Nanaimo drummer Mike Harrison with one of Neil Peart’s backup cymbals from Rush’s 2012 Clockwork Angels tour. (Photo courtesy Ashley Harrison)

Nanaimo, Vancouver Island drummers pay belated tribute to Neil Peart of Rush

Canadian Rock and Roll Hall of Fame drummer died of cancer at age 67 in January

A group of local and regional drummers is coming together to pay tribute to one of Canada’s most prominent percussionists.

Mike Harrison grew up listening to Toronto progressive rock band Rush and he said he was “gutted” when he heard about drummer Neil Peart’s death from cancer at age 67 in January.

“Even those who are not big rock or progressive rock fans recognize his talents and what he contributed to the drumming world and the music industry along with Rush,” said Harrison, who plays drums for Nanaimo band Korkscrew.

Harrison originally planned to stage a tribute concert back in March, but COVID-19 put a stop to that as venues closed their doors to prevent the transmission of the virus. This month, some of those venues are opening back up and on Thursday, June 25, Harrison presents the Vancouver Island Drum Bash For Neil at The Queen’s.

“I’m really excited that we can finally do this,” he said. “I mean we’ve had to make some serious adjustments to the show primarily because of limitations to capacity in venues … and some of the artists are unable to make it now. But we’ve been able to add a couple artists that couldn’t make it to the first show so in hindsight it’s worked out OK.”

Due to attendance limitations, the Vancouver Island Drum Bash For Neil is being split into two performances, one happening at 6 p.m., the other at 8:30 p.m., so more people can see the show.

Among the other drummers featured that evening are Phil Whipper, who will play a 10-minute Rush composition, Spencer Bowman, tackling one of the band’s “pop single-type songs,” said Harrison, and Victoria’s Keith Newman, a longtime member of Rush tribute band Test 4 Echo, who will play “two of the most complex songs that were ever put out by Rush.”

“When drummers think of Neil Peart, the collective thing that I get from most drummers is you think, ‘Holy cow, he’s got the biggest drum set in the world,’ and secondly is how musical his playing is….” Harrison said. “The musicality of his playing and as well the flashiness of his performance is what really stands out above a lot of drummers.”

WHAT’S ON … Vancouver Island Drum Bash For Neil takes place at the Queen’s, 34 Victoria Cres., on Thursday, June 25 at 6 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. Tickets $15 available in advance from Mike Harrison at mikethedrumguyharrison@gmail.com.


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