Boy Eats Drum Machine

October 16, 2008 Holocene Portland, Oregon photos by Jeff Dorgay text by Marc Phillips
Boy Eats Drum Machine - Portland, Oregon

If you’re still reluctant to acknowledge the musical skills of modern DJs and turntablists, a night with Jon Ragel might change your mind. As the lone member of Boy Eats Drum Machine, Ragel mixes his sampling wizardry via beatbox and turntable with live percussion, tenor sax and a voice strong enough to create a successful career without the digital accompaniments. Ragel is the 21st century one-man band, dancing wildly behind his equipment table, bouncing between his turntable and sax.

Ragel was at Holocene (one of Portland’s most progressive clubs) to celebrate the release of his new CD, Booomboxxx, reviewed in issue 18 of TONEAudio.  Ragel also has major prowess in the kitchen, baking dozens of cupcakes that were strategically placed around the bar.  His secret is placing a Junior Mint at the bottom of each one before baking.

And yes, I had more than one.

Opening acts Southern Belle and DAT’R revved up the crowd, but Ragel owned the stage when he arrived.  He has built up a substantial following among beautiful, hip twenty something girls. One of them screamed “Jonny!” at the stage and was visibly stunned when he calmly replied “What?” as if they were having an intimate conversation.

One of the advantages to these newer digital beatboxes is the ability to recreate a studio mix accurately in a live performance, and it was amazing to see Ragel produce the same urgent precision that was found on the CD. On songs such as “Planets + Stars,” “Demonic With Horns” and the strikingly original title track, I was able to anticipate every note and every sound effect. There were times, however, when Ragel allowed the mixes to build frantically and nearly implode, but he was always able to reel the mix back in at the last minute.  This created a palpable excitement through the crowd, who were notably impressed with the musical-yes, I said musical-talent of this mature and inventive new performer.