Carmine Appice’s SLAMM! did not, in fact, begin with a slam.
Rather, a haunting reverberation filled McCrary Theatre the night of Sept. 16 and rattled the audience in their seats. Blue light sliced through hazy air. One at a time, Appice and his cohorts strode on stage and began a slow rhythm on what appeared to be rain barrels covered with fluorescent tape.
BOOM. BOOM BOOM.
And then the sold-out show began in earnest. Four drummers beat on the rain barrels while a shrieking guitar kept up the tune. In the background, the fifth drummer pounded on drums suspended from a stepladder.
The introduction kept up for several minutes, including times where Appice and Adriane Palikat, one of his four fellow drummers, played dueling and then complementary rhythms on full drum kits.
From the beginning the energy never let up. Elements of coordinated dance struck a visual tone to match the harsh beats, as well as jumping, leaping and a little silent acting- mock arguments and exaggerated showmanship — kept the vibe on stage upbeat.
The audience was, for the most part, responsive, clapping along during the many segments where Appice encouraged involvement, and even singing along while on stage the drums were relentlessly beaten.
True to their claims, SLAMM! did use everything from plastic cups to ironing boards, from rain barrels to buckets and even a few traditional drums.
Each nontraditional item either brought a completely new sound to the stage, unreplicable on a drum set, or a sound that blended well with other drums. Nothing seemed out of place, even though one is unlikely to do the laundry at a rock concert.
And a rock concert atmosphere was definitely in the air. Rather than last year’s visiting drum group Nagata Sacho, SLAMM! was neither a celebration of culture nor just the drum itself. Guitarist Artie Dillon never let the audience forget that while they were there to see the impressive drumming, they were getting a talented shredding guitarist in the deal as well.
The concert felt mainly like a rock band that made use of more rhythm than tune, and did so to great effect, and like a love letter to all the different forms of rhythm.
Junior Jesse Palmer agreed. “It was intense,” he said. “They really know how to put on a show.”
Fellow junior Christian Palmer also said he enjoyed the program. “They really engaged the audience,” he said. “There were great lights and great costumes.”
Unique for both Elon University and SLAMM! was the inclusion of the marching band’s drumline. For the second-to-last set, the entire Fire of the Carolinas drumline joined Appice and his group on stage, doing a call-and-response to Appice’s vocal scat and joining in on rain barrel songs.
It was also a unique night for drummer Curt Patrick. Patrick stood in for his friend and SLAMM! regular Felipe Torres, who was away with another band
“We’re playing with a living legend,” said Patrick in reference to Appice, “It makes you realize how lucky you are. To be on stage with him is a trip.”
Zoilo Ruiz, a co-creator of SLAMM! is the only original cast member from when SLAMM! began. Before SLAMM! he toured with Stomp!, a similar, yet different drumming group. He expressed his appreciation for the Elon community.
“We had an awesome time. We had a great campus, great stage, great stagehands and great lighting,” he said. “Everything was awesome.”