Friday, November 11, 2011

DRUMline Live

I was going to write a Fragments post for today.  I was going to have 11 fragments for 11/11/11.  Then I thought maybe I should write a Veterans Day post.  But then...

I spent a great night with a friend (Thank you to Linda for buying an extra ticket when she learned of the show!) having an incredible time at a show that I'd never even heard of- DRUMline Live.

DRUMLine Live is a celebration of the marching band tradition of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU).  It brings a scaled down version of the football field to the stage.  However, this isn't a show that is just about marching bands.

It's really a history lesson on black music and the influence of that music on the marching bands of HBCU's.

It isn't the kind of thing you go to if you are looking for something devoid of any cheese factor.  Because there certainly is some.  But there has to be something that ties everything together so I could forgive the cheese because the music was so incredible.

I'm going to speak as plainly as I can right now and not try to censor so forgive me if anything comes across as ignorant or whatever and just read it for the intent I'm going for, ok?

I grew up in very white communities.  When I think back to the schools I attended, there were few faces around me that weren't the same color as mine.  Even though we moved several times and I attended at least 4 different schools (not counting preschools here), I think back to the pictures and memories and can say that I could pretty much count on one hand how many people were not white in my class.  When I started a new school for high school, I soon became friends with a group of girls... that weren't white.  It was eye opening.  More than that, it was heart and soul opening for me.

I learned about racism and I learned about soul and I learned about faith and I learned about roots and I learned about this culture that was so much like my own but so very different from my own.  And being with this group of girls, I found a place inside of me that opened up and music filled it in a way I'd never experienced before.

That holds true to this day.

My emotional times at church are when I am singing.  When I am stressed or need to pep it up, I turn to music.  Just belting out "Don't Rain On My Parade" can change the tempo of my entire day.  Music is something that opens my soul... there is something about the history of it that becomes very entrenched in my being.  Music is something that ties history and culture together.

Unexpectedly, I really tapped into that with this show.

The saddest part of the night was the audience.  I was fortunate to have a friend who had an extra ticket and invited me along.  The theatre was barely half full.  If it was even half full.  I went into the evening thinking my friend and I would be the only "old white women" in the audience but it ended up being a very diverse crowd - from age to skin color.  Having done theatre, a small audience isn't necessarily a bad audience.  Some of my best show experiences have been when the crowd is light- but still lively.  This audience was small and dead.  They apparently thought this was a show to sit and enjoy- like the symphony or something.

This is a show where you yell and clap and get up and shake what your mama gave you.  I would have been on my feet a lot more- except no one else would stay up.  I think the audience got up and involved twice.  My energy was high and I loved every second and I had a dopey grin on my face any time I wasn't busy  singing along.  I couldn't sit still.  This music- the brass and the drums- it gets inside of you and forces your shoulders and feet and hips to move.  I chair danced to the best of my old white lady ability.

The show ends with the band marching out to the lobby in the style of a New Orleans parade.  They performed in the lobby and we were encouraged to stick around and meet the musicians.  These are some incredibly talented people and many of them did multiple things in the show- dance, sing, play more than 1 instrument.  I was eager to not only meet but also hug as many cast members as I could (and I totally did).

My 2 favorite moments were when the MC of the show and one of the female singers recognized me.  And thanked me for my energy.  As a former performer, I totally get that.  As a fan of the show, I loved that the connection I was feeling to the people on stage was real.

There are tour dates set through 2011.  I am hoping the show comes back around again soon as I've already got another friend lined up that MUST see it with me, experience it with me and who will get up and dance with me.  There are several upcoming dates around Michigan, Ohio, and New York.  You can check out their Facebook page for info.

And now a couple of tips that I think would help improve the DRUMLine Live experience.

1. Marketing.  I never heard or saw an advertisement for the show.  Budgets are tight but most social media is free.  Gotta get hooked in with the bloggers, Facebookers, Tweeters, etc and get the word out about your show!  My friend who got the tickets only found out about it because she went on the ticket website to buy tickets for an upcoming Oakridge Boys Christmas Show- and I'm betting that won't be a common occurrence for most people.  Maybe working with local schools and churches would help?  Another thought would be to try and time the show with a current event that might build the crowd- like the Circle City Classic or Black Expo and then partner with the group for cross promotion opportunities.  There was a state marching band competition in town this week and there was a group next to me from Southern Indiana who were int own for that competition and somehow heard about the show.  There has to be a way to better reach those groups.  Maybe doing something with Groupon or Eversave or Living Social?

2. No program.  There was no program provided so I have no clue who was in the show and I can't even accurately try and lay out the show for you to tell you when they did the Gospel section or the Motown section or the Blues.  A program would also be a great way to show pride in where the performers are from- which of the HBCU's are represented in the cast?  What is the history of how the show got started?

3. Improve the website.  It doesn't have nearly enough information and it appears that it isn't updated frequently (for example, next weekend's Cincinnati dates aren't listed).

And my favorite moments:

When the MC/Host of the evening entered into the Gospel section and encouraged the audience to look around and to see the diversity of the crowd and to value it and to know that God's love is meant for everyone.

The neon lights in the dark drumline was fantastic.

Loved the medleys of Motown and pop music and also the medley of dance songs (I tried jumping to my feet for that one but again- dead audience so I ended up sitting down.  Do you know how hard it is to Tootsie Roll when you're seated in a theatre seat?).

The overall energy and passion and talent of every single person on that stage.

If you hear about DRUMLine Live, if it is touring near you, I'd really encourage you to go see it and be prepared to let your guard down and let the music take you over.  Jump up and dance, clap, yell, put your hands in the air.  It is an experience not to be missed!



C. Beth said...

Sounds like an awesome show. I totally understand what you are talking about with different audiences & the energy they give performers. Those shows with dead audiences are so frustrating!

Alison said...

I noticed during my time in Indiana that there didn't seem to be a big African-American presence. It was shocking to me how white Indianapolis was, for a state capital. I always assumed the fact that the headquarters of the KKK was/is in Martinsville had some affect on families' decisions to move in or out of the state.

I first heard about drumlines when I moved to Mobile, AL. it was eye-opening for me, too. there was a 2002 movie called Drumline. Might be worth renting!

Leigh Powell Hines said...

Catching up today. Bet that was a great event.

Thought of you last night....put some extra money in the Monday folder for the book fair this week.

Nej said...

The show sounds fantastic!! They don't have any tour dates listed near me...but if I hear of it in the area, I'm going to try to go!!!