I like my new role as a Roadie to my son, Sam.
He’s a drummer, you see, and he’s only fourteen so some of the hauling and connecting-up and screwing-together is not quite his forte yet.
He can drum though. Man-oh-man, he can drum all right.
So I’ve become his Roadie. Well, you know, I’m really just the Dad who hauls all the drums around and sets them up a bit. I don’t really know all than much about what I’m doing but I’m learning all the time.
I'm learning about drums and I like that.
Sam has a much better kit now than he used to have. That's thanks to a clever local library scheme to help budding musicians. Up until a few months ago, he had a ram-shackle starter set with a buggered cymbal and a snare that was missing some bits. Now, though, he’s got a rather fanciable Gretsch kit with Sabian Cymbals and the Roadie and him are finally starting to look the part. We’ve also got huge faux-fur-lined cases to haul all the drums around in and we cut an impressive shape when we turn up with all our gear. That’s what I think anyway.
When we got that first knackered kit, one Christmas Eve years ago, it was plenty. Up until then, Sam had been going to drumming lessons without having any drums. He would tap out his rhythms on the table, on the window cill, on my head. He simply burned to drum.
And that first kit was a wonderful opening-up for him. I hadn’t the first clue about it and where everything was meant to go. One of my abiding Christmas Eve memories will be stumbling up the hall after midnight, time and again, with the various clinking-clanking components of the drumset, trying to put it all together with nothing to go on but a jagged image printed off the internet. It was the only present he ever got where, upon its discovery, the tiniest hint of a tear appeared in his eye.
And now, some years later, with the new ‘posher’ kit and some years of moving stuff around, I’ve become almost passable at packing, unpacking, setting up and adjusting everything. I’ve learned my crashes from my rides, I can set up the rather tricky high-hat in mere minutes, and I’ve stopped catching my fingers in the bass pedal thingie.
Yesterday, Sam was drumming along with a professional drummer in rehearsal. The guy was really lovely and he gave me some tips for setting-up which has increased my self-image of Roadie-hood about two million percent. It’s the little things, you see. For instance, when setting up the floor tom, put it upside-down on the stool and then the legs fit into it easily. (You don’t want to know how I was doing it before). Or keep the legs of the bass drum up a bit more so that the drum is angled upward a bit at the front. It makes the pedal connect sweeter with the skin. The best tip I got yesterday, though, the absolute winner, was that the pro-drummer brings all the loose bits - the stands and such - around in a wheelie suitcase. This is so obvious but I was carting them all around loose and suffering multiple trips to the car as a result. I went straight home and got out the suitcase out and, hey presto, I am now complete.
The professional drummer was also showing me some of his own kit and telling me the stories behind them. He had a beautiful snare which dated from 1968 and was found in a left-luggage locker in Chicago. The thing practically radiated long roads and old music. I feel there’s something in all that – the stories that drummers have about their drums. It's for some other day, perhaps.
Tomorrow, Sam and his drum kit will travel with the Kaleidoscope Big Band to the National Concert Hall in Dublin to play on the main stage in front of the President of Ireland and loads of other people too. The Roadie is tagging along. He's checked and double checked the baggage and everything seems to be there. We’re good to go.
Now, where’s my tee-shirt?