Review: The Drummer Girl

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Lauri Lyster stars in the Drummer Girl at the Firehall Arts Centre

Drums are the one of the most versatile instruments in existence. They can be incorporated into any genre or style of music. Their uses are endless and abounding, and there are probably as many types of drums as there are countries.

The Drummer Girl is the musical autobiography of Lauri Lyster, a drummer from Burnaby, as she progresses from childhood to her present life, proving that the career of a drummer is anything but boring. She has done everything from her first running gig in an all female blues band to playing dressed as a nun (only once; she didn’t make a habit of it) to the tedious job as a pit percussionist at the opera. She travelled around the world, discovering first-hand the power of a drum, and brought back little bits of music and knowledge from everywhere she went (Africa, Ireland, Italy, Korea) In the Drummer Girl, she explores what has made her the artist she is today, and although she does that with the use of a fair sized band with all types of instruments, drums are undoubtedly the heartbeat of the show.

When the lights come up, the black floor-level stage of the Firehall Arts Centre is set up for a concert, not a play. The show opens with a drumroll (the literal rolling of a hand drum across the stage) as Lauri Lyster, the charismatic protagonist of the tale, sets the scene for a night of overplayed jokes and fantastically played music. She begins with an overview of the history of drumming, and then moves on to the more recent advancements, specifically hers.

Drumming is either an integral part of or easily translatable to any style of music, which allows Lyster to experiment with a wide range of styles in the show. She played everything from jazz to blues, rock to celtic, and each time she reached a point in her story where a different style of music was involved, she and her band would chime in with a song.

Musical choices were eclectic to say the least, ranging from newer releases -which was likened to an orchestra warming up- to a little percussion ditty done with baby toys. Although the sound was a bit overwhelming for the tiny Firehall Theatre, the 5 person band was incredibly talented and admirably versatile, a group of Lyster’s handpicked musician friends who live for their instruments.

The band members stayed silent other than the odd ad-libbed comment, so all that tied the songs together were Lyster’s own monologues and anecdotes, which were often overdone or false. Therefore, it is really not a show to be attended for humour or character work or dialogue, but for its music. That is not to say The Drummer Girl doesn’t have broad appeal, thanks to its eclectic music selection, but it is really a show that musicians should see. Who else can really appreciate the pains of 9/4 time? Of missed cues and lost music? Being fascinated by metronomes with human voices? Being forced to dance with someone with no sense of rhythm?

Although the storyline of Lyster’s life was silly at times, her music is anything but. As the show unfolds, Lyster reveals various challenges she had getting work as a female drummer in a male dominated industry. But she proves that the hard work pays off, giving us 2 and a half hours of music from practically every style and genre—including several of her own pieces.

“Musicians? We’re an odd bunch,” Lyster noted, after joking about a drummer’s inability to count past eight.

“Drummers hear things differently from the rest of the world,” she commented. For a couple hours, she is willing to lend you a drummer’s ears and teach you how to use it, so that you may walk away with a new perspective and a heart filled with rhythm.

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