SXSW 2020 FILM FESTIVAL REVIEW! Professional drumming has been typically regarded as yet another field dominated by men. Lindsay Lindenbaum’s heartfelt documentary Tomboy focuses on four female drummers, each representing a significant generational paradigm shift. Akin to a drummer herself, Lindenbaum nails each beat, taking us on a bittersweet journey through history while introducing us to lively, engaging, and extremely passionate personalities.
Former Motown percussionist, the legendary Bobbye Hall, also played conga drums for the likes of Marvin Gaye and Bob Dylan. Now residing in the stark desert landscape of Joshua Tree, she throws a nostalgic, wistful glance at her career. She remembers how “nobody ever saw me,” as the “men were the face of the music.” “You don’t sound like a woman playing drums,” she recollects people telling her. Lindenbaum follows her to Detroit, where Bobbye donates four handmade, Hitsville-era congas, a tambourine, and a shaker to the Motown museum.
“…focuses on four female drummers, each representing a significant generational paradigm shift.”
Then there’s the self-proclaimed titular tomboy, Samantha Maloney, who toured with Hole and Mötley Crüe (her childhood dream come true), playing in front of 80,000 people. “Like the moon controls the tides, I was controlling the way the audience was moving,” Samantha cooly states in her beautiful Los Angeles home, where she seems to lead an idyllic existence with her dog. She’s certainly come a long way since her tumultuous childhood. “Instead of punching walls, I beat the hell out of my drums,” she remembers. Yet, despite all the achievements and accumulated wealth, something haunts her deeply.
“You can’t afford to make mistakes,” says Chase Noelle, a New York resident and drummer for the all-girl trio BOYTOY. “Guitar players make mistakes. Singers make mistakes. But when a drummer makes a mistake… everything else falls apart. You’re the foundation that everything sits on.” Chase has always wanted to be a boy, even using cardboard toilet paper rolls to pee standing up when she was a child. Now she’s in a relationship with a girl in her band, so her life tends to get complicated, as unadulterated creativity clashes with intimacy.