Both Cade Slattery and Ivan Salazar were still young kids when they decided to heed the beat of a different drummer — in about as literal a way as you can imagine.
The two performers and former locals are now key cast members of “Stomp,” the percussion-centric stage phenomenon that gets its ensemble pounding on everything from trash cans to steel pipes to giant inner tubes to their own bodies.
But it all started when they happily found themselves in the orbit of Chris Rubio, the longtime East County percussion czar who has shepherded legions of upstart drummers through his Junior Crew, part of Rubio’s wide-ranging Arts in Motion organization.
Their experiences a decade or so ago with that troupe and with Rubio, a longtime “Stomp” performer and the show’s former rehearsal director, have taken the two friends on a path has included long stints with both the show’s off-Broadway production and its touring version.
And now they make a long-awaited homecoming, as the “Stomp” road show lands at San Diego’s Balboa Theatre this week for its first local visit in some seven years.
Looking back on when he first heard of the show, Salazar — who grew up in Tecate, Mexico, before moving to San Diego with his family — admits he thought it sounded “kind of cheesy and lame.”
Then he saw the thing. (At the Balboa, as it happens.)
“When I watched it, (I realized) there ‘s something very visceral about the show,” Salazar says. “Maybe it’s just the vibration you get from hearing the bass go through your seat and into your body.
“They like to say it’s a show for anyone, because we don’t speak, we just use physical language and comedy that anyone can understand and relate to.
“In a lot of ways, it feels a little primitive, but it’s also grounded in music. I haven’t met a person who says they don’t like music. So if we do a good job, it gets people bobbing their heads and getting into it.”
Salazar, who has been with “Stomp” for more than four years now, primarily plays the role of Sarge, who serves as more or less the show’s lead performer.
Slattery, who joined “Stomp” about two years ago, has been portraying Mozzie, the show’s comic relief and the main antagonist (in a playful way) to Sarge.
He’s a character “the audience is kind of rooting for,” says Slattery, who also has played the role of Ringo, a shy but lovable character who interacts with the crowd.
The production has 12 cast members altogether, including three women, although only eight people are in each performance because the show’s physical demands mean everyone needs frequent rests.
Both Slattery and Salazar sound excited about their return to town — San Diego’s burritos and beaches are high on their to-do lists.
Both also look forward to seeing family and friends — although distance didn’t stop Slattery’s very proud mom from previously packing her son’s five siblings into the car and driving to see him at a performance in Arizona.
Salazar, a marching-band drummer in his school days, lets his excitement ring as loud as the crack of cymbals (or a pair of trash-can lids).
“I get to perform with one of my oldest and best friends, and we’re at the helm of the show,” as he puts it. “It’s very otherworldly and very crazy for me. I know it’s going to feel like a little bit of dream.”
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday; 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday; 1 and 6 p.m. Sunday.
Where: Balboa Theatre, 868 Fourth Ave., downtown.
Tickets: About $60-$95
Phone: (619) 570-1100