I met Ryan via an ad that was typed on white paper and taped to a light pole at the top of a hill on the campus of the University of Arkansas.
I don’t remember exactly how the flyer read now, but essentially Ryan wanted to start a band.
I was a second semester college freshman who was getting used to living on my own and bored with the class/job monotony of my routine and so I called Ryan and he agreed to come pick me up outside of my dorm on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
If I looked hard enough, I might be able to find Ryan’s demo buried somewhere in the plastic cases and soft-shell binders full of CDs that I still own (and can’t seem to part with no matter the year or the fact that most of this music is much easier to access through my Spotify account.)
I remember it being mostly generic and acoustic and about girls (a particular girl named Sara actually.) But after an hour or two of strumming through each other’s compositions, Ryan seemed impressed with me enough to let me pass into phase two of his unofficial vetting process:
“Let’s go meet my drummer!” he said enthusiastically.
I should say that I was 19 at the time. Ryan was probably 22. I anticipated driving to some mediocre apartment complex or rundown practice space to meet this percussionist. Instead, Ryan navigated his black Honda out past the city limits and down a country road lined with large lots and pulled down a gravel drive-way to Phil’s house.
The house wasn’t huge, but it became apparent we weren’t meeting another college kid. Phil’s wife came to the door and yelled for her husband who was watching daytime TV. He yelled for us to come on in over the back of his recliner, so we ambled into a small living room and came face-to-face with a skinny, balding guy who had to be in his late-50s.
Ryan made the introductions and then prodded Phil: “Show him your set, man!”
So Phil got out of the chair and led us back outside, around the house and to a medium-sized shed. He pushed on the door and we walked into a makeshift practice space that held the largest drum set I have ever seen in person.
There were so many questions I wanted to ask Ryan.
First: Why was our drummer my dad’s age? And how did he meet this guy?
Second: How did Ryan envision his simple acoustic love ballads being supported by a drum set worthy of Neil Peart?
Third: Why did this guy have this many drums?
I couldn’t wrap my head around how this was the least bit marketable to local bands, let alone practical to cart around town to dive bars.
Phil got behind the set and proceeded to hit every one of those drums.
As you might guess, this band never materialized. I kept in loose contact with Ryan for a few years, but we never played music together outside of his house. And I have no idea what happened to Phil or his shed full of noise.
But I often think of this experience and wonder about it all. It reminds me of the Biblical story about the servant who takes the money his master gives him and buries it in the ground while his co-workers invest it and earn dividends.
And I wonder – what drum sets I am keeping in my shed?
What skill or talent or idea or passion do I have that I just keep in the backyard? Is there something I should be doing that I am not because I am too timid or maybe just too lazy?
2017 is almost here. It’s high time to drag out the drum set.