HEAD-BANGIN’ PRODUCTION OF FUN, HUMOR, AND COOKIES…!
by Frank Ariveso
"ROCK IT, YEAH!"
“Junk Rock” is what the band calls it, but be prepared, it’s the best junk rock you’ve ever seen or heard.
This is not your typical Vegas show! As the curtain rises, the sound of heavy drums and the music of Styx’s “Renegade” is heard from the ceiling way above the stage. The four band members are playing drums upside down! At first you think it’s a trick with mirrors, but no, slowly they descend in their harnesses, banging away with abandonment on their drums. This is just the beginning of many stunts and routines that you have to see to believe. Everything can and will become an instrument for them to play on. Pots, pans, a stepladder, garbage cans, power tools, a van, and even their bodies make music – combining pop, heavy metal, punk, hip-hop and good old rock ‘n roll into what they call “junk rock.” The band shows their incredible athletic ability as they jump and dance around the stage, all the while keeping the audience in the palm of their hands.
Recycled Percussion is an unexpected big production of sound and lights. Rock ‘n roll fans will truly appreciate its heart-pounding, booming concert sound – far from the whimpy volume levels in some of the shows geared toward “grey-heads”. This show is a must-see, bringing out the inner “headbanger” in all who love to ROCK!
“They are an unprecedented combination of extreme percussion, engaging humor and extraordinary athleticism,” says their new producer, David Saxe. “Recycled Percussion is exactly what the future of Vegas entertainment is all about. It’s exhilarating to work with guys who are crazy enough to try every hysterical idea I throw at them. They are so clever and talented.”
The group came to Las Vegas in 2010 after taking third place on the national television show, “America’s Got Talent”. Third place was the highest ranking on the show for a group that doesn’t sing or dance. Recycled Percussion’s founder, Justin Spencer (known as the “world’s fastest drummer”), and his percussive band mates, Ryan Vezina, (drums and body percussion) Matt Bowman, (guitar/percussion) and Jason Davies (DJ/acrobat/percussion) make up the rhythmically talented troupe. The group kicked off 2013 with a permanent show at The Q Theater at The Quad in Las Vegas.
“I’ve always had a love affair with drums,” claims Spencer, whose dad was a drummer. While he and his father were in New York City, Spencer saw a few urban kids drumming on some five-gallon buckets in the subways. He took the idea and ran with it, and in 1994, it was the beginning of Recycled Percussion when Spencer decided to round up his cousin Ryan Vezina (another drummer), and a couple of friends, and perform for a talent show at their local high school in New Hampshire. They were a hit, and soon other schools wanted the band to perform for them. One thing led to another and their shows went on to the college circuit where they became quite the sensation. Spencer dropped out of college (where he had aspirations of becoming a lawyer) and decided to follow the entertainment path. After 10 years of touring colleges, they appeared on “America’s Got Talent”. Because they didn’t sing, dance or do a comedy act, they had to be creative and come up with another wow factor. Spencer added: “If it wasn’t for the experience of having a couple really creative ideas going and thinking that ‘we can do these things,’ I don’t think we’d have the same impact here in Vegas that we’ve had.” Now with the help of producer David Saxe, more money has been put into the production with the addition of $400,000 put toward their spectacular light show.
Before you enter the theater, you get to choose from a variety of bowls, pots and pans and then you choose a drumstick. You use the newfound instrument to bang on when you applaud, or just to keep with the beat of the band members. Each band member has a color given to them, and each pot or pan is assigned a color, too. Spencer is “Team Red”, Ryan Vezina is “Blue”, Matt Bowman is “Black” and Jason Davies is “Green.” Then, as the band members battle for title of the “supreme drummer,” the audience beats their pots according to their team color, showing support for their favorite. Loud and fun!
“When we came to Vegas, we wanted to break down the barrier of performer and audience member,” Spencer explains. “We thought the coolest thing to do would be to give everybody that comes into our show a drumstick and recycled instruments – anything you can imagine. We give out hundreds of these things every night, and drumsticks, and let the crowd perform along with us, with instructions through multimedia and video screens. It’s one of the things that makes our show so unique.”
Along with all the drumming and stunts is an added surprise of humor in the show. It not only involves the band members, but also volunteers from the audience. The audience is totally involved with the guys at this point and laughing not only with them, but also at them. It also gives the members’ arms a few minutes break from what must be an exhausting performance on the drums. Then, to everyone’s surprise: “Totally Random Cookie Time” – warm chocolate chip cookies are passed out to the crowd. Warm cookies, too?! I loved this show!
Truly talented, the two cousins, Spencer and Vezina, play their drums at rapid-fire speed. When Spencer was asked if he was the world’s fastest drummer he replied: “There are a few people that claim to be the fastest drummer and I have just taken the high road and said, ‘You know what? There is no way to really measure this.’ For years and years, it was a claim to fame for about half a dozen of us. It got competitive and controversial. At the end of the day, it just comes down to an opinion, and it shouldn’t really be something where one person should hold that title. For many years that was what we used though. It was a great marketing tool and it has certain legitimacy to it. There are a lot of guys that’ll be like: ‘I can play something really fast for 19 seconds.’ Another guy can go, ‘I can play something really fast for two minutes.’ It’s just a matter of, if I say, who is the fastest guy in the world, the marathon runner or the sprinter? They couldn’t do each other’s job, so we’ll just say that I’m really f*cking fast.”
While performing stunts, such as jumping off ladders backwards and drumming all the way down, using power tools and metal grinders to create sound and sparks, it’s like an athletic event with music. Spencer claims: “We’ve had broken bones, ankles, fingers, a nose, and I got hit in the eye hard with a drumstick and then had blood in my eye for the entire show.” To keep in top shape, each guy spends at least 90 minutes in the gym daily or we mountain bike or train to stay strong.”
The end of the show is a grand finale of memorable songs – an evolution of music from oldies to classics that they label: “Top 10 Best Ever Songs” – songs from Elvis, KISS, The Beatles, and of course, Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody, bringing the audience to their feet singing and dancing.
Spencer is a humble and appreciative musician, and in an interview with Steez Magazine said: “If you told me 10 years ago we’d be doing a multimillion dollar deal in Las Vegas headlining, I would have laughed, because I was playing drums for free lunches at cafeterias in high school. You have to believe in what you’re doing and stay the course. It takes time, but you’ll be surprised how people abandon that course ahead of time, when they have no idea what the future would have ended up like. It doesn’t get better than headlining in Las Vegas, it really doesn’t.”
Justin Spencer has developed Legacy X, a program to help others reach their dreams and conquer their goals. It was started, Spencer explained, to educate people and lead them to live their lives to the fullest, while executing their passions and creating their own Legacy. This past 2013 Christmas was the first Legacy X Toy Drive. After collecting toys and finding families in need, Justin and the Legacy X team drove around the valley on Christmas Day to personally deliver the collected toys. For more information, visit: LegacyX.com.
Recycled Percussion rocks the house down six nights a week, Saturdays through Thursdays at 7:00pm inside The Showroom at The Quad Resort and Casino. RecycledPercussionShow.com • RecycledPercussionBand.com