They say success breeds success, and such a phrase can easily be used to describe the growth of the Victoria Drum Fest.
Longtime local drum teacher and festival founder Murray Creed has always worked hard to bring topnotch drummers into town for the event. But even he continues to be floored by the increasingly high level of musicians who agree to come and share their talents and drumming experiences with percussion enthusiasts.
This year’s 10th annual Victoria Drum Fest, happening May 26 at the Songhees Wellness Centre, features some of the best in the business, bar none. Their collective resumes list collaborations and stage time with such musical giants as Steely Dan, Sting, Toto, John Mayer (Keith Carlock); Justin Timberlake, Madonna (Brian Frasier-Moore); Alicia Keys, John Legend (Rashid Williams) and more.
|Keith Carlow, tour drummer for legendary jazz rock band Steely Dan, is a guest performer at the 2019 Victoria Drum Fest. Photo by F. Desmaele|
Interviewed during his final preparations, Creed reflected on how the festival got to where it is today.
“The first one (in 2010) was held to mark the 10th anniversary of our drum studio (Groove Studios),” he recalled. “We had a couple of local drummers, Ron Thaler was the spotlighted drummer and it grew from there.”
Where, in the beginning, Creed leaned on his contacts in the industry to attract a quality and diverse group of drummers for his event, now the festival sells itself.
“The artists know about it now, they all know about the festival,” he said. For certain, no selling job is required to convince anyone to come these days. Creed pointed to the manufacturers whose products are played and endorsed by top drummers as playing a major role in the festival’s notoriety.
“The companies in Canada have seen it change like this, and they’re saying now ‘we have to be on board, we have to be at this festival.’ They’re all 100 per cent behind it now … they’re all seeing the value in sending their musicians here.”
Securing Carlock, who has toured the past five years with progressive jazz rockers Steely Dan, was the first coup for Creed this year – “this guy is like, huge!” – and after that happened the ball just started rolling.
“The rest of the companies said ‘hey, you’ve got Keith Carlock, we’re sending our best, too.’ Because of the 10th anniversary, everybody was bringing their ‘A’ list,” Creed said. “The win for local drummers is we get to see these bigger names.”
Not only did stellar talent Williams came on board, two of the top young female drummers around were signed on: international phenom Senri Kawaguchi from Japan and multi-talented Canadian jazz and world music percussionist Sarah Thawer. That led Creed to put together the Yamaha Power Hour, which will see both women featured separately, then they’ll combine their talents.
“I think that’s what I’m most excited to see,” Creed said.
His local students will once again be able to see Creed play in a spotlight situation, something they don’t get to see that often. He was convinced of the importance of doing so by his drumming mentor, Dom Famularo from New York. “Plus it also pushes me and fires me up to practise,” Creed said. “I’ve been playing 36 years, but there’s no end in sight as far as how much there is to learn.”
Given the festival’s venue, the involvement of First Nations drummers was critical, he added. While Songhees and Esquimalt drummers weren’t available for that weekend, attendees will see this integral part of Indigenous culture represented, he said.
The day’s events will also feature a trade show, with six drum companies on hand. You can hear demonstrations, see the latest gear and try it out, too. All attendees are entered for door prizes and will have a chance to connect with other drummers from Victoria, the Island and beyond.
Tickets are $40 in advance, available at Long & McQuade, Tom Lee Music and Groove Studios, 3059 Jackson St. They will be $50 at the door. Find more information at victoriadrumfest.ca.