BY PHIL HOOD
The just-ended PASIC convention more than lived up to the advance billing this writer and others gave it last week. In a single day you could watch a marching band or attend a world percussion demo. You could go to a drum set master class with a top teacher such as Bruce Becker, or you could run off to clinics with Daru Jones, Daniel Glass, or Nikki Glaspie. Then you could see AJ Kostromina, a young artist who adapts pop music to marching snare. Later in the day you could catch an evening concert of the So Percussion quartet, then even later at night choose from a jam session with the Airmen Of Note where drummers such as Peter Erskine were sitting in, or crash a drum circle with fifty or a hundred of your new drumming buddies. And that was just one day.
In between events, most drummers head to the exhibit room. For the many high school- and college-age drummers in attendance it’s a big playroom, a chance to sample instruments, or buy that drum or accessory they’ve been looking for. And it’s a playroom for companies, too — a chance to watch their best future customers try stuff out, or just play that groove that they think is so cool over and over and over. There were sound police on the show floor, decibel meters in hand to keep things from going nuclear, but they weren’t so aggressive as to spoil the fun.
There was one undeniable trend at the show: Electronic drums are getting better all the time, and many companies are using this expanded technological capability to make drums easier and more fun to learn. As one company said, “We’re always competing against Xbox for kids’ attention, so anything we can do to improve the experience helps.” Pearl displayed the shiny new EM-1 Malletstation. While a full-size marimba is a luxury in most situations, the Malletstation, which features an adjustable low-note function and is powered by USB from a computer, is eminently portable. It can fit a desktop, recording studio, practice room or be hauled to a gig in a large backpack, like an acoustic guitar.
Other companies, including Yamaha, were thinking the same way, creating simpler tools to enhance a kit or make the whole learning and e-drumming process more enjoyable. Yamaha’s EAD10 module is a stereo microphone that mounts on a bass hoop and allows you to add effects to an acoustic drum set, including flange, phase, and various reverbs. And it has an iOS app to make it easy to grab video with direct audio of performances.
Sensory Percussion was there with their software system that allows you to place any sound on a drum and then play it in the most natural way imaginable, like taking a legit-sounding violin solo on your snare. That’s the concept. And ATV was another firm in attendance. Their highly intuitive aFrame electraorganic frame drum got a steady workout throughout the show.
Where There’s A Show, There’s A Producer
I went behind the scenes to ask Joshua Simonds, the energetic young President of PAS why this year’s show seemed a little more exciting. In a word, diversity. “What we really tried was to make sure there was a strong diversity of genres and even within the genres,” Josh says. “So whether you were there to see drum set artists, or wanted a keyboard or symphonic clinic, or concert, there was really something there for each attendee. It was never a dull show.”
Joshua also shook up the convention exhibits by installing a race course walking path through them, sort of like an Ikea store. It turned visiting the show floor into a mystery tour and when it was over, you felt like you’d seen everything. “The show floor was really about trying new things,” Joshua says, adding, “PAS is on the right path to making it a show where you get just what you want. You can talk to people, you can learn, you can hack. It’s exciting to drummers and to the exhibitors.
“I talked to a lot of attendees. Two boys who were sophomores came over to thank me for all the exciting things they were seeing. And a father and son from Wisconsin came by. It was Dad’s eleventh PASIC and the son’s ninth. There’s a ton of stories like that.”
Take a look at our pics. There’s a lot more video and info we dug up to share over the next few weeks. For now, enjoy the highlights, and think about attending yourself next year.