Review: National Drum Fair 2008

Last weekend saw the National Drum Fair wheeled out for another year. Rhythm´s intrepid writer Jake Stacey took time out to visit the show and wrote this short review…

A gymnasium might seem to be an unusual venue for a drum show, but since 2006 the UK's premier grass roots drumming event has been held at the pluralistic Cocks Moors Woods Leisure Centre in Birmingham, and it made its triumphal return, bigger and better than ever, on 27 and 28 September 2008.

A genial combination of drum clinic, trade fair, swap meet and jumble sale, the NDF has a unique character that sets it apart from more trade-orientated shows such as NAMM, and the focus on vintage and custom drums means opportunities for punters to get their sticky mitts on both the latest innovation and that rare wingnut needed to complete a treasured kit.

Proof that the UK custom drum scene is every bit as vibrant (and possibly more progressive..) as its US counterpart came from Liberty Drums and the perennial Dave Nutall and his Jalapeno Drums. Jalapeno had two kits on display, both featuring split bass drums for portability but both pumping out some seriously impressive sounds whilst looking stunning. Best in show, however, had to go to the combined Edrum/Highwood Drums stand, with a plethora of great-looking, fantastic value kit. A broad selection of Dream cymbals were available on a BOGOF offer, whilst the Highwood Hammer snares were flying off the stand. Highwood had a kit featuring steambent one-piece shells - the bass drum had to be heard to be believed - and were demonstrating their new 'Armour' lacquer process by mullering it with the butt of a stick. Apparently it will withstand a cigarette being stubbed out on it - thankfully, the smoking ban put paid to any practical demonstrations!

It wasn't all about the UK, however - representing for the States and Canada was Preston Prince's TikiDrums, with a selection of fantastic vintage Slingerland, Ludwig and Gretsch snares for sale, as well as his own TikiDrums snares and the unique glassfibre Tempus drums. Anglia Drum Centre had a couple of mint COB Ludwig Supraphonic snares, and Drumshack had a gleaming pile of Bosphorus cymbals.

The rest of the show was all about the vintage vibe - Premier, now fully restructured and raring to go, had a selection of its past glories on show, and along one wall of the hall was a cornucopia of beautiful vintage kits, some from organiser Garry Allcock's collection - including one of Ronnie Verrell's kits (Ronnie Verrell played the drums for Animal from the Muppets!).

An important part of the NDF is the live demonstrations - set in one corner of the hall was a stage flanked by tiered seating which was graced periodically throughout the weekend by fantastically-skilled players including George Barnett (Young Drummer of the Year 2008), Gail Louise James, and Bob Howard, as well as Chicago Drum Show organiser and vintage drum luminary Rob Cook.

Rhythm's Geoff Nicholls prowled the hall on the look out for kits of interest for the Vintage Vault, which were then snapped up to be snapped by photographer James Cumpsty - look for those in future issues!

The NDF 2008 was yet another fabulous show - I'm already looking forward to 2009, and I'm going to start saving now!

Chris Barnes

I'm MusicRadar's eCommerce Editor. In addition to testing the latest music gear, with a particular focus on electronic drums, it's my job to manage the 300+ buyer's guides on MusicRadar and help musicians find the right gear for them at the best prices. I dabble with guitar, but my main instrument is the drums, which I have been playing for 24 years. I've been a part of the music gear industry for 20 years, including 7 years as Editor of the UK's best-selling drum magazine Rhythm, and 5 years as a freelance music writer, during which time I worked with the world's biggest instrument brands including Roland, Boss, Laney and Natal.