I haven’t spoken about this up to now, as I didn’t want to spoil any surprises.
At the end of November, last year, Mike Whitaker asked me if I would play drums for a live dramatic performance of the "Before The Dawn" song series (or, at least, a reasonable subset of the songs).
There were a few problems with this.
- Apart from several parodies I had written of the BTD songs, and one original non-canon song (that blew up the shared world that BTD takes place in), I had had nothing to do with BTD, and knew only a few of the more popular songs.
- My diary was already full, and I would not be available for rehearsals until January, just weeks before the performance.
- I hadn’t played drums in about 2 years, and knew that one of the other participants in the project was a professional-standard drummer.
So I did what any sensible person would do – I said yes.
Although I had no free weekends in December, I did manage to get some private practice in at home, so when I turned up to the first weekend rehearsal in January, I was relatively confident that I could at least put the kit together. We had agreed that we would be using my Arbiter Flats kit, which is smaller and easier to transport than a full kit, and has less volume – great for a small venue, in fact.
In fact, I was quite happy – the three songs that Mike wanted me to play on – "War", "Only The Innocent", and "Midnight at the Tower" – were all songs I knew quite well. Similarly, I wasn’t concerned when Mike suggested I put some light drums over the song "Before The Dawn" itself. However, as the Saturday went on, the list of songs that I was playing on grew, until I was playing for almost all of the first Act, and much of the second. Some of this was my own fault – while sitting through the Sergeant’s comedy patter song, I toyed with a beat on high-hat which seemed to fit – luckily no-one except Mike really noticed. However, later when Tim (the drummer) lent me a woodblock, I tried it again, and it sounded perfect. At the end of the song, everyone turned and cheered, and another song had been added to my list.
Technique wise, there was nothing that demanding from me for most of the set – all that was required was a good steady beat. My biggest problem was my scanty knowledge of the material – before I could learn my cues, I had to actually get familiar with the songs involved.
However, there was one song that required a lot from my meager talents – "Excuse Me" is written in 7/4 with two sets of triple quaver beats,followed by a four beat. I managed to pick up the beat early on, and practiced it like crazy. But on the very last rehearsal, I lost it completely, so that was something that would worry me until the day of the performance.
Which came around on Sunday, with Act 1 before lunch and Act 2 afterwards. The whole thing went much better than I could have ever expected (both from a personal level, and for the production as a whole). I got through both Acts without too many fluffs (and those that I made were not show-stopping), and I managed to get the right beat for "Excuse Me".
So I survived to play another day, and I also managed to get through that couple of hours of elation after such performances without volunteering for something else.
From what I can gather, everyone – both in the cast, band, and audience – thoroughly enjoyed themselves, and that is what really matters the most.