The Creative Capital has seen its share of high-powered street bands in recent years, with groups like What Cheer Brigade and the Extraordinary Rendition Band making their presence known at festivals and concerts. The latest band on the scene is the Providence Drum Troupe, put together in 2021 during the early days of the pandemic. “It was an organic creation,” says founder David Lee Black, a respected Providence artist and photographer. “Everyone was starved for creativity, and no one had any gigs, so I invited a couple of drummer friends to play, and we played in the park, six feet apart. We soon realized the public was also starved for creativity, so they cautiously emerged to check us out.”
The shows evolved into a regular weekly gig. “I have a lot of friends in the circus community, so we invited those lovable freaks, added a circus element, and it quickly became a vibe on the Providence pedestrian bridge. Families began to show up from as far away as Newport and Massachusetts. It kind of grew and they expected us to be there week after week,” notes Black.
The troupe is made up of an assortment of talented creatives, many with experience in activist street bands. Black describes them as “musicians, acrobats, flow art, life-size alien puppets, hoopers, lasers, and dancers from near and far.” But politics wasn’t the reason this band got together. “We quickly realized we were not an activist band per se,” says Black. “In fact, the country was and is still so divisive, with COVID, with Trump, with world affairs, people screaming at their neighbors, I really wanted to avoid that.”
”We are all different genders, skin tones, sexualities; it’s clear as day,” says Black. “We demonstrate, through power of example, that living together in harmony is not an antiquated notion. And that idea resonates with a lot of people. We try to connect creative forces for the greater good, partnering with Big Nazo and other groups.”
With regular shows scheduled around the region, the band has become a part of the fabric of the city. Don’t be surprised if you see different members of the troupe at different shows. The group is made up of over 30 players, although most gigs feature about half that number, “a rotating cast of characters,” according to Black. “I planned it that way; we have redundancy, so if one snare player can’t make it, then we have four others who possibly can.”
Since forming, they’ve received national recognition, traveling throughout New England and even to Austin in April to play Texas Honk, a street band festival where they joined dozens of others from around the country.
“We believe that if the city or state programmed more funky performances, there would be less crime,” says Black. “Who wants to fight when there’s a giant alien puppet walking by making weird sounds with a drummer?”
Find them on the Michael S. Van Leesten pedestrian bridge most Tuesday evenings. Learn more at ProvidenceDrumTroupe.com
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