I love the public displays of creativity here in New York: artful fashions, street performers of every ilk, and people just generally letting loose. You never know what you might see around the next street corner. This is especially true downtown. Though I have a special place in my heart for the Upper East Side, I do find that this is probably one of least “random” and more predictable quadrants in Manhattan.
So I was delighted this past Thursday night to stumble upon something wholly unexpected. I was on my way to meet up with a friend at Vespa on Second between 84th and 85th. This restaurant has solid Italian fare, but what really keeps me coming back is the quaint, bi-level garden out back and that adorable polka-dotted Vespa parked out front.
I was rounding the corner at 86th street when I saw a tuba bouncing along above the heads of other pedestrians. The tuba is remarkable to begin with. The way it winds around its owner makes it look like a thick brass snake with a big solitary ear for a head. Soon, the instrument stopped moving and started playing directly in front of the sidewalk diners at Mustang. The tuba was at first accompanied by drums and a trumpet. A few pedestrians, including myself, stopped to watch the trio, and some of the diners started bee-bopping in their seats.
A couple measures in, the long-haired, goatee-ed trumpeter swapped out his instrument for what looked like a megaphone and started singing in a style that was part Louis Armstrong, part Tom Waits, and (due to the megaphone) part construction site supervisor. Just as the customers were really starting to get their groove on, the funky trio was on the move again. They stopped briefly down the street for the benefit of the outdoor guests at Swig who were equally entertained by the impromptu entertainment.
Before they continued their parade, I caught up with them long enough to snap some quick pictures and find out that they call themselves the Stumblebum Brass Band, comprised of Jesse Wildcards on tuba (also called a sousaphone), Smidge Malone on trumpet and vocals, and Jonny Ballz on drums. They praised the Yorkville/ Upper East Side area as a great family neighborhood. Jesse Wildcards said that as of right now, they “travel all over the city but hope to one day travel all over the world” with their music. To hear them and see some of their upcoming gigs, visit their myspace page here. Or just keep your eyes and ears open as you round that next street corner…