Fifteen years ago, Maria Breyer was a 20-year-old drummer performing on the D.C. club circuit, and Ann Hairston was a 19-year-old who was just starting to play the drums despite her parents’ objections. One night, Hairston saw Breyer perform and asked her to jam. “I think I gave Ann one of her first lessons,” Breyer recalls. It wasn’t much later that Hairston began her own career as a drummer, playing with bands at d.c. space and the 9:30 Club. Over the years, the two lost touch, but both kept playing. Eventually, Hairston joined D.C.’s False Face Society and later, Annex. Breyer moved to New York, where she formed Rhythm Express.
Just over a year ago, both successfully auditioned for the gritty percussion spectacle Stomp. “We started rehearsals in the middle of June,” says Breyer, a native of Brazil whose family lives in Northern Virginia. “We just looked at each other and screamed. We hadn’t seen each other in years.”
Stomp is the dream gig for the postmodern drummer. Hairston and Breyer revel in the nightly happening, a chic, urban, post-punk revue born of the imaginations of onetime English street buskers Luke Creswell and Steve McNicholas. The show is as exhilarating as it is demanding: Every night, the cast makes primal, exciting music with garbage cans, brooms, lighters, matchboxes, oil drums, and the proverbial kitchen sink.
“In the New York cast, there are a lot of drummers, an actor, and some dancers,” Hairston said. “The dancers ask us how to count, we ask the dancers how to spin. Stomp is punk art at its most literate, classiest. All I do to go to work is put on overalls and a T-shirt, and all I need to make music is some brooms and tools.”
Both Hairston and Breyer have taken a hiatus from the New York production to join the current engagement at the Warner Theater. There’s no question that appearing in Stomp, which is now touring all over the world, is a great boost for those traveling the tough career path of the female drummer. “Now there’s a fad of looking for women percussionists—Lenny Kravitz has a woman drummer and so does Bonnie Raitt,” Breyer said. “But it’s still a long, hard road for most of us. That’s why this is so sweet. CP