Cussin’ and Crashin’: Lindsey Elias of Empty Space Orchestra

By Kat Caldera
Front row at an Empty Space Orchestra show is an intense, loud, and beautiful experience. They are a loud band and they know it. All five of the shockingly brilliant Bend, Oregon musicians like it that way. They intend to melt faces with the crowd with their penetrating sound, and with a glance at their audience, one can’t help but notice that is exactly what they do. The hard hitting, driving rhythms, deep bass lines, gorgeous melodies on keys, electric guitar and saxophone all combine for a rather moving experience for everyone up front. But there is this one special ingredient on stage, that holds their audiences especially captive. It is drummer, Lindsey Elias, and her little 100 lb frame, pushing out huge power and speed with a seemingly effortless grace, and an uninhibited and magnetic natural charisma. Lindsey pours originality, ghost notes, and a “drivey” feeling into her beautiful and personally written drum parts. When Lindsey is drumming out wild expressions on her kit, her body holds a perfect, professional grade form with grace. The beats she dreams up are ridiculously complex, and are not easy to play, but to watch her, it looks so easy, so smooth…her heels swing back and forth, dancing, even while they are steadily pumping out super fast beats and always staying in time with a metronome like perfection.

The audience at an ESO show can be seen staring at the drummer, mouths open, with a look of awe and delight on their faces. There is something to Lindsey’s charisma that radiates a positive and inspiring energy to the crowd. Lindsey is clearly enjoying her work so fully that it is contagious to the crowd. Her “rock face” is legendary, in all it’s forms. Rarely is there a night that doesn’t end in Lindsey being approached repeatedly by fans, their eyes glowing, eager to shake her hand and tell her how fast and amazing she is, how inspiring she is, and how much they adore watching her play. She is especially loved by a large and growing female fan base. They follow her shows, whether she’s playing in her main band, her baby, ESO, or in one of the four other bands that she plays professionally for. Girls and women alike are deeply inspired, not simply by her presence in a rock band, but by her excellence in it and by her supremely attractive stage presence. Lindsey is a self made, inherently confident woman, while simultaneously humble and genuinely friendly. In the Northwest, everywhere Lindsey plays, she is smashing commonly held stereotypes that most real rock drummers are men. She has inspired countless women, young and old to have a revel at the thought that; girls can rock the drums too! Even in a band full of dudes at the top of their musical game, girls can play the drums with as much skill and respect as a man. Just by doing what she does, playing the drums well, for serious musicians in the male dominated world of rock ‘n roll, she sets an impetus for change in people’s attitudes about what a truly great rock drummer is. She leaves an impression on the world around her – that women can and do play serious quality rock music, even on the loudest, most powerful and fundamental instrument in a band…the drums.

During a recent show, at a venue where her drum kit was placed right up against the window of the establishment, giving the busy sidewalk an oddly intimate over the shoulder view of the drummer… an 8 year old girl stopped fast, pulling her mom’s hand to a sudden halt, and exclaimed “A girl drummer!?” and then the little girl was quiet, eyes wide open, sponge like brain fully absorbing the image of a girl, a strong, confident girl, holding her own as a rock n’ roll drummer. Perhaps the world is a touch more likely to have female drummers in it, thanks to the strong impression Lindsey Elias leaves in girls’ perception of the world of rock.

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Lindsey absolutely has earned the respect of all the “dudes” in her musical community, along with any guy who has seen her play. Keith O’Dell, keyboardist for ESO said of her power and endurance as a drummer, “She’s so incredibly strong, and she’s smart the way she holds her sticks and uses the bounce of the sticks just right. . .she’s an efficient machine.” Shane Thomas, lead guitarist, and band manager for their band, ESO, describes Lindsey’s drumming as “Intense. Heavy. Sexy. The bitch can lay it down. She can go crazy, as crazy as I want her to go.”

I asked Lindsey what kind of experiences she’s had in her music career of being looked down on just for being a girl. Lindsey remembers when she bought her beloved DW drum kit, years ago: “I remember hearing some guy in the store as I was leaving with my new drum kit, whispering to someone one…’That’s pretty much the nicest drum kit I’ve ever seen and that chick is taking it.’” Lindsey smiled big and laughed as she recounted the story, completely apathetic about their attitude towards her.

I asked her, “Have you faced many attitudes like that from guys over the years?” Lindsey replied, “Yes. But it doesn’t fuckin’ bother me anymore. In high school it did, there were guys who would get their balls all in a twist, because this chick was playing the drums. . . but I learned not to give a shit, and not to worry about what anyone else thinks. I’m just trying to do what I do, and that’s play the drums. I don’t care if they don’t dig it. They can suggit. It’s never stopped me from playing. ”

At only 24 years old Lindsey has already recorded two albums with her band, Empty Space Orchestra, has played countless hours live with at least 8 different bands, has drummed as a session drummer for various albums, has opened for The Memorials’ – drummer, Thomas Pridgen’s band, and was invited as a guest drummer for The Helio Sequence, playing along with drummer, Benjamin Weikel , for a portion of their set.

When asked what advice she has for aspiring female rock stars, Lindsey says: “ Just go do what you can do and don’t be bashful about it. Then the worst that can happen is that you mess up and you go home and practice until it’s tight, then you come back around and do it right, the next time around. You’ve just got to be confident, play passionately and simply do what you know how to do.”

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2 Comments

  1. That’s right that girl is HUGE!!! I mean she plays huge – she’s not huge. But it’s not just the contrast that does it it’s the energy she gives and takes from the drums.

  2. Getting to witness Lindsey play the way she does from 3 feet away, is something I will always remember. That and the back pain the next day from head banging so damn hard to ESO. I love this band.

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