Dweezil Zappa performs at the close of day one in the Sweetwater pavilion.

Sweetwater GearFest 2017 Draws Record Crowds and Sales

The 2017 edition of music retailer Sweetwater’s GearFest trade show and festival was held this past June at the company’s corporate headquarters in Fort Wayne, Indiana. The event broke every attendance and sales record set by the festival since its launch in 2002, and featured manufacturers’ exhibits, clinics, demos, performances, and a musicians’ flea market. Special guests included Terry Bozzio and Omar Hakim, and drumsets owned by Bozzio and Eric Singer were on display.

“One of the most exciting and humbling experiences I enjoy every year is personally greeting thousands of our customers at the front door as they arrive,” Sweetwater founder and president

Chuck Surack says. “Their enthusiasm for Sweetwater and GearFest is astounding, and they really appreciate our incredible employees and their personal, caring, and welcoming interactions with each and every attendee.”


Vic Firth Joins in Global Make Music Day Celebration

This past June 21, the Vic Firth company gave away hundreds of pairs of sticks and sponsored drumming workshops in plazas and parks nationwide in celebration of Make Music Day. Participants included kids and adults, professionals and amateurs, and the event ranged from structured classes to free-flowing bucket-drumming circles. Held every June 21 since 1982, Make Music Day is part of the international Fête de la Musique, a free festival taking place in 750 cities across 120 countries.


Who’s Playing What


Dom Famularo (educator, author, clinician) is using Promark drumsticks.

Lenny Castro (Toto) and John “JR” Robinson (studio) have joined the Innovative Percussion family of artists.
Corey Fonville (Butcher Brown, Christian Scott) and Wendell Holmes Jr. (Ryan Follese) have joined the Yamaha artist roster.

In Memoriam


John Blackwell Jr.

As we went into production for this month’s issue, the Modern Drummer staff was saddened to hear about the passing of John Blackwell Jr. on July 4. In a social media post, Blackwell’s wife, Yaritza, announced that the forty-three-year-old drummer passed away peacefully in her company. Blackwell played with Prince, Patti LaBelle, Justin Timberlake, and D’Angelo, among many others, and made educational drumming contributions with multiple instructional videos. Look for our feature tribute to John in an upcoming issue.


Kim Plainfield

This past April 8, renowned player and educator Kim Plainfield passed away unexpectedly at the age of sixty-three. Plainfield was known and respected by a significant number of players, especially those who grew up, studied, or worked on the East Coast, where he mentored hundreds at Drummers Collective, SUNY Purchase, and Berklee College of Music.

“Kim was particularly sensitive to people who came to Drummers Collective who were socially or economically disadvantaged,” former student Tom Maynard says. “It was nothing for him to give a student money who may not have had anything to eat, I being among them. At times Kim would take time out from his busy schedule and work with students who needed help—for free! He was more interested in motivating his students to succeed in life, not merely self-gain.”

A fierce defender of fusion music, Plainfield told Modern Drummer in an August 2007 feature interview, “Fusion is music where the majority of the best musicians play; that’s what they want to do the most. These are the best players in the world. The drummer has more control over the music than anyone else. Therefore you have to assume the responsibility as the drummer.”

And Plainfield walked the talk. During his career he recorded several albums with the famed fusion artists Bill Connors, Tania Maria, Didier Lockwood, and Bill O’Connell, as well as Night and Day with bassist Lincoln Goines, all of which were platforms for his relaxed yet intense jazz-rock, funk, Latin, and fusion playing.

Plainfield was born in Berkeley, California, and moved to New York City when he was twenty-two years old. He wrote two well-regarded method books, Advanced Concepts and Fusion: A Study in Contemporary Music for the Drums, and at Berklee conducted a seminar titled Positive Performance Thought. “I wanted to address the psychological health of the performing artist,” he told Modern Drummer. “The seminar deals with performance anxiety, lack of confidence, fear, paranoia—all these different dynamics that creep into the life of the musician. Every musician has to deal with it, and I’ve seen the worst.”

Plainfield will be sorely missed, not only for his ability to teach the mechanics of drumming, but also for his humane and generous approach to passing the knowledge on to future generations.