The Appeal of Double Drums

Recorded on October 3rd, 2016

This afternoon we saw Skydog, an Allman Brothers tribute band, at Forest Hill Park. My fondness for southern rock goes back to when I was three-and-a-half and got my first stereo and listened constantly to 96 Rock in Atlanta. The Allman Brothers Band was a regular fixture. (All you whipper-snappers, that was in the mid 1970s, when “classic rock” was not yet classic.) At that age I didn’t know the band’s name, nor the names of the songs, but I knew the riffs to “Ramblin’ Man”, “Melissa”, “Jessica”, and “Blue Sky”. All the indie rock in the world won’t wash those away. So of course I jumped at the chance now to see a band who does all covers of their songs.

Skydog is really, really good. Everyone in the band is totally technically capable, and most importantly, they capture the feel of the Allman Brothers Band. I don’t have that many of their records, so I didn’t recognize most of the songs — they didn’t wheel out hit after hit — but the noodly arrangements and extended solos were perfect for sitting outside on a blanket with a few hundred of your neighbors. (Yep, I like the Grateful Dead, too.)

And the drums! True to Allman Brothers lineup, Skydog had two drummers. The thing about being a drummer in a two-drummer band is you have to check a lot of your ego before you play a note. If there’s going to be any groove or drive to the songs, both drummers have to be in lock-step the whole time. Individual flourishes here and there are permitted, but unless you’re trading actual solos, you and the other drummer have to be of one mind all the way through. It’s a humbling experience, but you both get to serve something bigger than yourselves, and there’s no other sound like it.

A single drummer is the typical model in the vast majority of rock bands. Maybe some people think two drummers is “too much”. It probably would be for most bands. But the Dead, the Doobie Brothers, and the Allman Brothers Band wouldn’t sound the same with only one drummer. The effect of two is like a chorus of synchronized raindrops falling on a tennis court. Plus, it just looks cool as hell.

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