Percussion is the most primal element of music. At the Drum Boogie Festival, held at Woodstock’s Andy Lee Field on Saturday, September 7, the beat will be heard in all its richness, inventiveness and emotive power, across different cultures and genres.
Now in its third year, the marathon event is a lot more than a bunch of lively drum solos. Jazz, Japanese taiko, Middle Eastern, rock, classical, Native American, African and steel pan are all represented, performed by world-class artists. “It’s got melody, rhythm, and all the expressions of music anyone would love,” said Drum Boogie founder Garry Kvistad, who is CEO of Woodstock Percussion. Plus, the concert is free, so there’s absolutely no reason not to go.
Headliner Jack DeJohnette, perhaps the most highly regarded jazz drummer in the world – the Woodstock area resident played on Miles Davis’ landmark album Bitches Brew, has worked with Herbie Hancock, Pat Metheny, Chick Corea and Betty Carter, among other household jazz names, and won a Grammy for his album Peace Time – will play at 5 p.m. The Midnight Ramble Band, which continues to delight audiences following the passing of founder Levon Helm, takes the stage at 6:45.
Other performers, in chronological order, starting at 11:30 a.m., are POOK (Percussion Orchestra of Kingston) and Energy Dance, the energetic, rap-inspired percussive youth band from Kingston, accompanied by hip-hop dancers; Cobu, a women’s Japanese taiko group playing drums and stringed instruments accompanied by dancing, led by a performer from the original cast of Stomp; Simon Shaheen, a Juilliard-educated oud-player and violinist from Turkey, accompanied by a performer playing the tar, a handheld drum; Mandara, an African drumming group led by Valerie Naranjo, who plays the conga on Saturday Night Live (she also composed the percussive score to The Lion King and has performed in the popular Broadway show); The Great American Fife and Drum Band, nationally known for its rope drumming (one member is a 90-year-old drummer from Lake Katrine); Nexus, a Toronto-based contemporary group influenced by world music, specifically the gamelan (according to member Kvistad, who travels up to Toronto once a month to perform with the group, which was founded in the 1970s); Beatbox Guitar, a Brooklyn-based duo featuring Rob Mastrianni on guitar and electric sitar and “human beatbox” Pete List; In Unity, Native American powwow drummers led by Dennis Yerry; and NYU Steel, a steel pan group.
A prelude to the Boogie will be a 10 a.m. tribute to the late xylophonist and composer George Hamilton Green by Nexus at the site of Green’s gravestone at the Woodstock Artists’ Cemetery. “We’ll play the ragtime music of Green,” said Kvistad, noting that “One of the guys in our group, Bob Becker, is considered one of the best living xylophone players in the country.”
Then, at 11 a.m., everyone will cross Rock City Road for the official opening of the Drum Boogie. DeJohnette will recite poems on world peace, accompanied by ritual Tibetan musicians and Nexus. The Boogie ends with the Midnight Ramble Band in the early evening, accompanied by a second drummer: Shawn Pelton, from Saturday Night Live.
The first Drum Boogie was held at Kingston’s Cornell Park in 2009, followed up by a second Boogie in 2011. Kvistad, who started the first Drum Boogie after encouragement from New York State assemblyman Kevin Cahill and successfully applying for a New York State grant through the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, continues to get financial support from the agency, along with numerous local businesses. Money raised will benefit Family of Woodstock’s music therapy program in the shelters and its teen painting program at the Hodge Midtown Neighborhood Center in Kingston.
The event also “increases one’s quality of life and contributes to the economics in our region,” said Kvistad. “It makes people realize what a rich place this is to live. The more this kind of thing happens, the better opportunities you have to attract people to the area. And it’s free.”
The switch of venues, from Cornell Park in Kingston’s Rondout to Woodstock’s Andy Lee Field, was due to logistical problems at the Kingston park, mainly related to its steep elevation. Truck access to the level and spacious Andy Lee Field is much easier, Kvistad said.
Besides a full program of percussive music, there will be six food trucks on site, offering a range of comestibles from Asian to Mexican to vegetarian. Two vendors will offer activities for kids: FiberFlame, which will set up an arts and crafts booth, and Tipsy Turtle Henna Art, proffering tattoos.
The last Drum Boogie attracted more than 1,000 people, and Kvistad expects even more this time around. It will be held rain or shine – except in the event of extreme weather, such as a tornado, in which case it will be held on Sept. 8.
Drum Boogie, Saturday, September 7, free, 10-11 a.m., Woodstock Artists’ Cemetery, 11 a.m.-8 p.m., Andy Lee Field, Rock City Road, Woodstock; www.drumboogiefestival.com.