Saturday, June 22, 2019

Xymox, Melissa and the happy ending: an epilogue

Here's what I hope will be the final word on my Xymox pad order.

First of all, Melissa at Xymox deserves a raise, a double end-of year bonus, and a month's paid vacation for fortitude in the line of fire. The fact is that, while Xymoz has become a juggernaut of popularity among the modern marching community, they operate a very small front office consisting of basically one person, who is handling basically every email and phone call of inquiry (most of which begin, "dude, where's my pad?" and grow more irate from there).

I ordered my pad last September and forgot about it for awhile. That is basically what I'd advise anyone ordering a Xymox product to do. If you can handle that, then you can handle ordering from Xymox.

When my 12" reserve snare pad arrived in late spring, I noticed it had an issue that I could not fix myself.
So I contacted Melissa, sent her photos and together we concluded that what really needed to happen was for me to send it back for repair or replacement. However, I had a big tour coming up and was not prepared to pay return shipping on this heavy an item; so I suggested the best course would be for Xymox to send me a return postage label and I'd ship it back in its original box.

By a few days before my tour, and after several emails to check up on it, the return postage label never came. plus, I was still waiting for the other product I'd ordered, a small travel pad which I'd hoped to take on tour. That wasn't going to happen, so I was worried.

Melissa came through again. Go on tour, she said, and keep the old pad to give as a gift or resell; and by the time you get home a new replacement pad, plus your travel pad, will have arrived at your home free of charge.

And that is exactly how it went down. I arrived home very late last night after a 18-hour travel day, to find a Xymox box waiting on the dining room table. I slept in, woke in time for lunch, and after putting in the laundry I checked it all out.

Below are photos of the old pad, along side photos of the new replacement pad. The small differences seem very interesting, and because of the volume of manufacture I cannot be sure which features are actually newer or older. In addition, you'll notice that the laminate is white, not gray, but really that is a tiny quibble I won't worry about.

1. The original pad, which I received in early May. Note the smaller non-skid pads on the bottom, and the fact that the "lug bolts" (which don't actually affect the sound at all) do not show on the bottom:

2. The replacement pad, which has go-through "lug" hardware and larger, thicker non-skid padding on bottom. The snare panel is also a different color, but again, whatever.

The new pad sounds actually totally fine and great. The increased bounce that comes with the older-style laminate feels much better to my hands and offers slightly more "give" than the newer, fine-weave style. It plays exactly as it should, and the issue with the snare mechanism in the original pad does not exist here.

Bonus: My not-quite-matching travel pad arrived in the same box, and it is every bit as intriguing and useful as I'd imagined it might be. While I'm sorry I didn't have it in time for this tour, it will fit easily in my bag on future trips, and will serve my purpose well. It's a fine-weave laminate glued/epoxied to a 1/8" rubber surface, which makes for an interesting playng surface. While not an ideal every day pad (these little travel models generally never are), it's fine for a handy drumming companion while I'm on one of my singing tours, or when I have bike errands to run and want to take a little chopping break on the park.

The truth is twofold: If you want to but Xymox producst, recognize that they're made Somewhere Else, and that the tiny office staff of one is doing her level best to provide answers and information as fast as she can obtain it. Secondly, the best advice for how to deal with the Xymox wierdness is to order it and then forget it for many months; find another pad to see you through in the meantime. Finally -- and I cannot stress this enough -- when you deal with an office staff of one, mind your manners, even when you have a complaint or concern. As my mother of blessed memory often reminded me, there's no excuse for bad manners because good ones cost nothing to learn.
In this case, that's sage advice. And so, if Xymox ever comes out with a new product that really, really piques my interest, I will order it and forget it -- perhaps for up to a year -- and amuse myself with other things in the meantime.

Happy chopping!

Monday, June 10, 2019

chopping on tour: all you need is a pad

Heading out very early in the morning for my singer-songwriter thing, on tour back east.
I have to pack light since I'm lugging a guitar. So my carryon bag will be just a basic messenger bag, and it has to hold everything that I'll ned to access quickly, including my sheet music, meds, electronics and, well, a pad and sticks.

So I'll be bringing my basic homemade pad with me on this trip.
It's smaller than a full-sized pad, but big enough to sit still on a table top.
And it fits nicely inside my messenger bag with a pair of sticks.
See you when I'm back, kids! Happy chopping!

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Scenes from HONK!Fest West, Seattle

Last weekend, I went up to Seattle for two days with the Unpresidented Brass Band, to join with dozens of other street/DIY cmmunity bands for the Honk! Festival.

It was my introduction to the worldwide Honk! network of bands, and I had a marvelous time.

Friday night. My drum was locked in my friend's trunk so I started things off by playing on a fire hydrant. It sounded interesting and sort of cool, but playing on iron was hard on my hands after awhile.
I was glad to get my drum out eventually.

The entire festival was filled with the sounds of music from over two dozen community bands from throughout the Pacific Northwest, coming from British Columbia, Washington, Oregon and Northern California. The repertoire choices varied greatly, and each ensemble had its own unique visual style. Held up alongside some of the more punk-influenced outfits, were were definitely leaning towards the old fart side of things, but people genuinely enjoy every set we played.

Above: Bass drummers from two different bands had no difficulty agreeing on a beat.
Below: A slightly more fleshed-out drum line. Three different grip styles. No judgment.

Below: My favorite band at Honk! - Chaotic Noise Marching Corps, Seattle. Rough, raw and loud, the way a punk marching band ought to be. Drum Corps geeks: note the homemade ISO on the right. It sounds kinda crappy but you definitely hear the snare.

Saturday afternoon, last of three sets we played that day. With the sun going down, things had cooled off enough for me to don my band jacket in the shade, though the shako was still too hot and heavy to wear.

I had a fabulous time and cannot wait for the opportunity to go to another Honk! event.
Thanks to friends of the band, we got a little video while we performed at the festival. I'm gonna toss these up here and let folks pick and choose and enjoy.
Friday night. No warm-up, some members got there with about five minutes to spare.
Adrenaline helped:

Saturday afternoon, first set. It was too hot and unshaded for me to wear anything but my band t-shirt.
Still, we survived. And we made people dance and laugh, which means success:

If UBB has an opportunity to go back to Honk! next year I definitely want to go. It's a great celebration of music, community and can-do spirit that can inspire us all in so many positive ways.
Honk! is a worldwide network of bands and festivals and I knew nothing about it until this spring when one of our members suggested we go. I'm very glad she did.