A Different Drummer 

Feel the beat of Bob Marshall’s percussive genius

Make a hobby out of drummers. Compare and contrast them, catalogue their idiosyncrasies.

This one’s right-handed, that one’s left-handed. This one sits on a milk crate and makes playing look a lot like leaning back on a Harley with big apehanger bars. That one drives three nails into the floor of the stage to keep the sheer force of his kick-drum pedal from pushing the tubs over the edge.

This one plays with the methodically brutal precision of a metal stamper. Right arm cocked in a 35-degree angle, he winds up far enough to practically tuck the stick in his back pocket and brings it slicing down onto the same dime-sized piece of snare drum every time. This other guy flaps around like an octopus in the teeth of a grand mal seizure, making it look more like a matter of odds than skill that his sticks come down on the tubs at all. Not what you’d imagined from hearing the (brilliant) records, and it makes you recall what they say about laws and sausages and how you don’t want to see either being made.

The “drummer face,” a band’s physiognomic index. Watching Bob Marshall propel his bandmates in Sabbatage through their Black Sabbath tribute set at the Boys and Girls Club a few weeks ago, all the familiar expressions were there: the winces, the jaw-drop, the “I’m-chopping-onions” squint-and-yawn combo, and the sweat-sodden million-dollar grin that breaks on Marshall’s face when he digs the band out of a especially intense passage and into the rock ’n’ roll clear. Watching Marshall is a hobby within a hobby, and on that night particularly because he was paying a personal homage to heavy-hitting Sabbath drummer Bill Ward. As sticks began to disintegrate, it was easy to imagine a blue arc sizzling between Marshall and his British antipode, who was probably just waking up to the dreary grayness of a Birmingham morning.

In his previous bands Spanker and Prosciutto, New Yorker Marshall honed a largely cymbal-less style of drumming, heavy on toms and hi-hat, to a razor’s sharpness behind the Slayerian shrieking and bellicose hollering of Cynthia Laundrie and Jake Morton, respectively. Both bands also featured guitarists with a certain metallic clarity to their tones, Mike Cote and Ian Greenwood, meaning that the bottom-heavy drums stood out in the resulting spare sound. Spanker and Prosciutto were good and loud, both of them, but loud like Japanese horseradish is hot compared to how Mexican peppers are hot: more like an abrupt sonic punch, less like the lingering hum that roars of incipient hearing loss.

Now, with both of those bands gone, Marshall has found a berth in the lineup of local superstars Volumen, where the same drayhorse endurance and surgical precision of style are a perfect match for their much poppier sound. Also Saved for This Dark Dawn, and, of course, Sabbatage as the occasion arises. It’s a safe bet that Marshall could put a sturdy bottom on any sound in town—including his own one-man drum electronica show. #
You can see Marshall’s one-man rock odyssey, Bobokraft 2000, next Friday, Dec. 29 at the Boys and Girls Club, 9 PM. Also appearing: 52 Teenagers, Miami Vice…the Band, and the Dark One. $3.

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