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Blast off: Giant Bushwick band opens brass festival

Brassy: The massive L Train Brass Band will kick off this year’s Honk NYC brass band festival in Bushwick on Oct. 15.
Brooklyn Paper
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It’s an L of a band!

A massive Bushwick brass band will bring dozens of tubular performers to the kick-off party of this year’s Honk NYC festival, in Bushwick on Oct. 15. The L Train Brass Band counts more than 80 members, and about three dozen of them will blast an eclectic blend of Brooklyn sounds and sweet Mardi Gras music at the four-day fest, according to one of the group’s founders.

“It’s a weird Brooklyn spin on Mardi Gras flavor, and you can expect the unexpected,” said Ryan Hall.

The Bushwick resident started the group in early 2017, while working a dull but lucrative corporate job. Blasting the brass with a handful of others rekindled his love for music, which he studied in college.

“I found myself in early 2017 with a sizable bonus, and my wife green-lit my insane idea of buying a tuba and teaching myself how to play again — it had been 12 years since I’d last played it,” Hall said.

He joined forces with trombonist David Joseph, and soon they were rehearsing with more and more members in a townhouse basement in Bushwick. When the band outgrew that space, they took the show to Maria Hernandez Park, the nearest green space, where the music got more attention.

“People stopped and listened to us and some passers-by had block parties and invited us to march into that set up,” he said.

The band’s name comes from the subway line that many early members used to get to rehearsals, said Hall, as well as the train’s route through some of the hippest nabes in Kings County and Manhattan.

“The L train has this extra edge of weirdness because it goes through Lower Manhattan — that Lower East Side vibe — and then through Williamsbu­rg,” he said. “Basically it winds through the weirdest, trendiest parts of town and grabs all that culture with it.”

The band’s first big event was the 2017 Mermaid Parade in Coney Island, where its 18 performers discovered the possibilities of a bigger, louder group.

“I thought, ‘Wow, we can really have some fun with this brass band thing,’ ” Hall said.

In addition to Mardi Gras sounds, the band plays rhythm and blues, hip-hop, and pop hits, such as a polka rendition of Britney Spears’s “Toxic,” and a handful of originals, including the tunes “L Train Anthem” and “Bushwick.”

The group has grown exponentially since its performance at the People’s Playground, and is now inching towards 100 members, said Hall. It uses the social organizing platform Meetup — for which Hall now works — to organize regular rehearsals with anywhere from a dozen to 90 performers.

Hall said that each show is a fresh experience for the group.

“We never play the same song the same way and we love mixing it up,” he said.

L Train Brass Band at the Honk NYC Opening Night at Market Hotel [1140 Myrtle Ave. at Broadway in Bushwick, (914) 893–2843, www.markethotel.org]. Oct. 15 at 8 pm. $15.

And at Rubulad Brasstastic Blow-Out (in Bushwick, for address RSVP to brasstasticblowout@gmail.com, www.honknyc.com). Oct. 19 at 8 pm. $15.

Reach reporter Kevin Duggan at (718) 260–2511 or by e-mail at kduggan@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @kduggan16.
Updated 11:46 am, October 11, 2019
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