A friend of mine called me as I was walking out of Barnes & Noble the other day, and I referenced this without thinking as I picked up the phone (excuse me, when I hit “accept”).  You know the drill, “Hang on, I’m walking out of Barnes & Noble.”  He was like, “What, a bookstore? You buy ACTUAL books?”  I said, “Yeah, I love books.”  He said, “Me too, but, uh, let me see, tablet, 2000 books I can take on the plane, but paper books?  One, maybe…”  I said, “Yes, I mean I like ACTUAL books.  Which means I like going to bookstores, browsing for books, seeing what has come out, reading some magazines, buying some and coming out with a collection I can read at my leisure.”  He was surprised by this because we are both total Type A people and he just exhaled in an exasperated, disappointed way like I failed him somehow.

Memphis Drum Shop Memphis, TN

Memphis Drum Shop Memphis, TN

I feel the same way about other types of stores that have items which interest me.  I used to love going to the video store and browsing the titles and walking around the store looking for something to rent. I got to know the people in my local store who knew movies that might interest me and we had fun talking about movies we liked or even hated.  It was fun. As a kid, I used to love going to record stores and flipping through the records, reading the back covers talking to the people in the store about what was coming out.  (Plus free popcorn!).  I hardly ever go fishing anymore, but still cherish going to the Natick Outdoor Store.

Most of these experiences are essentially gone today and certainly removed from common experience.  I am not going to argue about the bane of technological advancement because Netflix in convenient and downloading music onto mobile technology is also convenient which is why we have these new mediums.  It’s just that I believe we lost something in the process.

Browsing stores dedicated to something that is of interest to you is a total gift which is disappearing because people want to buy things in their underwear.  I think many people have lost the joy of walking into stores that have items which are extremely important to them and looking at all of the different possibilities and choosing what they want in a place with a particular vibe with staff that shares the same passion.

Vic's Drum Shop, Chicago, IL

Vic's Drum Shop, Chicago, IL

For us as drummers however, I actually believe we have the best of both worlds.  We can now, as consumers, go onto web sites, watch video, listen to audio, get a general sense of the cost of different items, view a zillion comments, likes, SnapFaceChat whatever things, buy with a credit card and have something shipped across the country or the ocean without getting out of bed.  This is a cool thing. 

But I don’t think this replaces, or even comes close to being as enjoyable, as going into a drum store with all kinds of gear to check out, staff who share the same love of the drums, seeing stuff in person, how the finishes pop more in real life, hearing what the drums sound like when I play them (OK, maybe that part is not so good) seeing what different accessories are available and what they feel like in my hands, the balance, tone, response.  Because, in reality, you can’t virtual this.

Drum Center of Portsmouth North Hampton, NH

Ultimately, it’s the overall experience I enjoy.  The whole vibe of the drum shop.  Like a good coffee shop or bookstore or restaurant or museum.  Way, way back, long before I was involved with Noble and Cooley, I had a work appointment in Portsmouth, NH, shortly after DCP opened.  After the appointment, my colleagues wanted to grab lunch but I bowed out saying I wanted to check out this new dedicated drum store that had opened up and they had a Sonor kit I wanted to check out.  I got puzzled looks from everyone who could not understand why I would go to a drum store instead of gossiping about fellow employees while munching at Popovers.   I said, “You have no idea how rare it is to have a store dedicated to just drums.  Sorry, I can have lunch anywhere.” (Popovers is pretty awesome though.)   One of the women I worked with, said, “My son just started playing the drums at school.  Do you mind if I follow you over there?”  I said, “Sure, then they can claim they had a female in their shop” (Being female, she did not get this joke).  So, we get there, park next to each other, and kind of walk into the store together.  She goes through the door and looks up at the snare wall like she is in church.  I can sense that she doesn’t know anything about drums but thinks they are cool and realizes this is a special place for people who love drums and of course drums are beautiful to look at regardless.  I learn that the Sonor kit I wanted has sold but it turns out her son is having some hardware related issues on his student level kit.  I can tell she has questions but doesn’t want to appear lacking in expertise in front of all of these drum gurus but I get her talking and they bring her over to some new and used pedals and high hat stands which are not expensive but will be better than anything he currently has.  She looks at me for help. I get into some drummer talk with the staff and we pick a few items out for him because the staff helped guide the decision-making process.  This cannot happen on line the same way.

I haven’t talked to her in a long time but I believe her son still plays the drums because she sends occasional video footage as he has developed as a player.

Boston Drum Center Acton, MA

I haven’t been to all of our dealers.  I’ve been to DCP, SoundPure, Fork’s Drum Closet, Vic’s Drum Shop, Boston Drum Center, Memphis Drum Shop & Columbus Percussion.   I’ve heard a lot about the others like Bentley’s, Drummer’s Hangout etc.  Every single one of these stores has a different vibe, set by the owners generally, but they all have one thing in common:  They create a really special experience for us as drummers.  I think this is a real gift.  I mention it here to remind everyone that as drum junkies, we get to buy stuff on line like everyone else but we also get to experience our new gear in person, like fewer and fewer people get to do.   Take advantage of this.

Drummer's Hangout Aurora Ontario, CAN

Drummer's Hangout Aurora Ontario, CAN

It takes effort to run these stores.  It costs a lot of money.  It takes skill and a skilled staff.  You get all of that for free if you go to the store because you will buy whatever you want for the same price you would on line. (You might buy more than you would otherwise but, so what, put it in the trunk and bring it inside your house when no one is home).   Because, in essence, you get your drums and a life experience rather than a click and an E-receipt.  I encourage everyone to go take advantage of this experience so that you won’t get the same puzzled look from your kids as I get from my daughter when I talk about renting videos. 

And maybe we won’t have this conversation:

“Well, you see son, when I was your age, we used to play these things called acoustic drums and we would drive to stores that stocked them and try them out and talk to other drummers who knew all about the different choices and then eventually buy what we liked.  It was WAAAAY better than doing a right click and having drones deliver them to our rehearsal spaces……..”