June 12, 2006

The Pinoydrums Gathering, 11 June '06

Pinoydrums Gathering: Penguin Bar, Malate, Manila. Sunday, June 11, 2006, 4pm.

For longtime Pinoydrums members like me, we also call this event the "EB3". This eyeball event of drummers is the third of its kind, following the first EB which happened on February 2004, and the second one at Freedom Bar last November 2004. It was envisioned as a simple gathering of drummers; a day of sharing, jamming and camaraderie. Every eyeball event organized just kept growing and getting better. And yesterday's EB3 was one memorable day of drumming.

I arrived at Penguin Bar around 3pm. It's a quaint, artsy bar somewhere near the Remedios Circle in Malate. There's a homey, laid-back feel to the place, which makes it a cozy hangout for young people and bohemians. I thought its ambiance helps give our event an intimate feel. Visual artworks are posted on walls around the venue, and there's a small shop which sells home-made percussion instruments.

Ernest Ramos & Bennii Obana
It was raining when I arrived, and most of the event organizers - JP Buduan, Sandy Baliong, Ernest Ramos, etc. - were already there in order to set-up and do preparations. With the easygoing organizing crew and a few early birds hanging out, I can already sense then that this will be another memorable day of drumming. Two drumkits were brought and set-up. Taking most of the attention is Bennii Obana's impressive 6-piece DW drumkit which he named "Ice". Its customized cover finish looks elegant & it's loaded with a battery of Zildjian cymbals. It looks and sounds awesome.

On Ice's left side is the more modestly set-up fusion-sized Tama Superstar drumkit of Rommel Mendoza. It's a brand-new birch-shelled drumkit, and it sounded wonderful too.

Rommell Garcia
Though it feels satisfying to indulge on Bennii's drumkit, I felt that it might be overkill to do my groove drum clinic on his set-up. So I decided to use Rommel's Tama kit, since I didn't need too many cymbals. Later on, all clinicians decided to play on the Tama kit. I guess all of us clinicians were quite overwhelmed with all of Ice's shiny cymbals. Five drum clinicians were featured in this gathering (more on that later).


My good friend Rommell Garcia was one of the organizers, and served as one of the hosts of the event. Even before the event began, he was already beginning to document the occasion through video, talking about Pinoydrums and interviewing featured drummers.

When doors officially opened, Pinoydrums members lined up for registration and wore their name tags, so that everybody can recognize each other. I went to an empty couch to warm up with my RealFeel practice pad. Soon, friends joined me, sharing my practice pad and exchanging drum talk. While I was busy in the couch, Bennii and Rommell were already wailing on the drum kits.

Arien
Kid prodigy Arien Pulumbarit arrived with his supportive father. Arien, already 11 or 12 years old (?), is one of Jun Regalado's best students. Instantly, I went out of my way to meet and greet the kid and his pop. Arien, being the enthusiastic young drummer that he is, can't help but notice the beautiful DW kit. So I took him to the drumkit and let him play. He attracted everybody's attention with his obviously impressive technique and chops. After playing his solo, everybody applauded and appreciated his drumming. He's got skills and maturity. I first saw and heard Arien about three years ago. Sir Jun Regalado always gives him a solo spot during his recent drum clinics. Everytime I watch and hear him play, he just keeps on getting better. I look forward to this kid's career. He's the future; he'll be a monster when he grows up.

Andre Quimpo
Around 6pm, program began. The first clinician featured was the educator Mr. Andre Quimpo. Andre is a teacher by profession. He teaches art and leads Ateneo's drum line. He is also an active church/gospel drummer. His clinic focused on the topic of drum rudiments, which are essentially the basic fundamentals of drumming. Andre is an excellent speaker. He's obviously used to lecturing and public speaking (he's an educator by profession). He concluded his clinic with a drum duet with Bennii; both played spontaneously, trading licks & feeling each other out. Andre is a very musical and tasteful drummer. And I realized that we have a few things in common. Andre and I are both Industrial Design graduates, and we both cite Neil Peart as our all-time number one drum hero.

Next clinician was Robert Dela Cruz. He's a well-known drummer in the local rock/metal scene, famous for his chops with Skychurch, a band that he formed with his two brothers. Robert is one of the best double bass drummers in the country right now, and he showed everybody why he's worthy of that recognition. I wish I have a fast pair of legs like Robert's. I first saw Robert play over a decade ago, when Skychurch was just starting & the Dela Cruz brothers were just still a bunch of young rocker kids then. Robert was already a monster drummer during that time, and he surprised so many people because as far as I could remember, he was a small harmless-looking kid back then hehe! Looks can be very deceiving. Another funny thing is, part of Robert's pre-gig ritual is gulping down a bottle of Red Horse before a performance. Talk about getting an extra kick!

After Robert's powerful performance, it was my turn to conduct my drum clinic, yours truly, the drummer of K24/7 haha! I invited my bass player Ian Tan to jam with me. My focus on my drum clinic was about groove drumming. I shared some insights on playing groove, keeping good time and making it feel good. I was also able to share a few drum licks that can be used to compliment the groove and the music, such as double bass fills and the rolling shuffle. Admittedly, Ian and I were under-rehearsed for this event. We even had some bass amp and feedback problems, but we were able to handle it somehow. We started off with a hiphop-based groove jam, inspired by the music of The Roots. Then, we did a rendition of one of my band's cover songs, Usher's "U Make Me Wanna". To finish off my clinic, Ian and I performed a rearranged version of an excerpt of the Michael Jackson old-school medley that we play in our gigs.

Franklin Benitez
I'm not really a drum teacher, and I don't know if I'll ever become one someday, but I hope people appreciated my drum clinic & somehow got something from what I shared and played. When I was invited by the organizers to conduct a drum clinic, at first I doubted myself, thinking if I was credible enough to do this. But I accepted it and took it as a challenge. I also thought that this drum clinic could help me and my band, so it was like an investment worth making. I can't wait to receive a copy of the video, so that I can see how I fared in my drum clinic, and how I can improve further. It was a learning experience for me.

After my set, it was time for Franklin Benitez, who captured everybody's attention with his wit and sense of humor. Franklin is the drummer of Barbie Almalbis, and I consider him as one of the best young drummers in the country right now. He is also an active church drummer. Franklin preached his words of wisdom by sharing stories based from his musical experiences. He played a couple of interesting, dynamically diverse drum solos & sampled some Steve Gadd-style linear patterns. And it was also very classy for Franklin to give plenty of credit to his number one drumming mentor Mar Dizon, who was present in the event. The latter is the featured clinician of the night.

And for the main event... It's senyor Mar Dizon! To complement his jazz drumming showcase, he brought along a few friends - Bo Razon on hand percussion, Aya Yuson on electric guitar, and Dave Harder on double bass. Most of the music that Sir Mar and company played were old-school hardcore jazz, swing and bebop, mostly from the Miles Davis collection. It was a double treat because both senyors Mar and Bo entertained drum-related questions. Sir Bo's knowledge on hand percussion is impeccable; and Sir Mar shares plenty of his wisdom, preferring to talk more about musicality, philosophy and artistry rather than technical stuff.

Mar Dizon
Mar Dizon is one of my favorite Filipino drummers, and I consider him as one of my greatest local musical influences. He sights Steve Gadd as his greatest drum hero, and I notice plenty of Steve Gadd influences in his playing. Yet, he has this uncanny ability to improvise and fuse his personal signature into whatever music he plays. Regretfully, I forgot to give credit to Sir Mar during my clinic spot. I want to commend senyor Mar for helping me improve and clean up my drumming. I had the privilege of studying under Sir Mar a few years ago. He is a reason why I'm a better drummer right now. He is a reason why I still want to become better. He is a reason why I'm still pursuing my drumming profession right now. I'm forever grateful to Mar Dizon. It's always a great joy for me to watch and hear him play drums.

After Mar's set (around 10pm), it was open jam time. Some drummers jammed. Some stayed and hung out. Some asked for Sir Mar's autograph. I even helped a couple of drummers tune their snare drums. An hour later, a huge number of drummers already left, leaving the event organizers and a few drummers still hanging out inside Penguin. I felt tired later on, so I relaxed on one corner, lying down against huge pillows, just chilling and listening to non-stop drumming. Then at past 12 midnight, a surprise guest arrived...

Benjie Mendez
Benjie Mendez made it! I was texting Bagets earlier that night, asking him to come over. And he answered back at around 9pm (he just woke up). Regretfully, I should have given him a few days notice. To the lucky few who stayed late in Penguin Bar, we were privileged to witness Bagets do his magic behind Bennii's huge drumkit, soloing for about 10 minutes. It was so powerful, yet it seemed effortless to the master. It was like Bagets taming the huge beast; letting it all out. The world somehow stops whenever he does his magic. Too bad the cameramen already left; nobody took a video! We'll make it a point to book Bagets for the next Pinoydrums gathering, and we'll give him quality minutes for his spot. What we've witnessed could be a much-anticipated teaser to the next Pinoydrums gathering.

*****

Some random thoughts related to the Pinoydrums Gathering:

I now have an idea on how to prepare myself when someday I'll be able to own a huge kit like Bennii's.
Bennii is such a powerful and entertaining drummer. What a character too!
Makulit pala si Sandy! And Rommell & Ernest wants to steal my 13" snare drum. Hahaha!
Maybe I should try to learn stick twirls.
It's intimidating to conduct a drum clinic alongside great drummers, especially when one of your mentors/idols is present.
I'll make my text brigades earlier next time.
I should organize my ideas further before a drum clinic. I forgot to tackle some of my ideas.
Facing a challenge and conquering it is rewarding.
All drummers are unique. You can tell a drummer's personality by the way he/she plays, the way he/she holds the sticks, and the way he/she sets up the kit.
It's not about egos, competition, or who's the better drummer. It's all about making great music.
I'm constantly reminded about the solid camaraderie among drummers. I'm so grateful I am one. =)

Ice!

*****

Acknowledgements:
The organizing team - JP Buduan, Rommell Garcia, Sunshine Mendoza, Sandy Baliong, Ernest Ramos, Dennis John Pausanos, Paolo Vivas.
Sir Butch of Penguin Cafe, and his staff.
Bennii Obana and Rommel Mendoza for sharing their drumkits.
Eric Echano and his crew for the video coverage.
Andre Quimpo, Robert Dela Cruz, Franklin Benitez & Mar Dizon and friends for sharing their passion and wisdom.
Bagets for still making it despite the short notice.
My bass player Ian Tan for backing me up.
To all fellow Pinoydrums brothers and sisters, and all the musicians who made it there.


...'til the next Pinoydrums EB!