Best of 2012: Drummers in the Front

Looking back at 2012, a trend I seemed drawn to in the local scene was that of drummers in bands boldly stepping out from being simply the “rhythm keeper in back”. Sure, multi-instrumentalists have been out there forever, but this year more and more drummers either put aside their sticks to release new musical projects playing anything but the drums, swapped instruments in new bands, or fronted the band from the set. And you know what? I LOVE it, keep it coming. Here are some drummers that seriously brought it in 2012:

Photo by Anna Powell Teeter

1. Sleeping Bag (Bloomington, IN)

Drummer Dave Segedy fronts this local band from the back as its drummer, vocalist, and chief songwriter. The trio turned heads and created quite a buzz in 2011 with its debut album Sleeping Bag. The band toured extensively and came out of the studio in full force its 2012 sophomore release Women Of Your Life. In the six years I’ve watched Segedy experiment and grow as a musician, I couldn’t be more proud.

Photo by Zachary Oliphant

2. Kalispell (Eau Claire, WI)

I first heard about Shane Leonard in passing when he was playing drums on tour with my friend Bro. Stephen. His name had been mentioned in numerous conversations and soon his band Kalispell made a trip to Bloomington. Well. In Kalispell, Leonard took to the front spot, writing the material and performing on guitar and banjo. I was blown away. The guy is way talented on so many instruments; in fact, the next few times he came to perform here, he always had a different set up of accompanying instruments or musicians, even once performing a one-man-band set in which he played guitar, banjo, harmonica, fiddle, and percussion. 2012 brought the release of Kalispell’s debut album Westbound, and it succeeded in once again leaving me dumbfounded upon first listen.

Photo by Gabrielle Cheik Photography

3. New Terrors (Bloomington, IN)

The first time I saw Burke Sullivan perform it happened to be just before his last show playing drums for Marion, IN band Away With Vega. It was a show that changed my life, and I continued to follow the band with its new drummer(s) and its various related other projects (Rodeo Ruby Love, Frank Schweikhardt). As the other band members eventually moved to Bloomington, it was easy to keep tabs on their musical endeavors, but I heard little about Burke. He was married, had some band called Owlsburg, and was you know, ‘way up in northern Indiana’. Well, Burke and his wife made a move to Bloomington over a year ago, and aside from playing drums in husband&wife, he was working on a project called New Terrors.

I saw New Terrors for the first time at a house show in which Kalispell and Neil Kjeldsen also performed. All I had heard was that it was ‘an electronic project by Burke’. I wasn’t sure what to expect, I’ve never been a huge follower of electronic music. Burke took to the patio setup and performed a few songs that would later appear on the Mother EP to an audience of friends, who were left impressed and in awe. You think you have an idea of who someone is, and then they unveil a whole other facet of themselves and perceptions are shattered. Mother has been one of my favorite releases of 2012. The seven-song EP creatively explores vocals, effects, and sound in a genre-less study. I already have a spot on my shelf reserved for the next album.

Photo by Aaron Lingenfelter
Photo by Aaron Lingenfelter

4. Jefferson Street Parade Band (Bloomington, IN)

The Lotus World Music & Arts Festival happens in Bloomington every Fall and usually involves the hiring of an extravagant and entertaining parade band, but with all these talented local musicians, why don’t we have our own? Enter resident percussionist Ben Fowler (Cardboard, the Delicious, Kentucky Nightmare, Community Currency…) who in 2009 started rounding up the troops. Finding musicians of all ages and skill levels, the Jefferson Street Parade Band began to take shape. With Ben as bandleader, the hodgepodge collective began writing and arranging tunes, playing in the streets and was soon headlining its own shows as well as opening community events such as the Trashion Re-Fashion show. But don’t get it confused, as rag-tag as the group may appear, the musicians are immensely talented and serious about what they do, performing a repertoire of original, traditional, and even foreign parade selections. This year Jefferson Street Parade band released its first album Juntos, with a grand album release party at The Chocolate Moose. The album showcases the bands lively percussion and horn line, with the occasional accordion, performing a clash of cultural styles including funk, Latin, and European.

5. Living Well (Bloomington, IN)

Ben Lumsdaine is an amazing drummer. Anyone who has seen him play would whole-heartedly agree. He’s been playing in bands with college musicians since his mid-teens, and is currently in his last year of jazz studies at the Jacobs School of Music. He can play in any style, from indie-rock with Alexander the Great to the experimental compositions mixes of Snaarj and everything in between, but this year he surprised us all when he picked up a guitar to join local summer-rock outfit Living Well. I’d seen Ben fiddle around with guitars before, so it wasn’t a complete shock, but an unsuspecting move. With most of the vocals/songwriting handled by former ATG bandmate Bryant Fox (Alexander the Great, husband&wife) and superb drumming by Evan Chapman, Living Well has been a great opportunity for Ben to develop and show off his other musical talents. The band is expected to release an album in 2013.

Photo by Bumbershoot Fine Photography
Photo by Bumbershoot Fine Photography

6. Charlie Patton’s War (Bloomington, IN)

Don’t let the baby faces full you, when Charlie Patton’s War takes the stage the band unleashes an intensity of blues-rock that most audiences aren’t prepared for. And while all the band members are talented, one of the secret weapons is that CPW has two frontmen on vocals, guitarist Blake Rhein and drummer Aaron Frazer. While Frazer, a very skilled drummer, fuels the band’s energy from the set, he also takes the lead on vocals (while handling the drumwork simultaneously) for select songs and contributes as a songwriter himself, evident in tunes such as “Say Ya Mine” and “Black Bell”. Outside of the band he’s been known to leak his talent through other instruments as well including harmonica, banjo, guitar, and whatever other instruments he can get his hands on.


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