25th Annual Guitar Center Drum Off 2014

            Guitar Center’s 25th anniversary Drum-Off took place at L.A.’s Club Nokia on January 18, 2014 where 5 drum finalists came from all over the country to compete in an event that would change their lives. The night also included special performances by mega-drum superstars including Chad Smith (Red Hot Chili Peppers), Ray Luzier (Korn), Chris Dave and the Drumhedz, and a special performance by Steve Ferrone (Tom Petty) with Questlove (The Roots).

            Tonight, the spotlight was on the drummers, who seem to get overlooked more often than they should, and many in attendance were drummers themselves or drumming fanatics, so there was a special bond between everyone in the venue. Many would clap and cheer in appreciation of the rhythms the drummers would come up with, while others “ooh and awed” in the wake of a sick drum beat. Whoever says drummers don’t get enough love?Finalists (12)

            The night opened with a performance by Chris Dave and the Drumhedz. The intro video for these guys made it seem very interesting as the announced that Chris Dave was an innovator when it came to drums, so we were excited to see what he had in store for us. Sadly, the video hyped us too much as the drumming wasn’t really innovative- just different. It was a little disappointing, but still enjoyable as we watched a great djenty-jazz set that had us starting the night with some groovy tunes!

            Ray Luzier (2)The highlight of the night goes to Ray Luzier’s performance with Billy Sheehan, Jeff Kollman, and Nick Sluggo. Yes, we are HUGE Korn fans, but we aren’t biased on the performances because Luzier is associated with Korn. Ray Luzier is actually an intense drummer outside of the nu-metal that he plays for a living. We’ve heard all sorts of music throughout the years, but what Luzier put together  was refreshing and truly inspirational. The end of the performance ended with a rock/dubstep song that DJ Sluggo wrote, and it was executed perfectly for a rock/drum audience (I don’t know if you’ll ever see Billy Sheehan ever do another dubstep song in his career).

            Finally, the reason why this whole event was even happening: The Drum-Off! We are about to watch the 5 finalists compete to win the title of Guitar Center’s 2014 Drum-Off Champion. These guys competed and beat 5,000 other drummers nationwide to be here, so the expectations were very high. The judges for the competition were drummers for artists and bands such as Jamie Foxx, No Doubt, Bad Religion, Usher, Beyonce, Rhianna, and many, many more, including past winners. The finalists would be judged on their style, uniqueness, creativity, stage presence and more.Josiah Maddox (5)

             First to perform was Shariq Tucker from the Bronx, NY. As he began to play, white baby powder would fly off the drum kit as he played his set, which lead to excitement to see what the other contestants might bring to their performance. So far, so good, but performing next was Josiah Maddox from Chicago. IL. At only 17 years old, Josiah was the youngest drummer on stage, but would age be a factor in this competition? While he did put on a solid set, there wasn’t much style or uniqueness that we saw. Next was Dawud Aasiya-Bey, a.k.a. D-Mile from Lake Elsinore, CA. Does D-Mile have what it takes to blow his comparators away? His set included a drum synthesizer along with his drum kit to add to that uniqueness the judges were looking for. He would play along with a backing track and made it seem like he was carrying an entire band, something all drummers should inspire to do. By far, D-Mile was our guy to win, but let’s see what the rest of the drummers have in store for us.

            D-Mile (4)We were down to the final two drummers in Guitar Center’s Drum-Off competition and the competitors were getting better by the performance. Next up was Hilario Bell from Miami, FL, a Cuban native with a jazz influence. The speed and rhythm of Hilario’s performance was slower than the rest of the drummers, but it was nice to see a jazz drummer doing his thing on the drum set. Hilario would use his hands and play the drums like conga drums and his speed was impressive to say the least. We have a new favorite to win, and it was from a very unique set that had everyone buzzing at the drum-off. And then there was one: Jonathan Burks from Little Rock, AR. Jonathan started his set by drumming on his chest, and we quickly saw he would be unique. After his Tarzan-like drumming, he went into drumming on his kit and did some stick tricks, but sadly stumbled on one of those tricks and dropped his drumstick. He luckily recovered quickly and continued to play his set where he ended up blindfolding himself and playing the drums. It was at this point where the best of his abilities came out and he worked that drum kit like he’s known it his entire life. He ended his set with the Tarzan-like drumming of his chest and walked off stage. Who is set to win? We will find out at the end of the show, but first: more performances!

            Next up is the moment that most of us have been waiting for: Chad Smith of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. His set went above and beyond the simple Red Hot Chili Chad Smith (1)Pepper beats as we heard and saw Chad dominate the drum set that was in front of him. Chad kept the talking to a minimal as he “played out the hits,” as he jokingly said to the drum-off audience, and although a lot of what he played was new to a lot of us in attendance, it was highly enjoyable and we could see these jams as popular hits if they’ve been around for the past several years. Chad ended his set by kicking his drum set and walking off stage in true rock star fashion as the venue exploded in cheers and applause.

            We come to a close of the competition by watching Steve Ferrone get indicted into Guitar Center’s Rock Walk and a special performance with Mr. Ferrone and Questlove of The Roots. Seeing Steve’s set along with Questlove and company took us on a journey to what the 70’s rock scene was like, and it was incredible to see such talent on stage putting on a special performance.

            Steve Ferrone (2)The show was now reaching the 11:45pm mark and it was finally time to announce the winner of Guitar Center’s 25th Anniversary Drum-Off champion. 5,000 drummers and it comes down to 1 whom will take home the title and prizes that they’ve all have been working hard for. The Drum-Off winner was D-Mile, from Lake Elsinore, CA, who was in shock saying “No way! No way!” and then humbly accepted his prize.

Review by: Alex Lucero

See what got D-Mile the title of Drum Off Champion of 2014 here:

As Guitar Center’s Drum-Off Grand Prize Winner Dawud Aasiya-Bey (D-Mile) Will Receive:

  • $25,000 cash
  • A Roland TD-30 electronic drum kit + SPD-SX
  • Write-Up in Modern Drummer Magazine
  • Cover Feature in Guitar Center’s Drum Buyers Guide
  • Custom drum kit by DW, Tama, Pearl, Gretsch or OCDP
  • Complete Set of Sabian, Zildjian, or Meinl cymbals
  • Drum, Stick, Cymbal and Drum Head endorsement deals (*subject to the vendors terms)
  • VIP Experience at NAMM 2014

Red Carpet

Finalists Red Carpet

Ray Luzier

Finalists Compete

Chad Smith

Steve Ferrone