Can you imagine being the live drummer at some of the most important hockey games of the year? Pat Steward is the beatkeeper of Odds, who became the ‘house band’ for the Vancouver Canucks during the 2010/2011 playoffs.
How’d he get the gig? Did he wear gloves and set up his drums right there on the ice? Here’s what Pat has to say about an experience that was literally cool.
Before showing up at the game, we would pick a few songs with the media department based on where the team was in the standings. It was always hype-based, and usually about getting a win. We’d come up with a 30-second arrangement for each song, which became an in-game ‘hit’. We’d do one around 10 minutes into each period.
We’d also do a ‘puck drop hit’, which occurred in the 1-minute slot after the National Anthem performance. Elvis Costello did one with us, and so did Randy Bachman, Colin James, Paul Rodgers (Bad Company) and Rob Baker (The Tragically Hip).
When the Canucks were away in Boston during the finals, people could buy a ticket for $10 and go watch the games on the Jumbotron. We’d play on the ice during the period breaks.
I was on a Colin James corporate gig with Odds guitarist/singer Craig Northey when we got a call from Northey’s friend, David Levinson. He was a key man with the Feldman-Macklam management group, but his side gig was ‘DJ Dave’ at Canucks games, where you’d hear him do all these rockin’ hits and funny David Lee Roth type sounds. He thought it would be cool to have a drummer playing and hyping up the crowd.
I was originally brought in solo. I set up a small kit (bass drum, snare, hi-hats and cymbal) on a small rug in the vomitorium, the area at the top of the stairs where you walk in from the main concession level. There was a system of wireless microphones on the drums, and I used in-ear buds to communicate with the media people upstairs. We did “Wipeout” the first game. I would also play along to classic rock tracks, and they would sometimes fade the music and let me solo.
The following season, I was in at least two games a month. Levinson said, “If we make the playoffs, I think we should bring in the rest of your guys.” I said yes–definitely, let’s do that. But we moved out of the vomitorium for those games–it was going to be too hectic. After we did the puck drop, I’d put my kit on a cart and take it all to an area where I could just leave it there for the whole game.
It was a challenge to get from point A to point B during the madness of the first few minutes of play. Me, my kit on a cart, and the house tech would ply through the crowd. Pretty fun, but nerve wracking because the timing had to be just right. Once in a while, we’d have a challenge getting to our spot on time.
It was really great when we’d pull up to an area to set up, and dads would tell their kids, “Hey, there’s the drummer guy!” People were digging it.
A super high point was the night they brought in our good friend Rob Baker, guitarist for The Tragically Hip. I remember sitting on the kit in the crowd thinking, “Friday night. Canucks are up 3-1 against the San Jose Sharks. People are so pumped for this game and we are about to launch into ‘Little Bones’ by The Tragically Hip…they’re about to lose their minds!” Man, it was so amazing.
My favourite part was all the pre-show stuff – the prepping – because it was all so new and exciting. I felt like we were creating something that people were going to love. They did, and still do. It was very exciting during the 2011 playoff run to watch every one of those games from my drum kit!
Pat Steward is the award-winning drummer of the Canadian band Odds, as well as a busy session player and clinician. He has worked with musicians such as Bryan Adams, Jann Arden, Matthew Good, Colin James and many more. Pat endorses Sabian cymbals, Remo drumheads and Calato drumsticks.
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