By Kiran Gandhi for Tom Tom Magazine
The 27th Annual Guitar Center drum off was once again one of the most exciting events of the drumming community. Held at Club Nokia in downtown Los Angeles, hundreds of top musicians from around the world gathered to watch the top five “undiscovered” drummers compete to be Guitar Center’s drummer of the year. I had gone in 2012 and saw one of my favorite solos of all time by Aric Improta; this year I went with Kimberly Thompson and saw Tony Taylor Jr.’s solo – a drummer she had played with just a few nights earlier at Federal Bar in North Hollywood.
The theater was completely packed in both the VIP balcony and on the main floor in front of the stage. Cora Dunham was one of the 10 judges that would decide who is the final winner, and tweeted excitedly “from the Queen’s throne” about how much she loves her job.
At 9 P.M. the first drummer took the stage. Each drummer was from a unique part of the country and made sure to include a unique part of their style in their solo. Each used an Octapad so that they could feature a melody in their drum solo. Many of the drummers made sure to carve out moments in their solos that showcased either their favorite type of music or something that the crowds could recognize, or clap and jam to. One trick I had never seen before included when Hilario used two sticks in one hand to play rapid hi hats and his right hand played some soulful conga patterns!
One of the most important lessons I learned that night was that having your own unique personality when playing the drums is what makes the performance so enjoyable – it makes watching that drummer a total gift! This is something that all of us can embrace- remembering that we must bring our own experiences, passion, thoughts and favorites to our playing- we must be the best version of ourselves without trying to be a second rate version of someone else. This also allows us to make a contribution to the drumming community – forging something new and exciting that is uniquely our own and inspires the next generation.
The confidence and ease that each of the men on the stage possessed reflected their hard work and time out in – something we can all learn from. It was absolutely clear as to why they were selected as the finalists. To be able to perform on the spot in front of hundreds of people is very intimidating, but each of these men held their cool, had a lot of fun, and came very well prepared. It was a tough decision, but in the end, it was Tony Taylor Jr. who won- he was my choice and my favorite as well!!!
Winner Tony playing below: