Editorial: The drummer's left foot
● By Richard Gaw
Instead, he purposely left his recorder and reporter's notebook at home, in order to attend a concert at the Kennett Flash that featured a performance by percussionist Kofi Baker, the son of legendary drummer Ginger Baker, who was breezing through Kennett Square with his two band mates on its current tour.
The writer sat just to the right of the stage, near enough to Baker and his other musicians that he could clearly watch the inside of the bassist's thumb pound his instrument through a version of “In the White Room,” and see the phrasing of the guitarist as he sang “In the Presence of the Lord.” It was very welcome territory to the writer; he had spent his college years – and, subsequently, his 30s and 40s – attending concerts in impersonal hockey arenas and ballparks, whose acoustics reverberated with all of the intimacy of an echo chamber or an insane asylum of sound. The pain didn't end there; often, he was parked in seats as far away as one-tenth of a mile from the stage, or blinded by overzealous fans who interrupted his view and, not lost on the writer, the cost of these seats rose at the same rate as the national debt.
In contrast, the writer sat ten feet away from Baker's drum solo.
Matched against these coliseums of commerce, the Kennett Flash, tucked down an alley off of State Street, is among the greatest gifts ever given to the legions of locals who feel that the best way to enjoy music is to see it live. Its definition begins with the space it offers and ends with the performers who choose to play there. It is not a concert hall, but a listening room that showcases national, regional, and local music of nearly every genre, as well as comedy and childrens' events. On a Tuesday, listeners may get to see a new recording artist in his or her “See me now” phase, and on a Wednesday, return to the venue and soak up the work of a musical veteran right before them.
Somewhere behind the stage lay hidden the truest definition of the Kennett Flash, one that will never be seen by the audiences who attend shows there. It is a venue in name only; in truth, the Kennett Flash is a nonprofit performing arts organization – General Manager Andrew Miller is its only paid employee – and it relies only on ticket sales and donations for its operating budget.
In truth, it is the public, not a corporate underwriter, who keeps the Kennett Flash alive, and even the smallest of donations help cover programming and operating costs.
The writer had interviewed Baker by phone last summer, in advance of Baker's first appearance in Kennett Square, a concert under the stars at Anson B. Nixon Park that drew more than 250. During his conversation, the writer made reference to what Baker's father Ginger said about the importance of the left foot in drumming. It controls the high hat, he said, which in turn serves as the drumbeat compass for the way a band moves the music forward.
The lessons of the father were now being followed by the son. During his drum solo, Baker pounded his sticks through an exercise of pure exhilaration. His hands flew everywhere, and everywhere they went, his body followed for emphasis. From just to the right of the stage, the writer sat transfixed at Baker's machinations, and noticed in Baker's fury that only one aspect of this display remained consistent: the left foot of the drummer. It hit the high hat perfectly, on cue. Eventually, the other members of the band fell in line, with the architecture of pure symmetry.
Where else would I get to see something like this in Chester County, from where I now sit? The writer thought. In truth? Nowhere else.
To make your donation, ensuring 100 percent of your donation goes to programming and operating costs, please make your check out to The Kennett Flash, Inc. and mail to The Kennett Flash, PO Box 375, Kennett Square, PA 19348, or visit www.kennettflash.org for complete information on how to make your contribution online.