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Alltel Pavilion Drum Circles

By Greg Whitt

Many of you may have jammed out in the parking lot before a Phish or Grateful Dead show, but we’re trying a different approach here in Raleigh, NC.

The marketing staff at Cellar Door Concerts’ Alltel Pavilion has partnered with Remo to offer community drumming before each show this season.  Ticket holders can enter the venue and will find, not far from the main gate, a gazebo and giant sandbox designated for drum circles.  As part of their “Fans First” strategy, the pavilion is providing dedicated space, drums from Remo, and a local Drum Circle Facilitator to help concert-goers make their own music.  The pilot program has received positive response from fans and management alike.

As DCF for the Remo Drum Hut, I’ve found it unique among other community drumming events.  People coming to the concerts don’t anticipate making the music.  On the contrary, folks here in the U.S. are conditioned to buy tickets, CDs, and hi-fi stereos rather than make music of their own.  It’s quite an eye-opener for many fans to realize that they are not only allowed but are actually encouraged to make some noise other than applause and cheers for the performers on stage.  Unlike a dedicated community drum circle where people come with drumming in mind, the drum hut is a “stumble upon it” bonus for ticket holders, at least until the word gets out.  Spreading the word has been a challenge since many people will only attend one show at the venue each season and don’t return until the following year.

Nine shows into the summer concert season, we’ve met with varied results:  some shows just seem to draw crowds populated with people more interested in being interactive.  While every show is certainly unique, so far it has been my experience that Jam Band concerts are frequented by a very different crowd; they take to the drum circle concept right away. Those who come to County Western shows are less likely to participate, but after they get used to the idea they might end up playing the 2 step on the djembe, who knows!  Placing a “shill” in the hut to help get things going has helped draw fans in and encourages them to join in the groove.

Having drummers from the bands sit in at the hut is a big draw.  We had standing room only when Sonny Ortiz from Widespread Panic grabbed my old ashiko and started a groove.  Literally dozens of passersby stopped to snap pics on their camera phones and to call their friends when they were able to literally look over his shoulder and watch him play.  The Dave Matthews Band show was plagued with an hour-long downpour that generated a lot of interest in any dry spot.  When the drum hut got full, and the rhythm got going, people were so mesmerized by the music that they stopped in the middle of the concourse to get their groove on and dance in the rain.

Our best participation this season was actually at the Christian House Party show - a day long music festival.  This turned out to be a seven-hour marathon drum jam!   People were literally trying to climb the gazebo walls to get their hands on a Remo drum and jam with the drummers already in the hut.  Some may call it "Rhythmic Evangelism", maybe religious fervor, but whatever you call it, these kids rocked the hut for an entire day!

If the Remo Drum Hut at Alltel Pavilion is any indicator, you can expect to see more “sanctioned” drumming at outdoor concert venues in the future.  There are already rumors of similar attractions opening in Charlotte, NC and at several other venues across the nation. 


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