Fest NW Drummer Dirt

Tom Tom Magazine Ghost Mom by Maya Stoner

This past summer Tom Tom ventured off to music festivals in the northwest to showcase drummers and beat makers. We chose a unique array of festivals with locations as varied as a farm and an abandoned elementary school – Musicfest Northwest (MFNW), PDX Pop Now! and the Time-Based Art Festival (TBA) in Portland, and the Helsing Junction Sleepover in Rochester, WA. We talked to performing drummers about their equipment and set-up while enjoying these awesome summer events that us pacific northwest residents look forward to every year through our long and rainy winters. 

Lauren K Newman (Palo Verde) – at PDX Pop Now!

Set up: Straight-up Charlie Watt – style jazz kit

What type of drumsticks do you use?

I use Pure-cussion or Sound Percussion 2B or ‘Rock’ size sticks. These are discount sticks. I would love a sponsorship from either company. I’ve been playing these brands for nine years. If money is not an issue, Pro-Mark 2B hickories!  I play large sticks; they feel right in my hands. I feel I have more dynamic ability and control with heavy sticks.

Do you have any routines you do to warm up for a show? 

For warm ups I pump iron; either a 15lb or 20lb dumbbell. I do jumping squats, jumping jacks, and sometimes run/jog around the block. Then I’ll do standard stick control exercises. This is all part of the pre-show ritual/warm-up.

Emily Wells, multi-instrumentalist beat maker – at MFNW

Set up: A spaceship of drums, a sampler, a violin, and synths

How do you transport your equipment?

I have it down to a science.  When I fly, I’m a little tricky about it but I absolutely stuff everything and have the weights perfect: 50lbs.  I have a special custom case that holds all of the little toys and the mixers and all that stuff, and then a suitcase that has random stuff.  I bring my pedal and my violin on the airplane with me because if my luggage gets lost, I can still play a show.  Might be not the best show in the world, but I can still do it.

I either have to backline the drums or I [bring] a very nice kick and a decent snare; I prefer to use [those].

When you play live venues, what sound requests do you make? 

Respect first and foremost.  I am really particular about where all my mics are because I kind of build like a little studio each time I play.  I call it the spaceship because you get in the cockpit and then it’s really awkward to get out of it.  It all has to be really contained so my mics have to be in a really particular place. I like my monitor really close on the left. I just want a really clear monitor mix of my loops of my pedal output.  I like to be able to hear my voice.  Anytime I play with anybody [the main thing] is that you’ve gotta hear so we can all keep on the loop.

Nadia Buyse (Ghost Mom) – at TBA

Set up: half-borrowed d.i.y. kit.

How do you transport your equipment?

Well it’s interesting because we don’t have a car.  For the most part, we just rely on rides.  We went on tour last December; my friend and Ralph’s ex-girlfriend Lydia drove us.  And we only took like half of a drum set and had to borrow gear everywhere we went and had to buy stuff on the road at Guitar Center because our friend Candice from Rock Camp totally worked there and hooked us up. It’s really helpful when there is backline provided.  But sometimes it sucks for drummers because the backline drums are not always the ideal situation.

What type of drumsticks do you use?

I don’t even have drumsticks.  I use pencils.

Kelly Norman (The Maxines) – at Helsing Junction Sleepover

Set up: 1962 Gretsch Champagne Sparkle with matching snare

When you play live venues, what sound requests do you make? 

It drives my sound engineer friends crazy, but I hate to have my drums mic’d, especially my tom & snare. [Since] I sing and play at the same time, there is tons of drum bleed into the vocal mic. If the drums are mic’d it’s just a further amplification and it gets tricky. The overall effect is that my drums seem super loud and it’s sometimes challenging while playing and singing. But I totally get it. Sometimes you have to mic drums. I tend to prefer the little Olympia house shows, so anytime we play a for-real venue with a sound person I get a little squirmy about things. I should probably get over it.

Do you have any favorite female drummers or beat makers you would like to spread the word about?

The greater Olympia music community is sort of spoiled for talent. Heather Hall, Erin Birgy, Kanako Wynkoop, Lindsey Scheif, Heather Dunn, Fajr Wilson, the drummer from the Mona Reels. I’m also into the drummer from The Liverbirds, Sylvia Saunders. There is a video of them from like 1965 doing “Peanut Butter” and she’s just killing it. And I think Miriam Linna is basically everyone’s drummer heroine even if they don’t know it yet.

Sara Lund (Hungry Ghost/Corin Tucker Band) – at MFNW

Set up: 1971 4 piece Ludwig, Rogers Powertone snare, Zildjian cymbals, miscellaneous percussion instruments

How do you transport your equipment?

It depends on the situation because I don’t actually own a van but I do own a station wagon.  So in general, a station wagon. Tonight, with the Corin Tucker Band, one of our band members has a minivan, so I transported it in his minivan. But I’ve always had a station wagon so that I could transport my drums.

What kinds of drumsticks do you use? 

I am currently using Vader Manhattans, which [are] 7As. I used to use the Promark 5As – the white oaks ones because they’re pretty heavy. And the Vaders, the 7As, are a little bigger than [other] 7As – they’re actually closer to a Promark or Vic Firth 5A, but they have a rounder tip.  I don’t know why I switched- but I did and now it feels right. I used to break drum sticks a lot and I switched to the Promark 5A oaks because they didn’t seem to break as much.  And they also have that heavier feel and I played a lot heavier.  I still play pretty heavy but I had some incredibly loud amps to compete with.

Melanie Valera (Tender Forever) – at Helsing Junction Sleepover

Set up: 2 computers, video projector, projection screen, keyboard, omnichord, guitar, amp, 2 mics and sometimes a green screen.

How do you transport your equipment?  What tips do you have to make the journey run smooth?

Organization is what it comes down to when you are traveling with your gear and it becomes highly important if you’re on your own like me. I always want to travel as lightly as possible because it is already very tiring. If you have to drag lots of stuff on top of it, you’ll find it even more draining and stressful. And the more stuff you have, the more difficult it gets. If you add to this a 9 hours jet-lag and a 24 hours journey, it is useless to tell you that your mind and body won’t function very well. I have equipment stored in Europe at a friend’s house, [and this] makes it easier on the voltage conversion and the traveling part. There is also the option to rent equipment from companies, bands or just friends of friends of friends! I pretty much never fly with a guitar or an amplifier. But if I must take my gear with me, I use one big flight case in which I may put everything I need. I safely keep my computer, video projector and audio interface with me, in a different sturdy bag. If you only have two items to keep track off while traveling, it will be easy to remember them, haul them and you’ll feel less stressed out.

When you play live venues, what sound requests do you make? 

I always ask for the name of the sound engineer first! If you know their name, they will be more gracious and kind when you need help. It just sets the right atmosphere right away. Secondly, I ask about the sound system equalization type and how many mixes [there are] for the monitors. Finally, I ask for no effect on my vocals or very very small amount if I feel like the venue sounds dry and mat. Those questions will help me orient my requests better when the time comes around.

Kathy Foster (drums in Hurry Up!/bass in The Thermals) – at MFNW

Set up: 1969 4 piece Ludwig, ’72 Ludwig snare, crash, ride, and hi-hat

Do you have any routines or pre-show rituals?

I’ve noticed that in practice I feel different than when I play a show.  When I play a show, I don’t know if its adrenaline or what it is but my arms get stiffer than they do at practice.  So I’ve been trying to figure out how to warm up before the show so that I don’t feel that way when I’m playing.  So I just try to massage and stretch my arms out, like my forearms and my biceps.

When you play live venues, what sound requests do you make? 

[I ask for] more stuff in the monitor because being the drummer, I’m usually behind everyone else. Usually you can just hear yourself really loudly. Unless the amps are behind you, it’s hard to hear the amps.  [They are] never as loud as [when] you play in practice. You know, you set it up in a way where everyone can hear everything. But in venues, it’s different because everyone is facing forward and so the sound goes away from you.  Usually [I ask] for more of something in the monitor like guitar, bass or vocals.  I can usually hear myself pretty well.

Sheridan Riley (Avi Buffalo) – at MFNW

Set up: CMC Kit, Istanbul Cymbals, go go bells, a cow bell and other miscellaneous percussion instruments.

Do you have any routines or pre-show rituals?

I did have a practice pad routine that I was doing for a while and I haven’t been doing that lately. I just got too comfortable with chilling, basically. I like listening to music and watching other bands’ performance videos on YouTube. I feel like it’s not a physical warm up but it helps my mentality.  I’ll listen to the Meters a lot. Sometimes before a show, YouTube performances of Fleetwood Mac playing Dreams. It’s the first one that comes up if you type in Fleetwood Mac ‘Dreams.’ It’s inspiring because they’re all just so on top of their parts and their interactions with each other. Also, I pretend that I’m hearing the band for the first time.

How do you transport your equipment?  What tips do you have to make the journey rum smooth?

I try to gate check if possible – it saves money and it’s safer. A lot of airlines don’t do it; [with some] you have to call in advance or you can reserve your spot to gate check. Wheels are always a good idea, particularly with hardware bags. Those are great.  [Don’t hold out on space] if you know you’re going to use something – don’t be afraid to bring whatever it is you want to bring because you think it’s going to be crowded in the van.

Lindsay Schief (LAKE) – at Helsing Junction Sleepover

Set up: 1970 Ludwig, standard 4 piece style

What type of drumsticks do you use?

I’ve been using 5A’s for a long time, mostly on my band mate Andrew’s suggestion. He likes the delicate oval shaped tips, and I’ve come to like them too. I also like the weight and feel of 5A’s. However, recently I was at Revival Drums in Portland and grabbed a pair of sticks from the bargain bucket that had a good feel but were quite a bit larger than what I usually use. They are white and kinda neat-looking. They said “Travis Barker” on them in sparkly letters, but that meant nothing to me. I bought them and found out later that Travis Barker is the drummer for Blink 182. I mainly use them for outdoor venues where I need to play louder to be heard. I’m usually a pretty quiet drummer, but not with my “T-Barks”!

How do you transport your equipment?  What tips do you have to make the journey run smooth?

I don’t have any drum cases, although I’ve fantasized about making them myself, which is a huge task of course. For now I just stack them and tell my bandmates to be careful when loading. They all know by now how I like my drums to be handled, which is gently. I did happen to find a weird bag at Dumpster Values in Olympia for my stands. When it’s open it’s just a flat circle of denim with loopy straps at either end, so you can lie the stands across it and then just grab the two handles. The end result is a denim taco with drum stands as the filling. It’s pretty handy because there’s no awkward shoving of the stands down into a tube-shaped bag.


We also visited What the Heck Fest in Anacortes – search “Heck Fest” on www.tomtommag.com for the story and photo slideshow on the many drummers we got to see at that awesome small-town event.

Here’s a link to each festival’s website to find out more about them:

Time-Based Art Festival: www.pica.org/tba/

Musicfest Northwest: www.musicfestnw.com/

Helsing Junction: www.kpunk.com/helsing/

PDX Pop Now!: www.pdxpopnow.com

What the Heck Fest: www.whattheheckfest.com

By Katherine Paul

Photos by Maya Stoner

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1 Comment

  1. I just found your magazine and read this article about female drummers who played NW music festivals this past summer. You missed a good one. Charis Foster played Hempfest with the Dara Quinn Project and won drummer of the festival. She also owns a school of drumming in The Uptown, Richland, WA, called Joyful Noise School of Drumming. You should check her. She played Telluride Jazz fest @ 14 or so. The school is on FB. Awesome magazine!

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