From The Road: Give the Drummer Some!

posted by Tom Moon on September 28, 2008 at 7:42 pm
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Sometimes, if you’re lucky and the stars align, you can wander into a nondescript nightclub and, for a five dollar cover charge and no minimum, have your mind blown by somebody you’d normally hear in an arena. That happened to me last week in Minneapolis.

It was the last set at a corner bar called Bunkers, and as soon as the band – a powerhouse ensemble with several vocalists known as Dr. Mambo’s Combo – kicked into Earth, Wind & Fire’s “September,” I knew I was in for a treat. That’s because the great Michael Bland was holding down the rhythm. A titan of the steady backbeat, Bland is one of those cogs in the music machinery who, by virtue of his extreme competance, makes those who employ him sound terrific. He’s been in Replacements songwriter Paul Westerberg’s band for at least one solo tour, and for several years was part of Prince’s outfit; every time I’ve seen him play, his no-frills sense of time has lifted the music up, with no obvious effort.

Bland could probably coast through the Dr. Mambo’s Combo gig, which happens most Sunday and Monday nights. He didn’t. Without doing anything special, Bland made “September” and everything else sizzle. Just by keeping simple, straight-ahead time. He displayed crazy command of the kit – you get the sense he can play any pretzel-twisted drum fill known to man – but he rarely relied on those technical gifts. Instead, he prized steadiness over everything else, generating supercharged syncopations just by striking the ride cymbal, building a sexy funk pulse around a hypnotic kick-drum pattern. It was no surprise that the rest of the Combo was rocking – given that foundation, how could they not?

If you ever find yourself in need of a shot of pure kenetic groove energy, and you’re anywhere near Minneapolis on a Sunday or Monday night, check out this gig It’s a great chance to hear one of our great rhythm masters, up close and personal-like.

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#1 from Whit Andrews, Over there - 09/29/2008 3:40

My suggestion in this vein: The Joint, in LA.

#2 from taylor joiner, Nashville, TN - 09/30/2008 9:35

Hello, I wrote a small post about your hugely awesome book on our site.  I got your book at the SIBA book conference in Mobile, AL. and have already enriched my music collection with some of your suggestions.  Great Book. Thanks.


#3 from A music fan, Canada - 10/10/2008 1:04

Sounds Great…. Awesome book!

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