Drummer woman Lauri Lyster is very, very funny. Her wit and warmth carries The Drummer Girl, a personal take on women drummers in the engine room.
Imagine an evening among old friends, riffing on assorted instruments and easy conversation. Now imagine that all of the people in the room are consummate musicians. Drummer Girl is more intimate live music than traditional theatre, interspersed with Lyster’s animated storytelling abilities.
Women drummers are an oddity in the music world. Drummer Girl asks: what happens when the girl grows up, goes through heartbreak, finds true love, and has a baby? This is Lyster’s refreshingly honest take on doing something she obviously loves. From flirting with lesbians and the rock-and-roll lifestyle, to cracking jokes about incestuous breakups with male drummers, Lyster’s earlier career highlights both joys and struggles of her industry.
She’s remarkably tongue-in-cheek about it; her depiction of playing for the opera was one of my favourites of the night. The first few minutes of this clip shows off Drummer Girl’s unique and self-depreciating humour:
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The second half opens with Lyster in ‘mature’ adulthood, performing a groove while picking up children’s toys. It was a truly mesmerizing moment – the odd way that drummers view their world through sound and rhythm. Drummer Girl understands how to explain this to an audience, regardless of musicality or past experience.
She’s backed by some amazing musicians, who all perform with multiple instruments and techniques. Ben Henriques on clarinet and saxaphone had some pretty spectacular solo moments.
It’s a tad too long. If I were seeing a band of my choice, I’d be happy to spend the two and a half hours and immerse myself in the music. But in a venue like The Firehall, the combination of music and performance dragged on a little too much. It doesn’t help that none of the songs were particularly memorable.
I’m surprised that this piece hasn’t been further refined, given that Drummer Girl is now two years young. It’s a thrilling first attempt and showcases Lyster’s talent for owning the stage. If she can find it in herself to share the director’s seat, then I think she would be truly unstoppable. (From one control freak to another, I’m sure this is easier said than done!)
I’d recommend it. Go with expectations of a live show with talking in the middle. A jumble of genres and styles, all very easy on the ear. The performances are top-notch, but it’s the Drummer Girl’s heartfelt story that will stay with you.
The Drummer Girl plays at The Firehall Arts Centre until February 22. Advanced tickets online.