Last Thursday night, McCrary Theatre at Elon University was transformed into an old school rock bar, with artificial smoke permeating the air and men in ripped concert shirts speckling throughout the room. The audience was packed with people, from young children to older community members. They were all there to see Drum Wars, starring legendary drummers and brothers Carmine and Vinny Appice.
Drum Wars is a traveling show created by the Appice brothers that plays off the brothers’ long history with drumming in the industry. They sat at their drum sets and dueled with each other or simply jammed to the songs they played with big name acts like Black Sabbath, Vanilla Fudge and Rod Stewart.
This isn’t the first encounter the Appice brothers have had with Elon. A few years ago, Carmine Appice brought SLAMM!, a show described as a cross between Blue Man Group and STOMP, to Elon, and Director of Cultural and Special Programs Jeff Clark said he was excited to have the chance to work with the elder Appice brother again.
“I first worked with Carmine with SLAMM!,” Clark said. “It was a huge hit. It sold out, and we had a lot of requests to bring it back. We thought their new show had enough broad appeal, so we brought them back.”
In the spirit of classic rock shows, Clark and his team decided to create an opening act, so he reached out to Todd Coleman, a professor in the music department, to coordinate the act from Elon talent.
“Jeff Clark talked to me, and we had the idea to do an opening act, because rock shows do have opening acts,” Coleman said. “But we wanted a group representative of those traditional opening acts, but from Elon.”
Jack Garno, a sophomore music production and recording arts major, played guitar while Stephen Futrell, director of choral activities, served as lead vocals. Professor Jim Roberts, director of the World Percussion Ensemble, played drums, and Coleman played bass. The group played a half-hour set of only Led Zepplin songs to get the crowd pumped for the big show.
Coleman said Garno, the only student in the group, was a clear choice as an additional player for the opening numbers. Coleman also said Garno plays at a “professional level.”
The group’s high energy led into the main show, which was a spectacle of strobe lights and men in black leather. The performance’s lead vocalist encouraged people to flock to the front of the stage, recreating the atmosphere of a classic rock concert. While many remained in their seats, some older gentlemen who lived through the classic rock age took to the front, with more confident Elon students head-banging and dancing behind them.
The brothers had a drum war the traditional way, with drum sticks on a drum set, but the two were not afraid to improvise, even battling solely by tapping their drum sticks together. While this may have been a battle between two drummers, the brotherly support and bond was apparent to anyone in the audience.
Sophomore Kirby Vuocolo said she originally came out to Drum Wars to see Roberts open the show, but was pleasantly surprised by the show, especially since she did not know much about it.
“I have been to one show when they had a drum war in the middle, but that was nowhere near this intense or exciting,” Vuocolo said. “The other thing is that they seemed to have so much fun.”
This throwback rock show was only one of the many things the cultural and special programs department has planned for the year. Whether it be a classic ballet recital or two classic rock drummers battling it out, Clark said he wants people to remember that any of the programs that come through Elon are worth their time.
“Any art is worthwhile,” Clark said. “After that, it’s all up to individual taste. Rock ‘n roll is a part of culture, and these two guys have spanned the decades making music.”