This year's winner, Ramon Sampson
As Garth said, "I like to play." So when I discovered that Guitar Center's Drum Off finals were this past weekend, I headed over to the Wiltern for some paradiddles, paradiddle-diddles, and nine stroke rolls.
Stepping into the lobby area of the Wiltern, I was blasted by the sound of multiple drums playing (and not in unison). Good thing I brought ear plugs. There were about six drum kits set up for anyone who wanted to play, and there was also a guy who had no legs playing an electric drum kit.
We got seats up on the top level, and the view was great. Needless to say, virtually everyone in the audience was a drummer. And you know what that meant: no line for the ladies' room, and long line for the men's room! Haha. I loved it.
Out of 4000 contestants, only five are chosen for the finals. They each are given 5 minutes to show what they've got, and they're judged on showmanship, technique, and other criteria. The Drum Off winner gets a cash prize of $25,000 and a bunch of gear.
The youngest winner of the contest was Thomas Pridgen (formerly of Mars Volta), who won the contest at age 9. This year's winner, Ramon Sampson was not as young (I think he's 19 or 20?) but was incredible. Check out the video above. Towards the end he breaks out a white glove and does a M.J. tribute. The other finalists were equally entertaining. One of them even ripped off his shirt halfway through, put it over his head and played "blindfolded".
This year, the Drum Off also featured Tommy Lee's "Berzerk" show which had all kinds of drumming from the USC Drum line to Max Weinberg swinging to Sing Sing Sing. The late John Bonham was awarded a lifetime achievement award with Jason Bonham playing a tribute to him, and Mahavishnu Orchestra's Billy Cobham also accepted an award.
If you're a drummer or love the drums, you gotta check this event out. If you're more of an axe man (or woman), Guitar Center also hosts a contest called Guitarmageddon which is the same thing, but for guitar players.
Last year's winner, Jerome Flood II
Footage from this year's show (USC Drum line and Tommy Lee)
My footage of Jason Bonham tribute to John Bonham (sound quality not as good as the videos above. I held the camera too high in the beginning, but it lowers after about 30 seconds)