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[dropcap]I[/dropcap]t has been an incredible year for Boston music, and I certainly won’t be the only person to say this during the Year in ReView season. Boston (and Western Mass.) bands have gotten an unprecedented amount of both national and international press in 2013, and the scene just keeps getting stronger. My appreciation for what’s going on in Massachusetts has only grown since I left Krill in September to move to London for graduate school — and the fact that I don’t currently live in Boston and am no longer an active member of a Boston band has inspired me to finally write about something that I’ve been thinking about for a while now.
Being a drummer, I’m naturally a bit more attuned to what’s going on in bands’ rhythm sections, and I have to say, Boston bands have some pretty remarkable drummers. Music writers have an understandably difficult time writing about us, and after writing this article I can sympathize — it’s really hard to write evocatively and articulately about drumming. And while I’m not the type of drummer or person who reads publications like Modern Drummer or even enjoys engaging with people about drumming (and especially “hardware”) at shows, I nonetheless feel compelled to honor what I feel are some of Boston’s best drum parts of 2013, because they deserve honoring.
This is in no hierarchical order. 1. Nick Egersheim of Kal Marks — “Life is Murder”
Photo by Christine Varriale
I heard about Nick’s drumming a lot before I actually got to see him play. People had been raving about Kal Marks’ new drummer, and the first time I saw him, I stood fixated on him the whole time, mouth agape. He is raw power. His muscular style is reminiscent of Pile’s Kris Kuss — they’re both true “rock” drummers who totally dominate their instrument. The drum part in this song, which my high school jazz band teacher would call a “shuffle feel,” is pretty utilitarian, but he does something later in the song that gets stuck in my head for days every time I hear the song. At 4:30 (and then repeated at 5:10) is not so much a drum solo as a drum break, which punctuates the song’s final section (this is an honest to goodness “waltz feel”). His snare is playing the straight “1-2-3” of the waltz, while his floor tom and rack tom to combine to do a lightning quick “2-3-4” that somehow squeezes in between each snare hit on 1 and 2. It’s amazing. The totally appropriate and tasteful use of the ride bell at the end is the cherry on top. 2. Ethan Parcell of Cowboy Band – “St. James Hospital”
Cowboy Band, who I understand are on a sort of hiatus at the moment, are (were?) hands down one of the most fun bands to see live in Boston. And Ethan might be the most fun drummer to watch. He is one of those drummers who is so technically proficient that he can clearly do absolutely anything he wants, and does. This isn’t a song that has “a beat,” and since apart from the main guitar riff the guitar and bass are pretty sparse, Ethan basically just gets to have fun around Andrew and Jesse’s parts. Listen to the little phrase between :37 and :42. He plays along to the rhythm of the main riff and then bursts out two insane fills (somehow also fitting in what sounds like a China hit) before the next main riff part comes along. If Cowboy Band rides again, which I sincerely hope they do, do not miss an opportunity to see them. 3. Victoria Mandanas of Potty Mouth — “The Spins”
First of all, this song just rules. And what seems like a pretty simple drum part is actually doing quite a bit to control the shape of the song. From the opening fill (same as the one at the beginning of “Just Like Heaven”), Mandanas launches into a pretty classic punk beat, and in the section right after the first chorus played mostly on floor tom, we’re taken back to Tre Cool’s floor tom-heavy Green Day beats of the ’90s. But for me the most interesting thing happening here is that she switches to half-time in the choruses — try imagining those sections without her switching to half time… they totally lose their poignancy. A big part of what makes you wanna bob your head to the chorus is Mandanas’ rhythmic shift.