Italians on the Streets

It's that time of year again, when feast season shifts into high gear! Italians around the world gather to light candles, sing songs, play music, and push random statues of various saints through the streets where they live. In America, these traditions tend to be strongest in neighborhoods where the old ways have been preserved. Despite my own Italian Catholic upbringing, I don't think I would be as aware of these events if not for my music. For me, they're just gigs, a way of making a few extra bucks while maintaining my hobby and one of my few talents. It means so much more to the crowds clamoring to touch the statue or take pictures of it, though from time to time the band does get recognition, and even a single “Very nice!” after a song is much appreciated.

We took on a new gig this year, which was technically an old one. The family that owns the statue and sponsors it moved from Brooklyn to Queens a few years back. I found the place easily enough, amazed by the street views Google™ now offers. Holograms are just around the corner, and I don't mean Jem's backup singers. I often wonder what people in some of these neighborhoods must think when they suddenly see flashing police lights and hear a brass band blasting outside their window at 8:00 on a Wednesday night. Still, good spirits are contagious.

Our snare drummer, the band leader's son, had his wife and 8 month old daughter with him. The bass drummer couldn't resist kneeling beside her stroller and beating off a bouncy rhythm, which everyone thought was really cute and not at all disturbing or dangerous to small eardrums. Later, when the procession was over, the mother would dangle the child inches from her father as he played a furious solo in the middle of the theme to Rocky. It actually made for a very cute picture that brought a smile to my face, but I was concerned that they were a little too close to the blur that was her daddy's drumsticks. But if the child retains her hearing, she may have a future in the family business.

Animals definitely weren't as fond of us as infants and old Italians. A woman cradled the tiniest kitten to her shoulder, and finally brought it inside when the drums began. Along the way, there was the occasional startled dog, and one boxer in particular came very close to dragging his owner into the street. She was a lot smaller than that dog and he eventually won the tug of war, thankfully after the light turned red and it was safe to cross. We finished our musical reign of terror after about an hour, which was fine for me since I have to be in Brooklyn by 8 AM on Thursday morning for another gig, followed by a return to Queens for part 2 of the job begun on Wednesday night. At this point, the band leader decided to give the crowd a few encores. I made sure to stress to both he and his son that weekday traffic wasn't going to be in my favor, to prepare them should I arrive late the next morning.

It's that time of year again. You'll hear certain music. You'll smell certain foods. And you'll know....you'll know....that my people are out there....


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