09.13.04 – I have the best drum tech in the world

I have the best drum tech in the world. The shit hit the fan in Salt Lake City last week and Sean came through like MacGyver, building a flotation device while lost at sea with only a chiclet and a handkerchief (did you guys see that episode?).

We have back-ups of most of my drum gear with us on the road… cymbal hardware, kick pedals, a spare electronic trigger unit, conga heads, another hand snare for when my palm goes through the main one. But my djembe stand has been the anchor of the kit for the last 8 years since I built it with the guy who owns the “Dynamic Percussion” music store in Manchester Connecticut.

djembe stand

You put three sandbags on it and it doesn’t move — Sean and I never felt the need to back it up because it was such a rock. Would you keep an extra Volvo in your garage just in case the first one breaks down? Does Dick Clark need an understudy? This was our logic. The Titanic was unsinkable.

Well, one or two blows into “What You Wish For” and Old Trusty went down for the count like an Apple product the day after its warranty expires. One of the legs just plain snapped, leaving the djembe resting lamely at a forty-five degree angle against those orange bongo things I rarely hit (we call them “bongettes”). I flashed The Look over to the side of the stage. Sean knows The Look — it happens maybe once a week when there’s a drum emergency. It’s sort of a wide-eyed glare accompanied by a beckoning neck reflex that says “(help)”.

Sean ran out on stage and assessed the situation. Kneeling beside me, staring blankly at our fallen soldier, I think Sean and I shared a moment. A brief glance that on the outside said “we’re kind of fucked” but on the inside, in our heart of hearts, said “that was one great djembe stand… perhaps the greatest djembe stand there ever was.” A split second later Sean was gone, and my head was back inside What You Wish For, trying to decide whether to thump the conga on the one and three or whether to reach around and hit the djembe even though it was more horizontal than vertical. The other people in my band were looking at me as if to say “why does this song sound so bad on the drum end right now.”

The next song was “Amsterdam” which fortunately occurs on the other (stick) drum set. Sean was nowhere to be found. The djembe stand was gone too. If Sean had been out back behind the venue with a shovel digging a grave for it, my reaction would probably have been a teary-eyed “Yeah, Sean… you give that stan’ a nice place ‘a rest!”

During Amsterdam I devised a plan for the remainder of the set. There were three djembe-dependent songs coming up. “Demons” and “California Dreamin'” could be performed on the traditional drum set if absolutely necessary. “Fa Fa” was going to be a nightmare.

And then as the last note of Amsterdam passed, Sean marched on stage with my djembe stand, placed it down firmly in its place, hung three sandbags from it’s bottom rung as usual, put the djembe inside, strapped it in tight with the bungee chord, and returned to his position by the monitor desk. I was the only one in the room with my jaw wide open. No one else even knew that Drum Crisis Mode had reached Defcon 4 behind the percussion kit. Ryan looked over and asked if it was cool to start “Demons.” One lone Indian tear running down my cheek, I said “Yes, you can start Demons now.”

Check out these pics. Sean took the arm from the boom of a spare cymbal stand and clamped it tightly onto the broken leg of the djembe stand so the flat metal end hit the ground at the right height. Not only did he devise this and implement it on the spot… it was ready to go within a song. And here I am in Austin Texas five days later, last show of the tour, still pummeling the djembe while it rests securely in a djembe stand with a prosthetic limb. Sean and I both agree that it feels more solid than ever this way. I have the best drum tech in the world.

This is Sean putting the djembe stand back into the percussion kit after I made him remove it for a road journal photo shoot. An expert photoshopper, Sean will be applying his MacGyver instincts to the world of graphic design and business card creation during the touring offseason.

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