The Guitar Center’s 2009 Championship Drum Off’s moved this year to the Wiltern and that wasn’t the only moving on up they did. The contest with the $25,000 cash prize also featured a Tommy Lee headlined Bezerk spectacle, including performances by Max Weinberg (from both Bruce Springsteen and Conan O’Brien fame) playing in tandem with his son Jay, Chad Smith (RHCP), Matt Sorum (Guns & Roses), Sully Erna (Godsmack), Frank Zummo (Street Drum Corps) and more.
The top five contestants vied for the grand prize by performing a five minute set, judged by a panel of highly accomplished drum celebrities including Peter Erskine (Steely Dan), Taylor Hawkins (Foo Fighters), Drew Hester (Foo Fighters / Joe Walsh), Thomas Lang, Jason Sutter (Chris Cornell), Kenny Aronoff (John Mellencamp / Sessions Legend), John Tempesta (The Cult), Tony Royster Jr. (Jay-Z), Nisan Stewart (Jamie Foxx / 50 Cent) and Ray Luzier (Korn).
While the votes were tallied, the evening veered from touching:
Guitar Center inducted drum icons Billy Cobham and John Bonham into Guitar Center’s Drum Legends and then Jason Bonham drummed in time to footage of his dad, the legendary John Bonham of Led Zeppelin.
To the downright bizarre:
Tommy Lee chased around a midget who jumped out of a trash can while Sully Erna rappelled down the scaffolding keeping a beat…
It truly was the Ringling Bros of drummers, and the ringmaster, Stephen Perkins, kept pulling more and more acts out onstage.
I managed to wrangle some one on one time with Jason Bonham before his amazing performance, as well as Drum Off judge Kenny Aronoff, who had just finished playing the Kennedy Center Honors the week before, in tribute to Bruce Springsteen.
Both Jason and Kenny eschewed the dreaded drum solo, which was amusing considering the set up of the entire event. They both also stressed the importance of being in a band and of working together with other musicians. Hear that music people? Can’t we all just get along?
I also sat down with this year’s winner, Ramon Sampson.
19 year old South Africa native and Tennesse citizen, Sampson competed last year but came back again this year and grabbed the grand prize package worth more than $40,000.
Ramon, who started drumming at the age of one (total slacker, right?), says he’s first going to buy himself some wheels, probably in his favorite color, lime green. Then he’s going to roll down the windows and play some Michael Jackson in tribute to one of his favorite artists.
You can check out my renegade video here:
Ramon’s winning performance can be viewed here. He’s pretty amazing: