Check out this casual interview Jose did about the shop:

The jokes start flying when working musicians get together, often directed at the poor drummer, the person frequently at the low end of a band's hierarchy.

Q. So how do you know when a drummer's knocking on your door?

A. The knock speeds up and slows down.

That's a swipe at drummers who supposedly can't keep a steady beat, says Jose Medeles, owner of a Northeast Portland vintage drum shop that has gained an international reputation.

But the wisecracks end when people cross the threshold of his Revival Drum Shop.

The place is equal parts store, museum and hangout for drummers who can commiserate about living a subculture life, complain about egotistical lead singers and debate -- yet again -- whether Ludwig Drums were better than Gretsch Drums.

"There are very few shops like this in the United States," says John Moen, drummer for the Decemberists, the Portland-based indie rock group. "There are plenty of places to buy drums, but what you have here is a sense of community. I call the place my support group."

Medeles, drummer for The Breeders and his own group, 1939 Ensemble, has a résumé that includes gigs with a long and diverse list of musicians including Joey Ramone, Ben Harper, Donavon Frankenreiter and Mike Watt.

"All I've ever done is drumming," says Medeles, 40.

But as much as he loved performing, touring took a toll. "I was a road dog, on the road eight months a year," he says. "When my boy turned 2, I knew I wanted to stay home with my family."

At the time, Medeles and his wife, Allyson, were living in Los Angeles, where Medeles worked as a salesman at a high-end drum store when not playing. Years on the road had given him a chance to visit cities across the country. When it came time to pick a place to put down roots, he and his wife talked about where they should settle.

"I've been around the world a dozen times," he said. "I kept coming back to Portland, where I'd been through many times. It seemed the perfect place to call home."

The family headed north, settled in and nine months later Medeles opened the store. To stock it, he culled from his personal collection of drums.

"I don't want to sound like a crazy guy," he said, "but I had 30 sets."

He found the smallest commercial space he could rent in a small building and opened the doors in 2009.

"Not only was the economy terrible, I was opening a niche store," he said. "On paper we shouldn't have lasted six months, but I started selling right out of the gate."

Word spread in the local, regional and then national drumming community. In time, the store expanded -- Revival now occupies a large space in a building at 2045 SE Ankeny St. -- and Medeles has four employees.

"I'm not the kind of guy to be hanging around a drum shop," says Billy Martin, a professional drummer who lives in the New York City area. His jazz trio -- Medeski Martin & Wood -- has been around for 20 years and tours the world. In 2010, the trio played in Portland. Martin had heard about Revival, dropped in and found a different kind of store.

Medeles wanted to make a place where drummers linger. Two winged-back leather chairs are set up near the front door, and if visitors -- even non-drummers -- want to just sit and talk, that's fine. To give it a homey feel, he scattered a few oriental carpets on the floor and he has music from a variety of genres playing on the sound system.

The real stars are the drums, rows of sets -- about 25 for sale at any one time. An employee in a far corner makes repairs on an old snare. A wall features "orphans" -- a single drum -- and a display case holding items that are both odd and cool: an autographed photo from the great Gene Krupa, for example, and drummer Billy Cobham's lighter.

"Music stores can have a weird vibe," Martin says. "You get a lot of salesmen who are frustrated musicians. Jose's a drummer. The man's a star in his own right. What he's doing is bringing drumming to another level of appreciation. His place is like a gallery."

Although he isn't on the road like he once was, Medeles is still a drummer in demand. Last month he was recruited for session work and was flown to Los Angeles to spend two days working on a record for C.J. Ramone.  Next spring, his own group will be touring the West Coast in support of its new record.  Medeles said the drums he sells are all "player's drums."

"These drums have a certain tonal quality, great vibration," Medeles said. "These are the real deal. These kind of drums have been heard on thousands and thousands of songs."

Although he recently sold a set to a player in Australia, the majority of his sales are from across the United States.

Unlike the vintage guitar market where a Fender Stratocaster or Gibson Les Paul can command $20,000 or more, the most expensive kit at Revival is $2,500.

For his purposes, Medeles considers a drum set vintage if it was made and used from the 1930s to the end of the 1970s. These are the style of drums played by Charlie Watts of the Rolling Stones or the Beatles' Ringo Starr and drummers who made the kind of music that served as a soundtrack during a different era.

"Drumming is extremely primal," Medeles said. "It was the second instrument, the voice being first. Drums cut to our core. When you hear an amazing beat, it releases something in the brain. When I'm listening, I feel it and when I'm performing I see it happen in the audience."

The classic instruments, Medeles said, always win out over new.

Jose Medeles, drummer and owner of the Revival Drum Shop in Northeast Portland, has expanded the store since it opened in 2009.
"I drive a '63 Buick LeSabre," he said. "I don't care how many miles per gallon a Prius gets, it's never going to be as rad as my car, which was just a common car, the kind a vacuum cleaner salesman drove."

While he carries a line that makes new drums in the vintage style, Medeles mostly offers used sets.

He scours the country and buys them from people selling them off. Once a year, he and a friend make a cross-country tour in a van, ending up in Chicago for an annual drum show.

"We hit the back roads coming and going always looking for drums," he said. "And we have four pickers out there looking for us all the time."

He said five professional drummers, three in Portland on tour with various groups, all happened to meet up in the store in early November.

"Everyone was just swapping stories and laughing," he said. "It's all about the connection we have."

He wandered down an aisle and rested his hand on a drum kit.

"Oh, the drama all these drums have seen," he said. "The stadiums and bars they've played in. The arguments they've witnessed between band members."

He gently tapped a cymbal.

"They have soul," he said. "I'm sorry, you just can't mass produce that."


Article by Tom Hallman Jr. of The Oregonian.

Photo by:  Ross Hamilton



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