Meinl Festival 2012
Meinl Drum Festival 2012
I am buzzing from having just returned from the Meinl Drum Festival 2012; a weekend that has become one of the biggest dates in the drum calendar and is undoubtedly one of the best run events in the industry.
The festival is held at Meinl’s factory in Gutenstetten, Germany, with a large marquee for the main stage and a smaller tent for percussion demos at the other end of the factory grounds. Also outside were percussion and catering stands, seating and a space filled with percussion for people to take part in a drum circle, which was led by Charly Boeck.
The weekend was split into masterclasses on Saturday 23rd June and performances and percussion demos on Sunday 24th June. The variety of artists and styles of their playing were huge; masterclasses ranged from ‘Symphonic Percussion’ by Jens Herz and Guido Marggrander to ‘Progressive concepts for technical metal drumming’ by Obscura’s Hannes Grossmann. There was something for each of the 1500 people who attended and it was great to see people there of all ages and from 20 countries; some had travelled from as far and wide as Russia, Wales and the Philippines.
Jost Nickel, who headlined the weekend with Benny Greb and Onkel as ‘Drio’ on Sunday, did an inspiring masterclass on ‘How to use a click effectively when playing in a band and while practising’. Next up was Mike Johnston from USA, who runs the internationally successful teaching website, mikeslessons.com. His masterclass was ‘Travelling Through Time – applying polyrhythms to practical drumming’ which was accessible and fun for the audience. When I asked Mike how he was finding the weekend he said this –
‘I think you’ll get the same comment from every drummer that comes in here but Meinl is running this festival so well it’s unbelievable. It’s the most well oiled machine I’ve ever been a part of; it’s so efficient. Everything they do makes sense and so all the drummers are walking around and we’re in awe of how well it’s run and how on schedule everything is. With all of that perfection there’s still politeness. It’s going to be hard to play other festivals after this! The line up at this festival is probably my favourite that I’ve seen in a long time because of how different everyone is.’
George Feltes, who was Front of House for the main stage of the Meinl weekend, did a masterclass on ‘Sound engineering for the drum set’. This was in German so while I can’t comment on it, everyone seemed to be enthused by his words!
To headline Saturday’s masterclasses Benny Greb spoke about ‘Groove Design – the art and science of playing, feeling and developing a strong groove’. This was exactly what we have come to expect of Benny; it was a well thought out, relevant topic that was in depth but easy for the audience to understand and the concepts were highlighted by his outstanding playing.
On Sunday I got the chance to do a tour of the factory, which has some beautiful views of the Bavarian countryside. The factory was immaculately clean and we were able to see some of the technology that is used by Meinl in action, spanning the processes of cymbal manufacturing from it’s first to last stages.
Sunday’s percussion demos ran throughout the day and included a set by master conguero Giovanni Imparato from Italy and a performance by Onkel (who later played with Benny Greb and Jost Nickel as ‘Drio’) on his quirky percussion set up, which was like a drum kit but using cajon, timbales, an array of cymbals and toys.
There were demonstrations of Meinl’s new Artisan Cajons by Juan Carlos Melian (Spain) who had this to say about the drum festival –
‘I’m not surprised by what is happening here because I’ve had 16 years of Meinl so I would say this is a bit like my house; I’m not coming here every day of course but I know these people and I know they will do everything the best. They will have everything well organised and they will make people feel fine. It’s really nice to see many young people, and also older, coming here to have a weekend in the countryside in the middle of Germany. Just to have a weekend seeing and learning about drums; it’s a very fresh and healthy environment. You come here and see this beautiful view and open space and really good drummers who you can exchange with, take pictures, and talk with the people. I really appreciate that.’
The main stage opened on Sunday with a performance by JP Bouvet from the USA, winner of the 2011 Guitar Center Drum Off Contest. JP has also won the Roland US V-Drum contest (and was second place in their international finals), is studying at Berklee College of Music and touring internationally with his band Helicopria. His performance was really musical and showed great maturity as well as astounding technical playing. JP said -
‘The weekend at Meinl fest has been amazing. Chris Brewer (Meinl’s artist relations manager fro USA and Canada) told me before I left, ‘When you visit the factory you’re going to have a new love for Meinl that you don’t understand yet’ and he’s right. I really believe no other company could be like this. The positivity is unbelievable; not only with the company but from artist to artist. Instead of just picking players they pick people based on their character who are also great players. It’s truly humbling.’
How was your set and what was the audience like?
‘I was lucky; I played first so the audience had just come in and they were excited and fresh. It was packed and everyone was super responsive. Everybody wants to be here; some of them drove hours to get here so it was amazing.’
The festival goers were then treated to mind blowing performances by Milos Meier, a drummer from the Czech Republic who looks like he is making a huge name for himself and plays for Czech band ‘Dymytry’, Hannes Grossmann (Germany) and Mike Johnston. Hannes spoke to me about how fortunate he felt to be playing at the weekend –
‘I’m really happy to be here because I’m on tour so often so it’s luck that we’re taking a break now for summer. These events are very special to me because I rarely do it so far. I would like to do more, especially the Meinl Drum Fest. I think it could not be better.’
Matt Halpern was up next, showcasing the strength of his playing that he uses in progressive metal band, Periphery, who recently supported Dream Theater on their European tour. Matt also runs a website, bandhappy.com, which offers lessons from drummers while they are on tour, via the internet or in person at festivals and venues. When I asked him how the weekend was going for him he said this -
‘The place, the grounds, the factory…I’ve never seen anything like this in any kind of company, and not just in the music world. I’ve never been to the headquarters of a company and seen this before. It’s exactly what I would expect from Meinl though; it’s great people, a great atmosphere, great product and this weekend is proving to be an absolutely great festival. The drummers are mind-blowingly good, the people that are involved in putting it on have been super professional and accommodating. Everyone is super cool; it’s like a big drum hang and hopefully I can get out there and do my thing and not make a fool out of myself in front of all these other incredible drummers that I’ve looked up to forever!’
Meinl held a cymbals and percussion prize lottery, which was drawn just before the final performance. Six lucky people won either a set of Mb20’s, Byzance or Classic Custom cymbals, Headliner Hi-hat tambourines and a cowbell, a 10” snare timbale or a Makah-Burl string cajon.
The headline act for the weekend was Drio, comprising Benny Greb, Jost Nickel and Onkel. With characters like theirs we knew it was going to be a special performance and it certainly was! The set included the kind of solos and musical collaborations you would expect from that calibre of player but it also had hugely entertaining moments as well. Comedy highlights were Jost and Benny wearing one sweater between them; Benny was the left hand and Jost was the right while they played a snare drum piece as if they were one person.
The encore was spectacular and funny; Benny announced that Meinl’s hand hammered cymbals were not made in Turkey but actually by the Drio guys themselves. They then played on a piece of metal that the cymbals start out as with hammers, sticks and mallets in time to Strauss’ ‘The Blue Danube’. Drio said this about the Meinl Drum Festival -
Benny – ‘We feel honoured to have got the headline spot at what is now one of the most respected and biggest drum festivals in the world. It’s great fun, great drummers, good food and a blast.’
Jost – ‘I’d say it’s the greatest drum festival in the universe’
Benny – ‘Well if you want to go that cheesy…’
Jost – ‘It’s been musically great’
Benny – ‘Very diverse’
Onkel – ‘It’s really well organised. You never have the feeling that anybody is stressed and it’s one of the main drummer festivals. Everybody is really smiley!’
The weekend finished with an autograph signing session with the festival’s full line up.
Everyone was so well looked after by the Meinl team; from being collected at the airport to being invited to a huge barbecue where we watched the football on big screens in one of the factory buildings (I was thankful England didn’t play Germany this time), everything was thought out carefully for us. Everyone was helpful, polite and cheerful and the little things didn’t go unnoticed; Meinl heart shaped Lindt chocolates left on our hotel pillows was a nice touch!
Many thanks to Mike Dolbear for sending me out to cover the festival and to Norbert Saemann for his hospitality and the hard work that he and the Meinl team do to ensure the drum community has high quality events like this available to us.
The next Meinl Drum Festival will be held in China in 2013 and hopefully will return to Germany in 2014. For more information see www.meinldrumfestival.com or the ‘meinldrumfestival’ fanpage on facebook.
Report by Gemma Hill
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