The popular Venice Beach Drum Circle has done away with the bongos and embraced the digital age. This week the group, which meets every Sunday just before sunset, announced that it has replaced traditional instruments with a collection of smartphones and Rock Band drum kits.
Ariel Coriander, who describes himself as the group's de facto leader, despite "not believing in the concept of leaders," wants to assure people that even though they've modernized, the circle's core values remain intact.
"It's not, like, The Matrix or anything like that," he says over the phone from his parent's house in Mar Vista. "We're keeping a very '60s vibe, but, like, bringing it into the 20th century, you know?"
Other group member's reactions ranged from "stoked" to "totally electric."
Yet not all members were pleased with the changes, and a couple drummers have left in the wake of the restructuring.
"What's a phone? It's like a box. The whole reason we're here is to think out of the box," protested one member who preferred to remain anonymous for fear of "seriously harshing people's mellows" and would only identify himself as having been an extra in The Big Lebowski.
This past Sunday was the circle's first drum-less session, which, viewed from the distance of the boardwalk, looked like a strange interpretive dance. But up close you could see them tapping away on their tiny screens, earbuds firmly plugged into their Google smart phones (iPhones are prohibited, as Apple is considered a criminal organization).
The group has partnered with an independent Venice software developer to create an a new app called EZ Drumma, in which hitting a drum requires only the touch of a screen. Users can choose from various types of drums, from snares to congas, and then select the manner of drumming through one of many user-generated filters, such as "bitchin'" or "like Ringo Starr on quaaludes." Coriander, for one, is glad he no longer has to lug his djembes in and out of his parent's basement.