Besides all the jokes about drummers, the biggest drawback to being a drummer is the drumkit. A drumkit is both expensive & not easy to transport between gigs. Then it requires setting up and dismantling. For a street drummer this is clearly an obstacle. Fortunately, for drummers with sufficient skill, there is a solution: 5 gallon plastic buckets!
Buckets stack together for easy carrying, and you can even store your sticks inside! Nonetheless, while drumming is one of the oldest music forms, performing as a solo drummer takes talent. Music reviews are filled with comments about embarrassing drum solos by established drummers on expensive kits. Then there is Gordo, who captivates on buckets.
Australian-born Gordo has travelled the world playing buckets. He has played as far away as Saudi Arabia, before moving to Japan to brush up on his Japanese (he is fluent). Of course, he busked with buckets to help support himself in Japan. 10 months ago, Gordo relocated to South Korea to improve his Korean, with some valuable visa assistance from his South Korean brother-in-law. Clearly, Gordo is an interesting and engaged young man, and it comes through in his seriously impressive street shows.
Gordo is not the first person to busk with improvised drums. Perhaps the most acclaimed street percussionist is the late Moondog, who was known as the Viking of 6th Avenue, NYC. When it comes to plastic buckets, it is a fellow New Yorker, Larry Wright, who is regarded as the first major drummer to take plastic buckets to the sidewalks. He used his foot to raise the primary bucket to vary the sound. This is a technique that Gordo shares. The young gun learned from the master! Here is Larry Wright:
Wow! No wonder street bucket drumming has taken off. It doesn’t hurt that Larry Wright has appeared in commercials and music videos, including Mariah Carey’s “Someday”. He was seen in the movie Green Card (1990) and he was featured on the CD Ritual Beating System by Bahia Black (2016), produced by the renowned Bill Laswell.
As mentioned, the practicality of bucket drumming doesn’t directly translate to great performances. YouTube is filled with bucket drumming videos that are too shabby to even be amusing. Larry Wright and Gordo clearly put in the required practice before hitting the streets. Moreover, they are gifted drummers with great timing. Commenting on Gordo’s video, Sanman95, stresses this point, “Proof that you don’t need a $5000 drum set to be a drummer, you need TALENT”.
Notably, Playing for Change, a non-profit organisation that makes excellent videos of top musicians from around the globe collaborating on covers of significant songs, praises Gordo’s skills in a comment: “This guy’s amazing, there are a lot of videos on youtube of people doing things that are similar to this but this guy blows most of them out of the water!”. Playing for Change has 2.93M subscribers and an astonishing list of participating artists (any short list would be an injustice, so we’ll link Playing for Change below), hence this praise does not come lightly.
One last point. Many of the viewers of Gordo’s dynamic bucket drum video mention the bird that appears at 0.38 and appears to be bobing its head to Gordo’s beats. It’s a delightful moment in an impressive video that has notched up 204M YouTube views.
Oh, I nearly forgot. What do you call someone who hangs out with musicians? A: A drummer. (Sorry Gordo and all the other fantastic drummers out there). If you want to see more from Gordo, you can subscribe to his YouTube channel or follow him on Facebook