Best gimmick since 3-D!
You might be a little skeptical going in. Ticket-buyers for the Recycled Percussion show in the MGM Grand's Studio 54 nightclub are issued a drumstick and asked to sift through trunks to choose an old pie pan, bucket or assorted junkyard scrap to bang on.
Those already hip to these noisy veterans of the college circuit will be happy to dig in. Others might be thinking, "Carrot Top never made us do this."
And the skeptical won't be encouraged by a long video prologue that tries to separate the crowd into color-coded teams and lay down complicated rules of engagement.
But, at least on media night last week, beating on stuff led to the happy opposite of competition. The color segregation went out the window in no time, and the chance to drum along became a common-bond, communal investment in a show that would have been, well, pretty thin just to sit and watch.
Recycled Percussion defines itself as a band, but they don't ever really settle in to play like, songs and stuff. Instead, two drummers hammer along to guitar and DJ riffs on homemade drum kits that attach real cymbals to plastic garbage tubs and the like (hence the name).
Most of it lands in a spotty area between exhibition drumming and performance art along the lines of "Stomp" and Blue Man Group.
The nightclub setting works in terms of atmosphere. But it also rules out big props such as drum walls and the tricked-out van seen on the group's national TV breakthrough, "America's Got Talent." On media night, Recycled didn't even have fire-inspector approval to use the sanders, grinders and other spark-generating industrial tools they showed off on TV.
Still, you get four guys women will be happy to watch, all of them determined to spread a contagiously good time. Founder Justin Spencer and Ryan Vezina do most of the drumming. Unlike the Grateful Dead, they don't save the two-drummer duet until the second set, but go for it right from the top.
They also drum on their own bodies and juggle sticks hurled from the audience by guitarist Jim Magoon and emcee/DJ Todd Griffin. The big stunt is their synchronized climbing of two big stepladders, playing the steps all the way up and raking them on the shortcut plummet down.
There isn't much more in the way of visual excitement. But the guys keep it going with clowning and the sheer primal power of rhythm, punctuated with occasional breathers on the video screen. (The best, where they start playing '80s A-ha on their iPhone aps, is worthy of the live action.)
The strong finale compensates for a lot of padded spots that lead to it, with everyone pounding along to a medley of categorized rock hits: One-Hit Wonders, Confusing Lyrics, Songs That Make You Horny, etc. (The group Hanson keeps showing up on the video screen.) Like the rest of the show, it was a lot more fun when you hammer along.
The drum-along gimmick brought to mind one of Penn & Teller's Showtime exercises in debunking, where the duo savaged hypnotist acts. Penn Jillette marveled that it's the only genre in which the audience entertains itself.
These junkyard dogs may have expanded that, to the ultimate in recession-era resourcefulness.
Contact reporter Mike Weatherford at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0288.