From August 5-8, No BS Brass, Richmond’s Manliest Band (as described by Style Weekly) set out on a busking tour. We drove, we played on the street, we drove again. These are our adventures, as told by Bryan Hooten, trombonist and usually successful navigator. After what would be our last full night’s sleep for a […]
From August 5-8, No BS Brass, Richmond’s Manliest Band (as described by Style Weekly) set out on a busking tour. We drove, we played on the street, we drove again. These are our adventures, as told by Bryan Hooten, trombonist and usually successful navigator.
Lance snaked the van through the neighborhoods of west Philadelphia until we eased to a stop on South Street, the area’s main drag. Pouring out of the van, clown-car style, we each went in search of liquid related activities. Reggie Chapman, our resident tea aficionado, found a hip coffee shop managed by a stunning and friendly attendant. As per his recommendation, almost all of us made a trip into the shop at least once during our time on South Street. Another group of us went in search of restrooms and found relief in a nearby fire station. The fire-fighters were equally friendly and curious about why we all had on the same shirts. Come to think of it, we were getting a lot of looks that said the same thing. We explained that we were in a band, an answer that always gets a smile and a nod.
Directly across the street from the fire department was an abandoned Subway restaurant, the perfect place for a busk. With blinding speed we retrieved our gear from the van, hurried to our spot and set up. Not sure how long we’d get to play before the cops or store-owners or neighbors would shut us down. By the time we looked up from the first tune, we were again surrounded by a crowd of smiling, fascinated people. It felt good to hear Reggie Pace speak over the bullhorn what would become our mantra for the trip:
“Hey everybody! We are the No BS Brass band and we’re from Richmond, Virginia!”
As we played though our set, the crowd grew, Marcus’ trumpet case filled with dollar bills, email lists were signed, CD’s were bought, stickers were handed out, and a good, sweaty time was had by all. Out of the corner of my eye, through the multiple tuning slides on Chapman’s bass trombone, I could see a mass of bike cops starting to form. They sat motionless, leaning over their handlebars, sunglasses reflecting the cityscape. At the end of the last tune a few of them coasted over to our corner. Were we getting a ticket? Were we being asked to leave? Were we in big trouble?
“Where are you guys from?”
“Richmond, Virginia. We’re on the way up to New York.”
“I really like your music. Can I get a CD?”
A few of us handled several different versions of this conversation with the cops and with the bystanders and we were once again encouraged by the response. Reggie even sold one of the officers a CD. After a few more minutes of hand-shaking and thank-yous, We packed up the van and went walking in search of the most sough-after of all Philadelphia cuisine, the cheesesteak.
While the rest of the guys piled into Jim’s for a cheesesteak, David and I found a killer falafel place around the corner. Over our dinner, we spoke, as men do, of the world and its people, of music and of growing old.
A post-dinner van-cruise looking for another happening place to busk didn’t turn up much and we decided to make our way to New York, leaving Philadelphia at 11:30pm. The drive up was largely uneventful until some combination of Lance’s driving and my navigation led us into Manhattan even though our directions had us passing below it to get to Brooklyn. Almost everyone in the band was asleep at this point so nobody really noticed the detour until we arrived at our destination at around 4 am. We stayed the night at our friend Josh’s apartment. Josh used to play with Richmond guitarist and bandleader Scott Burton in a group called Ones and Zeroes and now lives in Brooklyn, building guitars. The Richmond musical community reaches far and wide, but always feels like a family. Stumbling wearily in to the basement of the apartment that had been Glows in the Dark’s refuge a few weeks prior, Reggie Chapman and Reggie Pace found spots to crash on a couch and air mattress respectively while the rest of us spread out on the linoleum floor. Short as it was, that night contained some of the most efficient sleep of my life.