The Meinl Drum Festival
Arriving at the festival early meant we had the opportunity to enter Meinl’s cymbal demo room to check out the full range on offer, a rare opportunity considering noise levels at the NAMM and Frankfurt shows make it near impossible to hear the true sound of a cymbal. This is a dangerous place if you have a few spare Euros!
The day was split up with second stage workshops and seminars sandwiched between main stage performances from a host of Meinl artists...
First up on the main stage was Hungarian drummer Gergo Borlai. He kicked the fest off to a great start with a variety of tunes to demonstrate his chops and a sweet right foot. A Rhythm highlight was his dynamic piece with brushes, incorporating an ebb and flow of volume that included some delicate double kick playing. Proof, if need be, that it’s not necessary to play double kicks at full volume (not all the time, anyway).
We followed this up by heading into the Meinl factory to see the cymbal-making process in action. Although the tour guide spoke exclusively in German it was easy to get a feel for the efficiency and quality control of the company. From the automated hammering arm to the high-tech lathes, it was an impressively modern set-up.
Following this it was time to head to the second stage to witness Damien Schmitt. He is best known in France for his work with Jean-Luc Ponty and Alain Caron, but we’re pretty sure you’ll be hearing more from him soon. His eccentric personality really shone through in his playing and his masterclass in single pedal technique was mind-blowing.
Oli Rubow and Bertil Mark
Back on the main stage Oli Rubow and Bertil Mark kicked up a storm mixing live drums and percussion with an array of electronic samples. A seamless performance found the two darting between light and shade effortlessly, and with a lot of sub to boot! Oli employed a stark set-up comprising a simple kick, snare, cymbal arrangement, along with a bank of electronics.
Livin' in a box
At one point Bertil came to the front of the stage with a miked cardboard Meinl packing box, which he proceeded to play to within an inch of its life. A great, creative performance.
We met Meinl artist Chris Coleman (Prince, New Kids On The Block, Chaka Khan) at dinner the previous night, and he was a super positive, highly driven character, so we were more than excited to see him perform at the festival. Luckily we were able to catch him twice as he was also scheduled to play the main stage later in the day. First up he was on the second stage. The main focus of his masterclass was practising drums to play music. When you listen to or play music he impressed on the crowd that you must always think about timing, counting and the music itself. The queue to meet him afterwards was the biggest we’d seen all day, and he encouraged a similarly strong crowd for his main stage set later in the afternoon.
The UK’s own blastbeat powerhouse Dave Mackintosh graced the main stage next and played like he was with his band, Dragonforce, in front of thousands. His set consisted mainly of Dragonforce tracks with some talking and Q&A in between. His precision is second-to-none, and when it comes to stamina this guy has it nailed. It was an energetic and exciting set and we can’t wait to have him perform at the London Music Show for us in October.
In a separate room Benny Greb was doing his thing in an additional masterclass for a handful of paying customers, covering the subject of groove. With a bass player in tow he demonstrated the skills required for playing behind, on and in front of the beat. A real eye-opener.
Unique conga designs
Following Chris Coleman’s second set, and a bit of a play in the percussion tent for us (including checking out some cool one-off conga finishes), Damien Schmitt took to the main stage to perform an astounding, genre-crossing set that proved him to be an absolute master of technique. Any doubts about his ability had been quickly erased as he hit full stride. Hello Mr Lang? How are you going to follow THAT?
Thomas Lang has spent plenty of time on the clinic circuit and has proven himself to be an absolute crowd-pleaser. When he arrived on stage to rapturous applause and sat behind his brand new DW kit we were expecting fireworks of the percussive variety. Instead we got a solid performance of tracks by Thomas’ new band Stork.
It was refreshing to hear Thomas play in such a musical setting, but, the crowd was waiting for something extra. Of course, the drum sorcery wasn’t far off and Thomas quickly settled into a phenomenal 25 minute solo covering independence, speed and mind-blowing tricks.
The grand finale
All-in-all the Meinl Drum Festival served up a fantastic day of drums. Our thanks go to the entire Meinl team for their hospitality, and particularly to Norbert Saemann, the main man behind the festival. At the end of this year’s event Norbert revealed that next year’s festival will take place in Mexico City. Our tickets are already booked!