Published: September 30, 2008

Trendy is as trendy does

Trend-spotting is a fairly recent phenomenon. The practice has accelerated in our media-rich, cyber-linked modern world. Oh, one may quibble that even early humans tracked trends . . .
 
“Memo to self. I note that those go-getter Cro-Magnon (or is it Cro-Magna? I always forget) are expanding into the countryside in droves, while we more dull-witted Neanderthal dwindle in number in our caves. I smell a trend developing and will begin keeping notes in my journal to test my hypothesis on the potential likely outcomes . . .”
 
Such quibbles aside, recent pipes|drums articles and blogs support the trend toward watching trends: 
  • The trend to synthetic pipe bags and drone reeds
  • The trend back to the use of cane reeds and sheepskin bags
  • The trend to self-designed tartans by bands
  • The trend to larger bands (larger numbers of players, not necessarily larger players)
  • The trend to smaller bands (smaller numbers of players, not necessarily smaller players)
  • The trend to over-reaching by players of instruments that should support the pipes who . . . ouch . . quit hitting me, Currie! . . . Hoss! . . . geez . . .
  • The trend to supplant Glengarry headgear with the resurgent Balmoral ***
(***note: trend spotting is not always a precise craft; there’s at least as much art as science involved)
 
The close reader of pipes|drums is aware that accurately predicting future trends is a bit trickier than noting trends as they occur (see the above reference to the ascendance of Balmorals). What trends do you see on the horizon?
 
 
Brought to you by . . .
December 2008
 
Toronto – pipes|drums has learned that the Bank of Northumbria – Toronto Branch – Pipe Band has effected a change in sponsorship. Beginning with the 2009 competition season, Finkbeiner & Sons Attorneys (with offices in Toronto, Mississauga, Oshawa, Pickering, Ajax and Peterborough) will sponsor the band, which will change its name to the Finkbeiner & Sons Attorneys Pipe Band.
 
Pipe-Major Ralph “Big” Deal said, “We’d like to thank the Bank of Northumbria – Toronto Branch, for their many years of support. We part on good terms. We thought a change in direction for the band’s image was important at this time, and Finkbeiner & Sons Attorneys are positioned where we need to be in our . . . idiom. No disrespect to our former sponsors – it’s just one o’ them piping deals.”
 
In a related story, pipes|drums has learned that John Doublegold, winner of multiple major solo prizes, and a decades-long player with Grade 1 bands, but who lately lacked major personal product endorsements, was released from the Finkbeiner and Sons Attorneys (formerly Bank of Northumbria – Toronto Branch) this week. Mr. Doublegold’s departure from the band coincides with the addition to the band of Joey Finkbeiner, a 14 year old prodigy. “We wish John well, and welcome Joey to the band” said Deal. “Our practice hall only holds 70 pipers, so when we get a new player, someone’s gotta go.”
 
pipes|drums confirmed that Joey Finkbeiner’s father, Art, is the founder and lead partner of Finkbeiner & Sons Attorneys law firm. P-M Deal added that neither this fact, nor Mr. Doublegold’s lack of a personal sponsor affiliation, factored into the actions. “It’s just one o’ them piping deals,” he stated.
 
 
Eight is the new black
February 2009
 
Toronto – In an exclusive to pipes|drums, Bill Livingstone, Pipe-Major of the Grade 1 Scottish Lion-78th Fraser Highlanders Pipe Band, has announced that the band will field minimum-sized corps to start the 2009 Ontario competition season. PPBSO competition rules specify that Grade 1 bands must have a minimum pipe corps of 8, and a drum corps of at least 1 bass, 3 sides and 2 tenors.
 
“The minimum-sized corps will do much more to highlight the tight technique and impeccable unison playing of which our extraordinarily-talented players are capable,” said Livingstone. “And while the band has long been known for challenging established convention and pushing the musical boundaries of pipe bands, we’re traditionalists at heart. This change represents and pays respect to our roots in Ontario, when we had seven or eight Grade 1 bands with smaller corps.
 
“Thirty pipers is so two years ago. Besides, all the cool kids are playing smaller pipes corps,” he added.
 
Contacted for comment, Ian MacDonald, Pipe-Major of the Toronto Police Pipe Band, responded, “Welcome to my world.”
 
 
Do as I say, not as I do
August 2010
 
Glasgow – If Kilty Pleasure sponsors a band, it is customary for the band to be outfitted in kilts, day jackets, hose, etc. from – Kilty Pleasure. If Headbang Drums sponsor a band, one certainly would not expect to see Whack It brand heads on the bass drum. Consequently, a major scandal has erupted around one of the top Grade 1 bands concerning alleged use of products from a competitor to the band’s sponsor.
 
It came as shocking news when multiple witnesses discovered Roddy MacLeod’s use of Tone-a-Rama chanter and drone reeds during his performance at the Todd Bar recital earlier this week. MacLeod is, of course, Pipe Major of the “all-star” World Championship contenders the Club Street Police Project Region & District Caledonia Pipe Band Experience (formerly Spirit of Scotland). As a prominent solo competitor, MacLeod has recently been associated with Blow Hard chanter and drone reeds, and secured financial backing for the band from Blow Hard. An extensive print and web-based advertising campaign highlighted MacLeod’s and the band’s use of Blow Hard reeds in competition.
 
The scandal has turned into a public-relations nightmare both for Blow Hard and CSPPR&DCPBE. Sales of Blow Hard reeds have stopped cold, and it is rumored that MacLeod will be asked to resign from the band prior to Saturday’s World Championship.
 
pipes|drums has learned that young amateur pipers, who stated they use Blow Hard reeds based on MacLeod’s and CSPPR&DCPBE’s endorsement, broke down crying in disbelief. Allegedly, one young lad in attendance at the recital was visibly distraught, weeping at MacLeod’s feet after his performance and repeatedly crying, “Say it ain’t so, pipey, say it ain’t so . . .”
 
 
BLOGPIPE: Side-effects may include . . .
October 2011
 
Welcome to the era of “enhanced performance.” Welcome to the era of the “tainted” win. Performance-enhancing drugs are now the norm in our idiom. As in sports, it seems inevitable that piping-related organizations will be forced to create drug policies, drug testing will become mandatory, and heated arguments will ensue regarding whether or not Pink Cow Energy Drink should be banned as a “performance-enhancing drug.”
 
Of course, the various societies and won’t address the Pink Cow question, since it is the “Official Energy Drink” of the RSPBA and corporate sponsor of the Scottish and World pipe band championships and the Northern Meeting. Leaving that aside, what about the rest of it?
 
Angus Bonds had achieved some solo success at the odd games in Ontario, and he was a solid Grade 1 band player. But he had never been mistaken for McCallum, MacColl, Livingstone or Lee.
 
Beginning in the summer of 2009, Bonds became a major factor on the boards, his crunluaths and toarluaths crisper than a freshly-popped bag of microwavable Orville Redenbacher Butter Light. He swept the Ontario professional piobaireachd contests that year, clearly earning recognition, if not a few raised eyebrows. Subsequent invitations to the “big contests” netted sweeps of Oban and Inverness the next two years, raising suspicion among Bonds’ competitors, the piping public, groupies and hangers on.
 
A recent test mandated under the PPBSO’s trial drug-testing policy, ironically adopted at last year’s AGM, allegedly has shown Bonds to be taking beta blockers (apparently to soothe his nerves), andro and steroids (to strengthen his bottom-hand work) – and enough Pink Cow to stock Lord Todd’s bar for a World Championship fortnight. “I knew he didnae look right – his hands looked like a rugby player’s, and the veins popping oot o’ his heed all of a sudden,” noted one former Gold Medallist (who insists he himself is “clean”). “And ‘is heed got HUGE . . .”
 
Bonds is the first – he won’t be the last. Others will come under question – were their wins “legitimate,” were they “juiced” when they won the big one, do their achievements warrant an “asterisk,” are there any “free range” competitors left? Where does it all end?
 
 
Solidarity forever
May 2012
 
Edinburgh – The recently-formed union of tenor drummers (Worldwide United Percussion Workers Union Party, or WUPWUP) completed negotiations today with most pipe band societies and associations worldwide. The ceremonial signing of the “master” collective bargaining agreement with the RSPBA brought an end to months of conflict and disturbances in major metropolitan areas in at least 20 countries.
 
Speaking from in front of a smoldering mound of burned tires that had blocked the entrance to Edinburgh Castle, WUPWUP President Scott Currie stated, “This is a great day for trade unionism, a great day for tenor drummers, and a great beginning to the proper representative of Scottish music, the Tenor Drum Band.”
 
Details of the agreement have not been released, but pipes|drums has learned that the agreement includes: 
  • Recognition of the union as the sole promoter for highland games worldwide
  • Expansion of band-section recognition to include Best Upper Tenor, Best Middle Tenor, Best Lower Tenor, Best Tenor – Other
  • A change in corps sizes to a minimum 12 tenor drums, 4 side drums, 1 bass drum
  • A maximum of three pipes, globally striking references to “pipe” bands, which will now be referred to as “Tenor Drum Bands.”
President Currie noted that, “Putting tenor drummers in the forefront of Tenor Drum Bands is long overdue. The union leadership and I are sorry it took work stoppages, blockades, boycotts, browbeating and naval engagement to resolve these matters, but the fault lies entirely with the intransigent, establishment, bourgeois bag-blowers who have for too long repressed the common man. The ends justify the means, right is right, and this is just right . . . quick march.”
 
Representatives of the vanquished and discredited pipers union remained sequestered in underground bunkers and were unavailable for comment.
 
 
Get schooled
July 2012
 
We’ve commented in pipes|drums over the years on the boorish habit of some pipe . . . Tenor Drum Band members wearing sunglasses in competition. It has been a rare occurrence up to now, apart from the fashion tragedies noted by Style Guy.
 
However, due to the dramatic expansion of personal-endorsement contracts from sunglass manufacturers with pip . . . Tenor Drum Bands over the last two years, nearly every member of such sponsored bands wears sunglasses in competition. But there are many more pi . . . Tenor Drum bands than the various sunglass companies can support.
 
We are beginning to see a counter-trend, prompted by the daring actions of Stephen MacNeil, Greg Pearson and James Stewart of the Windsor Police Tenor Drum Band. At last year’s Chatham Highland Games, MacNeil, Pearson and Stewart (part of a 20-person pipe corps at that time, and who now comprise WPTDB’s new maximum of three pipers due to the recent WUPWUP union settlement) entered the competition circle sporting black smudges under their eyes in the fashion of Canadian and US football or baseball players. The idea has caught on. Recent adopters have stated that their use of eye black is a protest against the “commercialization” of Tenor Drum Bands. Some have gone further, suggesting that the black smudges are analogous to the face paint romanticized in the movie “Braveheart,” thus linking them with Scottish history. Historians cringed.
 
Such groups are becoming known as “old school” Tenor Drum Bands, and they are beginning to generate a cult following.
 
Is this the next trend – or counter trend – in Tenor Drum Bands? At this point, the paying public seems largely not to care, knocking back another Pink Cow Energy Drink (Official Energy Drink of the RSPBA), oblivious to the distraction and wondering when Paddy O’Rafferty’s Jig Merchants will begin their first set at the beer tent.
 
 
Full moon fever
August 2012
 
In horrible weather conditions, the House of Edgar-Shotts and Dykehead Tenor Drum Band won its umpteenth World Tenor Drum Band Championship Saturday. Since its move to a venue outside the Todd Bar at the Strathclyde University campus several years ago, the contest has seen increasingly creative and entertaining displays by the competitors. This year was no exception.
 
In the medley portion of the contest, Band Leader Scott Currie led HOESAD into the competition area in a Treble Clef formation performing their renowned musical tour de force “The Planet Earth – A Song About Everything in the World, Including Man’s Inhumanity to Man, and Such Like.” The band from there formed a circle facing the audience – standing on their heads! How their kilts stayed around their legs I’ll never know.
 
During the climactic reprise of the haunting theme sequence, the band’s three pipers returned to their feet, turned their backs to the audience and leaned forward abruptly, causing their kilts to fly up and display undergarments that read “HOESAD RULES.”
 
Asked about his feelings on the band’s winning performance, Pipe-Nothing Rab Mathieson stated that he personally found it “liberating.”
 
Perennial contender Simon Fraser University was a close second, the mid section performing perfect unison jumping jacks during the MSR as Band-Leader Reid Maxwell threw candy into the crowd.
 
A surprising and well-earned third was earned by Band Club Sydney, who took the daring, newly-minted “Roo Hop” toward the audience and back into formation midway through their “Sand, Sharks and Bruces” medley performance.
 
On a tragic note, all three pipers from the Club Street Police Project Region & District Caledonia Pipe Band Experience Tenor Drum Band were killed during a severe electrical storm during the qualifier. This brings to 78 the number of pipers killed by lightning in the past three years during pish-weather contests. The incident renewed calls to ban silver and other metals from being used to ornament bagpipes. Oddly enough, no calls were heard to stop playing during lightning storms.
 
 
pipes|drums under new management! New site name coming!
September 2012
 
We are pleased to announce that pipes|drums has been acquired by the Worldwide United Percussion Workers Union Party (WUPWUP). The online forum will now be run by Craig “Hoss” Colquhoun. Craig is of course a long-time, world-class Tenor Drum Band drummer; he also plays “civilian” drums for the Neil Peart Legacy tribute band in the Kincardine, Goderich and Grand Bend, Ontario area.
 
Craig Colquhoun stated, in an interview with himself, that “I am grateful to Scott Currie and WUPWUP for the opportunity to broaden the voice of bass, tenor, snare and other drummers with an established forum. We’ll be expanding the site’s coverage of drumming-related matters to meet what clearly are our subscribers’ desires.”
 
Scott Currie, WUPWUP president and Band Leader of the World Champion HOESAD Tenor Drum Band, stated that, “WUPWUP are pleased with this latest development in our quest for world domina . . . our quest to promote Scottish music, recognize performance excellence, and expand the influence and knowledge of tenor drumming in particular.”
 
pipes|drums founder Andrew Berthoff was not available for comment, and is presumed to have left to pursue other interests.
 
You will see some changes to pipes|drums, beginning with the site name, which will be changed to www.drums|drums|more|drums|only|drums.com. Arrangements to launch the URL are being finalized.
 
Additionally, My Sporran will be changed to My Shell, Blogpipe will become Stick(y) Notes (get it?), and Set Tunes will be binned and replaced with Alex Duthart Scores for the Millennia. We’re also adding a new section, Drum Salutes of the Rich and Famous and other Auld Tyme Favourites. Finally, Harry Tung’s bleatings will be replaced with the comedic stylings of the hilarious duo Ed “Rat” D’Attat and his stuffed toy “Boom Boom”! “Rat” D’Attat, “Boom Boom”! Who says drummers don’t have a sense of humour!
 
We trust that you will enjoy these updates. We’ll continue to move drums|drums (etc.) forward to better reflect the realities and journalistic needs of today’s proletariat….er, subscribers.
 
I just write what the Magic Eight Ball and Ouija Board tell me.
 
Remaining Faithfully Yours,
Joel Kimball
September 2008
 
Joel Kimball is between bands and instruments, having recently been persuaded by “dreams and night terrors” to ditch 30-plus years of piping in favour of the drum. When not practicing his latest musical avocation, he earns a living as a bourgeois manager in the automotive industry.

6 COMMENTS

  1. Joel; I want to comment on this statement from this statement from the article: The trend to over-reaching by players of instruments that should support the pipes who . . . ouch . . quit hitting me

  2. Dude (IRM) — get a sense of humor, man! You bass sesction folks are way too wound up!!! I thought Joel’s article was hilarious. Keep up the great work!!!

  3. Oh Man I can’t believe I haven’t read this till now. Leoj Llabmik your getting freakier with age! Freakin’ Hilarious, To all that took offense, LIGHTEN UP!

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