Even to those who regularly attend multiple outdoor music happenings on any given summer, the concept of a festival centered mainly on the musical element of percussion may seem a bit, shall we say, offbeat. "I guess it might, yeah," says organizer Garry Kvistad about the event, which will pound off at Andy Lee Field in Woodstock on September 12. "But in a way that's exactly the reason we do this: to offer and expose people to something they may never have known existed before. Besides being very high-quality, the music at Drum Boogie is very diverse."
Quality and diversity in music are two things Kvistad knows well. Both are signature aspects of his lengthy dual careers as a member of the renowned percussion ensemble NEXUS and as the co-founder and CEO of local manufacturers Woodstock Chimes. Drum Boogie is a free festival celebrating rhythm itself and the strikingly varied styles of music, dance, and voice from around the world in a family-friendly setting. In addition to a set by NEXUS (called "the high priests of the percussion world" by the New York Times), the program includes legendary jazz drummer and "festival anchor" Jack DeJohnette with bassist Matt Garrison and Gambian kora player and griot Foday Musa Susa; vibraphonist Joe Locke; Mandara featuring Valerie Dee Naranjo (Saturday Night Live Band, "The Lion King"); Aanadhha with Indian tabla player Dibyarka Chatterjee; Caribbean steel pan ensemble NYU Steel; Japanese taiko drum/American tap dance group Cobu; the Great American Fife and Drum Band; the Gamelan Giri Mekar All-Stars with special guests (authentic Balinese gongs, metallophones, drums, cymbals, and flutes, with Balinese dancers); the youth-populated POOK (Percussion Orchestra of Kingston) with Energy Dance Company; and, ending the percussive proceedings with a bang, Hudson Valley reggae faves the Big Takeover, who Kvistad says will be sporting an extra percussion player for the performance.
"[The festival's] very well organized and keeps growing, but it's not too slick or overly commercial," says Kvistad, a virtuoso on bells, marimba, glockenspiel, cymbals, drums, vibraphone, and other instruments who also performs with composer Steve Reich. "It's sponsored by local business and state arts grants, so it's very down-to-earth." In 2009, he and New York State Assemblymember Kevin Cahill established the festival, which takes place every other year to celebrate musical and cultural richness and present monies raised by the Woodstock Chimes Fund, a project Garry and his wife, Diane, created in 1986 to help area human services causes. This year at the festival, the Woodstock Chimes Fund will present a hefty check to Family of Woodstock, the donation earmarked for the charity group's domestic violence assistance efforts.
"Over the years, we've tried to retain [musical] elements that hold things together," Kvistad explains. "But, at the same time, we always try to give people a new experience to walk away with."
Drum Boogie will take place at Andy Lee Field in Woodstock on September 12 from 11am to 8pm. Admission is free. (845) 594-6518; Drumboogiefestival.com.