Kevin O'Day solo

The Dragon's Den

March 02, 2004

Unless you're bassist Victor Wooten or drummer Elvin Jones, it's really difficult to stand alone as a drummer or bassist without looking like a schmoe. Drummer Kevin O'Day thought differently Tuesday night at The Dragon's Den.

He threw down the gauntlet at other drummers in New Orleans by performing all by his lonesome. It could be said this was a show-off fest, but O'Day was passionate about his attempt to create a new performance structure.

O'Day set up a crappy Casio synthesizer at his left and some pan-sized bells on the floor at his right. Once the poetry reading ended, O'Day humbly took to his set and put on a clinic in front of ten people. He explored every part of his set and used tribal tom rhythms as a chorus to return to in his 45 minute long solo. Sometimes he was reserved, carefully searching among his bells and drum rims to create the perfect atmosphere. But, more often he ripped things up like Animal or John Bonham. He kicked accessible funky beats, and his kit progressions made me drop my mouth in confusion. How did he do that? Or better yet, what was he doing?

Even though he was in top form, by the end of the first set O'Day made me feel something or someone was missing. The crowd dwindled to four as O'Day sat drinking at the bar. He was prompted by bartender Tark to take to his Casio for a second try. "Do whatever, man," Tark said. "It's Tuesday night." O'Day played along to a pre-programmed fuzzy and elemental beat that added little to his presentation. Eventually, O'Day left his set in frustration. But, O'Day isn't a quitter. He won't let his ambition betray him. He's gonna be back at The Dragon's Den soon with pianist Brian Coogan as a duo. Maybe with just one more person in the mix he'll be able to figure out how to play alone.

It was great to see and hear O'Day reach for something invisible. As long as he believes he can be a one man band, I'll be around to watch.

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