show review: Jojo Mayer & Dave Weckl, Drumming All-Stars night 2 – Martyrs (150811)

150811 - Steve Smith & Benny Greb on the sidewalk in front of Martyrs: Photo by Drumnmike
150811 – Steve Smith & Benny Greb on the sidewalk in front of Martyrs – At one point we were just watching them through those guys’s phones and tablets: Photo by Drumnmike

We walked up to the venue at 8pm and the line was halfway down the block on one side and about 30 ft on the other.  Not being a fan of lines and assuming we wouldn’t get a table anyways we walked to the closest bar for a couple drinks.  After 20 min we walked back to Martyr’s only to find the line still there.  We waited for a little, then a random dude told me they’re doing sound check.  Fine.  We went back in line and waited for 5 minutes.  I suggested going to a different bar but wise Kathryn said we should stay “what if they let people in?” “it’ll take 15 minutes to get everyone in anyways, we won’t miss anything”.

Eventually I convinced her to walk to the bar and if something happens we’d come back.  We had just crossed the street when Benny Greb and Steve Smith walk outside with 2 snare drums and 2 sets of brushes.  Benny apologizes for the delay but said they were going to entertain us with a brushes only rendition to one of my favorite songs of all time “Salt Peanuts“.

We stood on the street leaning up against a car with Benny and Steve’s backs to us.  They tore it up and little did I know their quirky duets would be a running theme throughout the night.

Shortly after they let us into the club and we took our spots, just to the right of where we stood on Friday.

150811 - Jojo Mayer & crew at Martyrs:Photato by Drumnmike
150811 – Jojo Mayer & crew at Martyrs:Photato by Drumnmike

Jojo Mayer came out first with the group and played a mid tempo song, playing a fairly steady beat for the majority of the song before getting into ‘his style’ of playing, with a small solo.  His solo was crazy, not in the style of Weckl hitting all the drums but his smoothness, and even some of his ‘tricks’.  At one point he put his foot on the snare to dampen it while he was doing a 1 handed build roll.  He’s not an all or nothing drummer, but he has a nice groove and when he let’s loose he has some great chops.  One of the wildest things during his set was yes it’s a drum show and yes everyone wanted to watch him play drums, but Jojo jumped off the drums and let the singer Chrissi play while he sang Otis Redding’s  (Sitting On) The dock of the bay.

150811 - Jojo Mayer singing at Martyrs:Photato by Drumnmike
150811 – Jojo Mayer singing at Martyrs:Photato by Drumnmike

Sure I would’ve liked to see Jojo play that song or another song but he had a nice voice and it was pretty cool to see that.  She also wasn’t too bad herself on the kit.  It was totally unexpected.  When they finished she got back onto the microphone and said to make sure you get out of your comfort zone because that was where life begins.  They played another song which Jojo tore up. During his last song I was distracted from the 2 members standing 5 feet from us, Steve and Benny.  I had a hard time watching Jojo because I was thinking this might be my one time to shake their hands and I would’ve kicked myself for not having the guts to do it and regretting it when I got home.

150811 - Benny Greb & Steve Smith - Mr & Mrs Hi Hat: Photato by Drumnmike
150811 – Benny Greb & Steve Smith – Mr & Mrs Hi Hat: Photato by Drumnmike

When Jojo got off the stage they took it.  Benny described a heart warming story seeing Steve at a clinic years ago where he performed Mr Hi Hat, a song by Max Roach.  Eventually Steve taught it to Benny and well, the 2 of them played it.  If you watch the video you’ll get an idea what it was like and watching the 2 of them do it was remarkable.  Their rendition was a lot longer than the video but it definitely didn’t feel like it.  They would alternate through some of the front and back sticking, then putting the sticks on their arm for 1 handed rolls, then off of their legs keeping the rhythm.  Steve was able to trip Benny up a few times on some of the stick ‘tricks’ but it was a heck of a lot of fun to watch.

150811 - Dave Weckl and crew - Martyrs: Photato by Drumnmike
150811 – Dave Weckl and crew – Martyrs: Photato by Drumnmike

Then Dave Weckl was up.  He said a few words thanking everyone for the show/camp and then tore into the songs.  This man is nuts.  Being late to the party on this guy (as in this year) the song Got a Match? got me really into his drumming.  My biggest regret is that I didn’t have his music earlier in my life so I could have something absolutely insane to practice to and inspire me.  However the universe presents you with material when you’re ready so now must be the time that I can more fully appreciate it.  My best quote from Kathryn to explain how remarkable his playing is was when Dave was doing a solo and he was hitting all drums possible and she asked ‘where is the cowbell coming from?’.  Dude is just so nuts that he was able to keep time on every other quarter note with it while doing his solo.  Watching him perform was very inspiring.  His set was more jazz and rock, but he didn’t keep still and was at the top of his game.  His player made him a great closer for the 2 nights.

150811 - Benny Greb, Steve Smith & Ironing Board - Martyrs: Photato by Drumnmike
150811 – Benny Greb, Steve Smith & Ironing Board – Martyrs: Photato by Drumnmike

Dave left the stage and Benny and Steve went back up with an ironing board.  Steve mentioned how one time in a hotel he went to another drummers room and they riffed on an ironing board together. Steve and Benny took the liberty of playing the ironing board with brushes, making the ironing board sound the best I’ve ever heard out of an ironing board. As they finished 2 folks put 2 glasses of red wine on the ironing board and they did a small cheers, hugged and left.

150811 - Dave Weckl & Bass player - Martyrs: Photato by Drumnmike
150811 – Dave Weckl & Bass player – Martyrs: Photato by Drumnmike

Jojo and Dave went back on the stage for an amazing rendition of Superstition. Near the end of the song Jojo and Dave were soloing at the same riff that Mike Mangini was tearing up on Friday, and these guys did the same.  The sheer intensity coming from Dave’s set and Jojo’s grooves were amazing to watch together.

I was able to shake Jojo’s and Benny’s hand.  I saw that Steve finished his wine and thus offered to buy him another one.  Steve walked with me to the bar and he ordered the red wine.  I stood next to him for a few minutes and he played a drum roll with brushes on the bar counter.  Only now in my clear head were there questions I’d like to ask him as we waited for the wine to be given to us, but instead I just took a really low light selfie.

150811 - Steve Smith & DrumnMike selfie at Martyrs:Photato by Drumnmike
150811 – Steve Smith & DrumnMike selfie at Martyrs:Photato by Drumnmike

The entire event really was like a camp, with people getting together from different corners of the globe to teach 5 days of drumming. The performances were all fun with the drummers and band members hugging and shaking hands on stage as they would finish their sets.  It was a group of people who became new friends through their love of music.  Both nights of the show were great and for fear of choosing a favorite child I’m going to say I enjoyed them both, although secretly I have a favorite.

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