Directed by Justin Kreutzmann | Written by Kreutzmann and Kevin Lincoln | 93 min | ▲▲△△△ | VOD and Digital
As a longtime rock music fan I couldn’t help but enjoy swaths of Let There Be Drums. The presence of fascinating players like The Police’s Stewart Copeland, The Doors’ John Densmore, Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Chad Smith, former Van Halen bassist Michael Anthony, Ringo Starr himself, and the late, great Taylor Hawkins of Foo Fighters help provide insight into what makes drummers different from other musicians and why they’re often so individual.
And yes, they do discuss that most intangible of rhythm mysteries, “feel.”
What’s most interesting about it, I think, is when it digs into the home life, inspirations, and in some cases, traumas, of the children of rock stars — the offspring of Ginger Baker, Phil Collins, and John Bonham are all here, and they’re all drummers themselves. The filmmaker is himself the child of one of the drummers from the Grateful Dead — apparently they had more than one, playing simultaneously — though he stresses he’s not a drummer himself. As a child he picked up a camera rather than a pair of drum sticks.
I wish Kreutzmann had leaned more into this aspect of his film. What’s life like for the children of successful touring musicians, and did the fact their fathers were away a lot of the time encourage them to be more like their dads, to impress them, to try and earn their love? This is touched on very loosely here, but this material could’ve been a lot more engaging and emotional had he gone there.
But what ultimately scuppers this project is the narrowness of its cast — a parade of 95% white dudes. Naturally, as this is a rock doc, and classic rock is incredibly white and male, some of this is to be expected — but even with the wild talent assembled, the presence of the Heartbreakers’ Steve Ferrone isn’t enough to keep the whole effort from feeling as homogenous as milk.
When some of these dudes start going on about African polyrhythms, it’s just embarrassing. At that moment I felt sure the film was going to introduce us to someone like, say, the original funky drummer, Clyde Stubblefield.