Jan 042013

A little after the 23-minute mark of our recent Most Polite Performance in Rock post drummer Bev Bevan comes out from behind his drumkit to the fore of the stage to announce something to the audience. Some may see this as a generous form of “giving the drummer some.” I can’t stand when bands let drummers leave their kit to have a word with the audience. A drummer’s got all the power, dignity, and status one musician can ask for on his or her throne. (And remember: no other musician gets to play on a THRONE.) They need to maintain their special place in the order of a band. I get similarly annoying seeing Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban sitting courtside in a long-sleeve t-shirt (or worse) at one of his team’s games. It goes beyond former Atlanta Braves owner Ted Turner‘s Man of the People move of sitting in a field-level box for his team’s games. Turner still looked like he could buy everyone in the stadium: fans as well as players. Cuban’s behavior is beneath the class and pomp and circumstance I expect from a multi-millionaire sports franchise owner, and likewise a showboating drummer who rushes to the front of the stage is doing a disservice to the hard-earned privileges of fellow drummers.

I saw a band last month that let the drummer come out from behind his kit practically every other song to lead cheers for the audience. Many in the audience seemed delighted by his clowning, but I bet most of you here would agree that multiple trips to the fore of the stage are too many for any drummer. How do you feel about the drummer making even one appearance from behind his kit? Most importantly, how do the drummers in the house feel about this practice?

I look forward to your thoughts.

Should drummers be allowed from behind their kits?

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  12 Responses to “Is There a Drummer in the House: Should Drummers Be Allowed From Behind Their Kits?”

  1. Great. Now I’m gonna have Denny warbling rasp of “You Are So Beautiful” in my head the rest of the evening.


  2. alexmagic

    I would maybe allow the drummer one trip out from behind the drums if he or she really earned it somehow, but I tend to think any drummer doing the kind of work that would earn them a “come up to the front of the stage to interact with the crowd” moment would be too busy and too good at their job to have either the time or inclination to do so.

    Multiple trips out on the same show by a single drummer? I wouldn’t stand for that. I would make direct eye contact with said drummer and calmly but sternly say “Hey, no. Come on. Get back there.” I would also question what the frontman was doing if the drummer keeps coming out. Said frontman would clearly not be earning his or her keep if the drummer has to do crowdwork, and it’d also seem to be a sign of band anarchy.

    Let’s say Charlie Watts goes crazy one night and keeps coming out from behind his kit to mess with the audience. Would Mick stand for that? No way, he’d subtly but surely move equipment around to barricade Charlie in behind the drums without anybody realizing that’s what he was doing.

    What did Phil Collins do when he was in that drummer/frontman phase during Genesis’ peak? Did he just come out from behind the kit 40 or 50 times per show?

    All of that said, there is one scenario in which it’s OK for the drummer to not be in the back or on a riser: http://www.gifsoup.com/view/324145/joel-drums-o.gif

  3. BigSteve

    I can’t imagine anyone objecting to the drummer coming out front to croon Beth.

  4. I should have been clear about a couple of exceptions:

    1. Keith Moon coming to the front of the stage to sing “Fiddle About” (didn’t he do that?).

    2. Peter Criss coming to the front of the stage to sing “Beth.”

    3. Mick Fleetwood coming to the front of the stage to play his talking drum and dance about.

    Can we agree on those?

  5. I think Collins primarily sang once he took over for Gabriel. When I saw them at JFK Stadium his big treat for the audience was when he got behind the second drumkit with then-primary drummer Chester Thompson to play and sing “The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway,” “Squwank” (?), and something else of that ilk. It was the Genesis equivalent of the Led Zep acoustic set. Collins’ behavior in these situations would need to be judged according to the rules of order for lead singers, such as when Thom Yorke sits down to drum on a Radiohead song or two. Personally, I have no beef with lead singers moving back from the front of the stage.

  6. Agreed, that move does not fall under the Peter Criss/Keith Moon Exception!

  7. hrrundivbakshi

    I think it’s okay for drummers to swap out instruments with other band members, if both members can really play both instruments. Sloan does a good job of this, and I don’t resent it.

  8. I get why they would want to come out front though. They have to lug the most equipment, they are stuck in one place, they have to sit the entire time, and they are probably self conscious because their “instrument” is essentially just two polished branches. Also, the only time the average person will notice them is if they are overplaying. I certainly do not condone them coming out front but I understand why they might feel under appreciated.

  9. Sure, but that’s not what I’m talking about. For the record, let’s include instrument swapping (see also Levon Helm coming up front to play mandolin on some songs and Richard Manuel moving back to drums). I’m talking about when the drummer comes to the front of the stage to clown around, announce a song, or otherwise act as cheerleader. That’s bullshit.

  10. Sure, we empathize, but they are the only band members granted a throne.

  11. Suburban kid

    You can forgive Keith Moon because he’s an irrepressible loon, but that’s about it.

    I don’t even like drummers singing (lead OR backup) while sitting and playing at their usual workstation.

    I do however like the standup drummer playing at the front of the stage.

  12. Your ref to HRV below notwithstanding, I’d hope that All-Stage Access be granted to Levon Helm rather than Mick Fleetwood’s talking drum *SCHTICK*!


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