Friday, June 11, 2010
I spent the entirety of my 20s earning a living as a full-time musician. No waiting tables. No selling retail.
But this was by no means a singular job, rather, a hodgepodge of various harmonic endeavors. That meant teaching plenty of guitar/bass lessons, accumulating hours of studio gigs and playing in bands. Lots and lots of bands.
In my senior year of college I was performing with one such act when we decided to switch drummers. One of the most popular of local club acts had broken up, and we realized that meant their drummer was available. Said drummer — let’s call him Abe — was well-known for his showmanship. Good-looking and flashy, Abe had mastered all the stick tricks of the trade: spins, flips, one-handed beats, etc. (Keep in mind that this was the late ’80s, when subtlety was an unknown commodity.)
So we recruited Abe, and our improved live shows were a hit. He was impossible to ignore, mesmerizing in the sheer amount of energy he could muster behind the kit.
And then we went into the studio ...
While recording original material, it became apparent that something was off. Parts rushed or dragged, his kick drum didn’t match up with the bass guitar, his incessant fills crowded the vocals. It was a mess.
Lesson learned: What looks good doesn’t always sound good.
I was reminded of this last week when a former bandmate sent me a link to a YouTube video titled “This drummer is at the wrong gig." In merely a few days this obscure post ballooned to having more than 3 million hits.
In a camcorder-captured performance, a band named Rick K. & the Allnighters works hard at entertaining a sparse crowd. None work harder than drummer Steve Moore.
Echoing his matching bandmates, Moore is decked in a sparkly gold jacket while seated behind a huge drum kit (with double bass, of course). As his middle-aged compatriots launch into the pulsing riff from ZZ Top’s “Sharp Dressed Man,” Moore delivers a steady beat. But once the vocals enter, all hell breaks loose.
Drumsticks twirling, limbs flailing. Sometimes it looks like he’s having an epileptic seizure or being stung by hornets. Sometimes it appears his hands are trying to escape from his arms.
With circus-like agility, Moore’s right hand alternates hitting the high hat with the tip of the stick, then the end. Meanwhile, he’s flinging the other stick in the air and catching it with his left hand.
Amazing how this display is both incredibly cool and incredibly not cool at the same time.
It’s really the context that makes the performance so hilarious. Shot in 2008 at Knoebels Amusement Resort in Elysburg, Pa., Moore treats the gig as if he is playing for Kiss to a sold-out crowd at Madison Square Garden.
The word “overkill” comes to mind. Or Animal from “The Muppets.”
To his credit, Moore never drops the beat amid his histrionic antics. Admittedly, he’s executing a ZZ Top track that features drumming so mechanical it could have been recorded on an assembly line. Doubtful he’d employ the same tricks when tackling Rush’s “Tom Sawyer” or Led Zeppelin’s “Fool in the Rain.”
Also in Moore’s defense, the other guys in the Allnighters are letting him do all the work. They are barely going through the motions en route to a paycheck. (Witness their weak-spirited attempt at choreography near the end of the tune.) Why even wear wireless headset mics if you’re not going to move an outrageous amount?
At least the gaudy drummer is earning his split.
Check out more of Moore at his own site, themaddrummer.com. I’m sure he’ll appreciate the attention.
— Entertainment editor Jon Niccum explores facets of pop culture that have established a unique niche on the Internet in Net Worth. He can be reached at 832-7178.