bearable. The playing was great, but was all to prerecorded backing tracks. With the poor sound it reminded me more of the countless YouTube cover drummers rather than a master class. Phil Gould spoke briefly about playing open handed and how his playing simplified when playing backbeats with the right rather than left hand. Towards the end as time was short Phil Gould suggested that they jam together for a bit. Now this could have been interesting - how would they approach playing together? How would the playing change? Who would lead the groove? How would they interact? Sadly this never happened. Instead it was back to backing tracks as Ash Soan played expertly to Grace Joans’ Slave To The Rhythm. As a main stage appearance it would have been fine, but I was expecting a bit more education from a master class.
Straight out of the Mike Dolbear room and back into The London Drum Show’s speciality – queuing! Twenty five minutes to be overcharged for a bottle of Sprite and nowhere to sit. What to do next? Why not join another queue, this time stretching back to the main desk, initially not sure what the queue was for, but as I had nowhere else to stand why not join. Turned out to be a queue for the next master class, this time for Jeremy Stacey.
Jeremy Stacey had three Tama kits on stage and, at the start at least, a full house. Those who left early probably went to join another queue for tickets. It was straight in to playing along to backing tracks. Again, as with Ash Soan and Phil Gould, great mastery of the tracks, no overplaying but no master class depth of instruction or explanation. There was a brief explanation of why playing on larger “Bonham” size kits produces not only a different sound but also a different approach to playing. Q&A section next, now these can be great but they rely on the quality of questions, which in turn are best when inspired by previous educational content. Sadly here the questions had little to be based on, so the superficial reigned. How many kits do you own? What snare drum do you use? What make are your headphones? Etc. One interesting question about the volume of playing on recordings versus live was met with a great answer - the softer playing bringing out different sounds from the drums, but live needing more volume for excitement. Jeremy Stacey then briefly played some jazz on a smaller Tama kit. For me this was the highlight of the day. No backing track just a few really swinging notes. The set finished with a very powerful Led Zeppelin track, masterfully played but again not really a master class.
Now to have a look round the stalls. Usual drum show problems of too many kids and adults randomly bashing at anything in sight. Where they all got sticks from who knows, but when you attempt to try out sitting on a drum throne to find a kid bashing it to bits with sticks, or try to look at a practice pad and have cymbals smashed in your ears, it gets tiring very quickly. I have never been in a drum shop where customers are allowed to behave in this way and most shops have a separate sound proof booth for trying out equipment, so as not to disturb other customers or staff. Some stalls were very well staffed and those staff went out of their way to be friendly and helpful but were mostly defeated by the volume of noise.
Guillaume Carballidowas showing some very interesting snare drums with a construction philosophy taken from string instruments such as violin. It would have been great to talk about this, how it changes sound and response to volume etc. but the background noise left us reduced to miming playing a violin and just taking a business card.
I had serious intentions to have a set of custom earplugs made and made a few attempts to visit the Custom IEM Company stall, but again the volume in the hall made this impossible. I wasn’t even able to say thanks for the tickets.
On previous visits to The London Drum Show, tickets for the main stage shows were free but had to be collected from the stalls of the artists’ sponsors. A slightly confused process, but probably the overall visitor numbers were low enough so that everyone got in. Then the process changed the following year to a more straightforward ticket collection at the main desk, however as visitor numbers increased not everyone could get in to the main show arena, but as most artists played a main show and a master class, you had a good chance of catching them in one of the venues.
This year tickets for the main stage were advertised as being included in the entrance price. The main show tickets were to be released from the main desk one hour prior to each show. For most visitors this creates a slight logistics problem, you have to leave a master class or main show early to queue for tickets to the next show. However at the last minute this process was revised. A limited number of the main show tickets would be available for purchase, all cash to the show’s charity. This increases the cost of a ticket from £20 on the door to £40 to guarantee entry to all the shows. The key phrase, to decrease hostility to this from those all ready committed to coming to the show now being forced to pay extra, was “limited”. So one hour before each show free tickets would still be available. Alas no joy. Despite missingOmar Hakim to be at the front of any possible queue to get Jojo Mayertickets, I was informed his main stage show had already sold out about an hour a half before they were supposed to go on general release. So when did limited become all of the tickets? Feeling slightly cheated by this, having missed Terry Bozzio due to poor entry arrangements and timing logistics, now missing Jojo Mayer due to last minute changes to selling tickets. I thought it best to try and extract some value from my entry by having a closer look at more of the stalls. One direction was blocked by queues from the cafe, Mike Dolbear Stage, Main stage and toilets, and the other direction by queues for artist signings on the Meinl stand - ahgggagghhahhgh!
So instead I joined my final queue of the day, this time to wait in line for a lift down out of the building.
Either the show needs to move to a larger venue with all pre booked allocated seating for the main shows, or reduces the visitor numbers. The stands need to return to being mostly displays not crèches for wandering children and those desperately playing every show lick they know.
To summarise; some great playing and interesting equipment to look at but impossible to get into main shows, master classes with little educational content and a show hall impossible to talk in, expensive limited catering with few seats, changes to ticket prices and conditions made after bookings taken, but lots and lots of queues!