Our April/May 2023 Combined issue cover - featuring the Trash Panda Brass!"We were all really chill that day, and I remember thinking to myself that everything was really coming together. That section of Spadina just north of College where the street splits is an iconic spot, hidden in plain sight. We all know it but how many of us know what it is? I learned that day that it’s U of T’s Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design, and I think it’s one of the most spectacular landscapes in the city." — Conrad Gluch, photographer

“Trash Panda” is a made-up name for raccoons - those resiliently liminal creatures who have fun playing with anything they think might be tasty. Some performers have musical appetites like that.

Ever since the jazzy, New Orleans-inspired Heavyweights Brass Band burst on the Toronto scene around 2009, there’s been a delightful emergence of scaled-down, really fun small brass bands who can perform unamplified almost anywhere: retooling the art of busking into a kind of amazing musical outdoor ambush, or heading indoors at the drop of a microphone! These bands include the likes of Big Smoke Brass Band, Juicebox Brass Band, the Eighth Street Orchestra and Bangerz Brass to name just a few. Typically these are ensembles of 5-8 versatile musicians, with a magic combination of serious playing chops and huge appetites for fun. 

Enter Trash Panda Brass

In their own words: “We’re here and we’re Queer! Only having hit the streets in June 2022, Trash Panda Brass is a new and exciting voice in the Toronto brass band scene. Comprised of six queer U of T graduates, Trash Panda Brass is on a mission to diversify the brass scene, promote inclusivity and bring welcoming energy to all. In an effort to bring music and joy to as wide an audience as possible, Trash Panda has primarily focused on busking at various locations in and around downtown Toronto, but are also frequently seen playing at various festivals and private events …”

Their members include gay, bi, lesbian and transgender performers, who work brilliantly as a unit the way close friends do. Formed during the pandemic, and now working on a debut recording, they make a splash whenever and wherever they play outdoors - often on Queen West or across the street from the ROM. Several of their members also work, or have worked, together at Drom Taberna in Toronto where the Queen West and Kensington neighbourhoods intersect. Like several of these bands currently on the scene their repertoire includes (but is not exclusive to) reinventing songs of their generation like Katy Perry’s I Kissed a Girl and Firework, Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance and Dolly Parton’s 9 to 5.

In addition to performing in the College Street Jazz Festival’s Grand Finale Concert on Sunday, April 23 at Revival Event Venue (see Colin Story’s Mainly Clubs on page 32), The Trash Panda Brass Band also has Toronto performances (one at the aforementioned Drom Taberna and one at Supermarket on Augusta Avenue) on April 1 and April 7.

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Author: mj buell
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