“Tommy was just a phone call,” drummer Nathan Hubbard tells the Reader during an interview at his Allied Gardens home. Hubbard will be channeling Keith Moon for three weeks in the Moonlight Amphitheatre’s production of the Who’s 1969 rock opera. “Or, actually, it was a Facebook message. It’s never a phone call these days.”
After a week of rehearsals, Tommy is in production. Hubbard didn’t grow up with this music. “You know, honestly, I don’t know if I’ve ever sat down and listened to the whole thing. So, for me, when this opportunity came, I thought it would be totally fun, because I don’t know anything about that. Keith Moon has always sort of boggled my mind; it never made any sense. It’s not a technical thing, because he really doesn’t have any technique at all. So I thought it would be a good thing to get in there and play that music, and try to play it like Keith. It’s funny...after the first rehearsal, the french-horn player got up and moved to the other side of the stage because I’m letting it all hang out — I mean, it’s the Who, right?
“So, I’ve just been spending a lot of time listening to not so much Tommy but listening to Who records in general. Not to play exactly like him, but to get that spirit. I mean, I’ve spent years working with pads and a metronome, and I don’t think he had any of that. I’m pretty sure he couldn’t play a ‘buzz-roll’ to save his life. But who cares? That doesn’t even matter, because what he did in that context is perfect, and I love that.”
The drummer/percussionist scored the gig without an audition — perhaps because this isn’t his first time around in musical theater. “Oh, God, I’ve done a ton of shows,” says Hubbard. “I’ve done at least one show a year for the past 12 to 15 years. It’s not the most glamorous thing, but it’s an interesting work situation. This is pretty much an opera...I mean, it’s singing the whole time. The first time somebody talks without music behind them is in the second act. As opposed to some shows where you play a little glockenspiel, sit down for five minutes, and come back and play two triangles. Wizard of Oz was kind of like that. Tommy is, like, two hours of music, straight through.”
Hubbard is excited about playing things outside his wheelhouse. “There’s a certain sloppiness to good rock drumming, but to try to play like that, there are things I have to remind myself not to do — so it’s been an interesting challenge.”
Anything he wouldn’t touch?
“I love playing music, but I’m not a real country fan. I’ve never done a country-western gig. It might be fun once or twice, but I’ve never gotten a call for anything like that.”