Derek Lindsay certainly knows how to put on a show. For one, he's the full-time frontman for two Oakland-based bands — semidefunct garage-rock outfit the Bleu Canadians, and dork-rockers Bunny Numpkins and the Kill Blow Up Reaction. He's also made a name for himself locally by putting on several offbeat music festivals — all held at the Stork Club, and all featuring a lineup of local bands playing to some bizarre theme: capes, for example, or fitness, or fans (both electric and human). Even offstage, he's a showman, with a roaming wit and an unbridled enthusiasm for music, for the East Bay independent scene, and for anything absurd and over-the-top.Take Saturday's Festival of the Drums, which promises to be an all-day celebration of all three. The inspiration came a few months ago, when Bunny Numpkins had to play a gig while drummer Miles Steuding was out of town. Lindsay and his bandmates put an open call out to their musician friends for a replacement percussionist, and ended up with seven. The result, Lindsay said, was "fucked up and brilliant and spastic and chaotic — every bit of sound was filled." The gig was so much fun for band and audience alike that Lindsay decided he wanted to recreate that energy on a larger scale. He set a date with the Stork Club and lined up eight venerable local bands — ranging from Bitesize's power pop to Static Mind-Fi's experimental rock — each of which were told to add as many extra drummers as they could get their hands on.
"It's taking bands that don't normally necessarily have these intense, badass drummers and adding them," Lindsay explained. Paul Pot, who sings and plays guitar for the Happy Clams, will be playing with two drummers and a three-piece percussion ensemble, and Julia Serrano of Bitesize said that her band has lined up several finger-cymbalists and a beatboxer.
According to Lindsay, the effect will be an all-out, earsplitting celebration of the often-overlooked drummer — "less Sproul Plaza drum jam and more like like a freight train, car accident, or volcano erupting." To that end, he's racheted up the insanity by inviting a cast of larger-than-life acts, including a drum corps, spoon players, tabla drummers, San Francisco's Bucketman and a drum circle from a Christian commune in Humboldt County, as well as famed — and dead — percussionists Keith Moon, Jon Bonham, and Buddy Rich ("I figure if you don't put them on the list, they'll never come," he deadpanned).
Lindsay said that this and other such festivals are, essentially, a way to experiment musically and explore the weird — "a forum to express the latest strange idea." But beneath the happy-go-lucky appreciation for the sheerly absurd is a more earnest purpose: Lindsay sees these festivals as something of a community event for many of the East Bay's independent rock groups. Miles Steuding — the drummer whose vacation started it all — said that Lindsay's festivals, for all their wackiness, provide a space for musicians to come together: "It's a community thing, in a weird way. Everyone is in everyone else's band. I think of it as sort of like jazz was in the Forties."
Both Steuding and Lindsay credit the Stork Club for allowing this kind of collaboration and experimentation to happen. "They're not always going after the largest bands, they're not like Bottom of they Hill. And because of that they're willing to tap into this local creativity."
Lindsay is expecting friends and collaborators of the various bands — as well as "leg bouncers, nervous tappers, and hyperactive woodshop dropouts" — and with many audience members who are musicians in their own right, the vibe will be less like a typical show and more like a theme party with a really good playlist. Past events have had audience members drunkenly Jazzercising at the Festival of Fitness, or wearing dollar-store shower curtains around their necks at the Festival of Capes. Serrano said that Bitesize is anticipating much crowd participation. "We're looking forward to having some of our friends and fans join us onstage — there will be that blurred line between where the band ends and the audience begins," she said.
Lindsay acknowledged that "there's a fine line between a hippie jam and a worthwhile show," but said, "you know, part of me just wants to embrace the hippie jam." He added that even he doesn't quite know what shape the show will take. "I don't even know what to expect. You never know what's going to happen, but it's always ridiculous and beautiful and takes on a life of its own."
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