Carriers of the drum

From the playa of Burning Man come The Loyd Family Players

SHAKE THAT THANG<br>The Loyd Family Players take over Chico’s City Plaza during Artoberfest.

The Loyd Family Players take over Chico’s City Plaza during Artoberfest.

Photo By Jason Cassidy

The Loyd Family Players perform Sun., April 26, at the Downtown City Plaza for the 30th annual International Festival (event runs 10 a.m.-4 p.m.), and perform later that night at Nick’s Night Club with DJ Arian and ORIGIN Tribal Belly Dance Troupe. 9 p.m.

So long as the Loyds play, there is much to celebrate. The way founding member Mike Wofchuck puts it, you want to be right up front at a Loyd Family Players show.

“Music is like making a tea,” explained Wofchuck. “As the musician you can boil that water, but you don’t have anything until people start dancing, until you drop that bag into the water. Then you’ve got something delicious.”

It’s true—when the massive drum-clad troupe steps to the dance floor with its entourage of eye-fetching performers, the room steams. It’s this exchange between the audience and group members that creates the rush of rare jubilance the Loyds share.

They have been known to draw people out to the streets with impromptu parades, or inspire go-go dancing and turn a street corner into a festival.

“When people dance it carries the experience to its full potential,” said Wofchuck, who goes by Honey-Wof Loyd in the group. “It’s an old idea to take rhythms that move you and play them on drums for people as they dance in the streets. It seems unusual in our culture because you don’t see it very often.”

The Loyd Family Players call Oakland their home, but the group’s members have come together from all over the globe. Wofchuck’s Chico roots, of course, go back to the early ‘90s, when he held the beat for the beloved Mother Hips. The troupe was born when Wofchuck and former Chico residents Sean Corkery, Shane Gabbard and Roberta Blake took their Brazilian drums to the deserts of Nevada. Raised for nine years on the dusty playa of Burning Man, The Loyd Family Players has continued to grow, drawing from a deep pool of cultures, music and history.

Now, depending on the day, the Loyds are made of 15 to 20 folks and three sections of Brazilian instruments. The Surdo bass drums, snares, and bells and shakers lasso West Africa with Drum ‘n’ Bass, samba, soul and Dancehall to a full second line procession, and let them run wildly in the same room.

“We are carriers of the drum,” says Wofchuck. “Samba is Brazilian street music, rooted in Africa with expressions of those cultures. We’re much the same way.”

Nothing is off limits for The Loyds. They are known for blazing punk-rock singalongs, giving big nods to Rage Against the Machine and, according to the group’s Web site, waving their big mouth with “tongue-in-cheek R&B covers.”

Among the group’s many influences—Gamelan X, Edinburgh Samba School and Sri Lankan-British siren M.I.A.—Wofchuck points to James Brown ("the Beethoven of groove") as a guide to proper conduction. “With the Loyds, we go to the bridge,” said Wofchuck with a laugh.

What brings the Loyds to Chico this time is something more than four shows wherever they are downtown, which they traditionally offer. They are here to spread their music beyond their brief visit by selling their new album to friends and new fans.

The troupe’s debut, The Loyd Life, has been in the winds for more than a year, but The Loyds have not shared it much beyond the Bay Area. Because of their deep roots and connections to Chico, the Loyds wanted to make their visit a special event.

In true form the Loyd Family Players will make the night a spectacle, performing alongside ORIGIN Tribal Belly Dance Troupe and DJ Arian.

It’s enough to make even the performers want to be part of the audience.

“I sometimes wish I wasn’t playing so I could dance,” said Loyd member and Surdo player Erika Hauskens.

The contagious essence of The Loyd Family Players may inspire grooving of many different flavors, but Hauskens makes one promise: “You will shake your ass off.”