We recently made a pilgrimage to Florida, visiting Tampa and Orlando to talk with companies and get a sense of new products for the coming year. One of the trip highlights was a stop at Armadillo Enterprises, manufacturers and distributors of products like ddrum electronic and acoustic drums, Dean Guitars, and other gear.
Armadillo was started by Elliot Rubinson, an industry legend who founded the Thoroughbred Music chain, well-known in Florida in the '80s and '90s. Elliot’s a triple threat man with chops in retailing, manufacturing and design, and playing – he was on tour earlier this year playing bass with guitar great Michael Schenker.
The day we showed up to visit, Barry Kerch of Shinedown was in town, taking time between tours to check out new gear and visit drum artist relations specialist Felix DeLuna. Check out our tour of the facility at ddrum. They were great hosts and we got to learn a lot about what goes into the products.
Hanging in the artist room. Barry Kerch of Shinedown was visiting ddrum the day we visited.
Armadillo has a huge warehouse for their Dean Guitars, ddrum drums, and other lines.
Techs inspect and set up a kit prior to shipping. They also handle some repairs at the facility.
Very sharp silver finish.
Barry Kerch checks out an electronic ddrum kit. We expect some new models to come out in early 2014 based on what we saw.
Elsewhere in the warehouse techs work to set up guitars.
“Aren’t you glad you don’t have to ship all this stuff, Felix?” “Damn straight, Barry.”
The brain trust at ddrum: Armadillo Enterprises Elliot Rubinson, artist rep Felix DeLuna, artist Barry Kerch of Shinedown, Marketing director Curse Mackey.
We honestly didn’t know it was going to happen, but Chad Smith surprised the entire theater when he brought all of the evening’s featured drummers onstage to perform a completely unrehearsed jam at the end of his set. Here are a few views of the slightly chaotic but definitely fun throw-down.
Here’s how it looked from the side of the stage.
Now here’s a view from the back of the stage. (You can’t accuse us of not covering all the angles.)
From left to right: Chad Smith, Jason Bittner, Cindy Blackman-Santana, Frank Zummo, Justin Imamura, Adam Alt, and Bobby Alt take their final bows at the end of the show.
Jason Bittner signs a Sabian Holy China cymbal that Chad Smith randomly handed to an audience member toward the end of his set.
After all was said and done, DRUM! Night 2013 was a wild success. If you weren’t there, you missed a great drumming event – but here’s a video shot by an audience member of the final jam (keep your eyes peeled for a professional video production shot by Drum Channel):
We’ve tried to convince Chad Smith to appear at DRUM! Night every year since its inception in 2009. Who says persistence doesn’t pay off? This year’s show finally happened to coincide with his busy schedule, as the Red Hot Chili Peppers were scheduled to play at Outside Lands in San Francisco the day after DRUM! Night 2013. So here are a few shots of his set that reveal several different sides to Smith’s onstage personality.
Chad Smith, caught in the grips of a groove, hammering hard.
It’s interesting that this living legend kept his spare sticks lying on the floor next to his throne. Is that how he does it with the Chili Peppers?
Smith demonstrates an old-school soloing trick by laying an elbow into the batter head to alter the pitch of his snare drum.
Once a goofball, always a goofball.
Changing things up, Smith segues into a samba feel.
After a brief stage changeover, Cindy Blackman-Santana took over the stage from Jason Bittner to present a totally improvised set of melodic and challenging drum solos.
The audience appeared spellbound as Blackman-Santana began her set. Look closely enough and you might spot her husband, Carlos Santana, looking on from his far-right balcony seat.
Come to mention it, Cindy seemed equally spellbound as she plumbed the depths of her creativity.
Blackman-Santana channeled the best of Tony Williams, Elvin Jones, Art Blakey, and other jazz legends while soloing on her vintage ’60s Red Sparkle Gretsch kit.
The great drummer shared her philosophies about drumming and life during her question-and-answer session.