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Sunday, June 22, 2008

Putnam Parade: A real life BK Drumline
the written account

I'm frequently lucky enough to fall into interesting things which is one of the main reasons I created this blog. My favorite of these experiences are the kinds of things that can only happen in Brooklyn. For example;

It was late, near midnight and I was making my way home, down Fulton St. Seemingly out of nowhere I heard a series of booms. I couldn't decide whether the sounds were thunder or yet another hyperactive set of car speakers. Although there were clouds in the night sky, there was a syncopated flow to the pounding percussion that suggested another sonic source. Ahead of me at an intersection stood a group of teenaged girls. They were standing, jabbering and alternating between looking at each other and pointing across the street toward something I couldn't see. As soon as traffic cleared the girls, giggled and sprinted across the street. By now I was at the intersection too, and that's when a series of "BOOMs" exploded.

What I saw was a crowd of people standing in a bumpy semicircle around the corner store at the intersection of Putnam and Grand Avenues (basically several inches away from the corner of Putnam and Fulton streets for those any trying to picture the location) And I have to say with a little embarrassment that my comprehension of the scene were totally confused. It was night near midnight to be exact. The focus of the crowd gathered seemed a corner store of the type familiar to anyone who's experienced New York city streets on a more than few occasions.

With its solid loud san-serif lettered awning whose primary colors (mostly yellow) express their inventory of unfortunately frequent street staples of beer soda and cigarettes, it's bulletproofed 24 hour service window and outer walls covered in weathered ads for Newports, these types of corner stores are far from upscale markets and at the same time they are vital spots in many neighborhoods that don't have better options. Also unfortunate is in many neighborhoods, these stores are the backdrop for street drama and street crisis often resulting in street crimes.

I have witnessed scenes with crowds like the one I was watching half circle the corner store on Putnam and Grand, and usually when I've these scenes have played out, there was no reason and nobody to smile.

So I was confused because because as I looked around at the faces gathered, everybody was smiling, and the booms were now vibrating over all of us. And I thought,"is that a helmet on that kid? Is he, wait, are all of these kids in uniform? Then the symbols hit me. Not actually, but crashing symbols will snap the presumption out of almost anything. And just like that it became clear. Dressed in silver helmets with blue plumage the style of Roman Centurions, instruments and dancers to boot; the assembled crowd was watching a group of Brooklyn teens performing as a fine marching band and they were putting on a show.

The marching band is called:The Approaching Storm
"The Only Southern Style Band in the North/East"
I hung out for about thirty minutes. It was marvelous, really.
The kids went through their routine with one break that I saw.
Their Band leader, a brother I later met by the name of Sergio (above in red) conducted their music while giving them instruction executing their choreography.
When I asked Sergio why his band was out in the streets near midnight, he explained that the had just come from a meet where they won yet another title, this one in North Carolina. (Their charted bus was parked across the street) Sergio was from the area and wanted to bring the kids back to share their music and victorious mood with the block. As Sergio told me, "People don't think anything good comes from these kids and I want these kids to show what they can do." IMG_3825.JPG
The kids looked coolly focused one moment, silly and laid back the next, and overall when they looked at their audience of happily surprised passersby the marching band seemed highly amused and reveling in their spotlight such as it was. Thanks to a constant barrage of camera flashes (mine included) the band's motions were momentarily illuminated and then lost in the alternating street shaodws to dance-clubesque strobe lighting.
But in addition to the impromptu audio visual sensations, what was just as marvelous was to see the crowd of obvious brooklyn new-comers (flip-flops!) crowding elbow to elbow with seasoned block elders and corner kids. Everyone was so enwrapped by the unlikely magic of a full marching band owning a Bedford-Stuyvesant street corner at midnight that they seemed sincerely unaware of how their own often unrelatable lives had converged happily into a magical mutual experience.

1 comment:

  1. nice composition with cute little girl in white dress...


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