Kitchen Sink Too

Busking drummer keeps the beat despite the law

He learned to manage a standard trap set beginning at age five, working his way up as a drummer in his high school stage band. But it was during a two-week trip to New York City, to visit his cousin Larry Wright, that he learned how to play for money. He was nineteen at the time. Larry was fourteen and on the verge of being discovered by a variety of musicians and filmmakers, including Spike Lee and jazz drummer Max Roach. A year before Thrown's arrival, Wright had made a name for himself banging on buckets in Times Square. "My cousin was like, “I'm going out to make some money; I'm gonna play some drums in the street,'" remembers Thrown. "We got all the way down to Times Square and he says, “We gotta get some buckets.' And I said, “Buckets! I thought you said you knew how to play the drums.'

"“Yeah I know how to play the drums on buckets,' he said, and I was like, “Oh, I got to see this!' So he gets the buckets and starts playing on them -- brrrrrr bap! prrrrr dap! -- and all of a sudden people start coming around. I seen all the money dropping in the bucket and I said, “Wow, I could do that!'"

When Thrown headed back to Boston, he schooled himself in his basement in the art of getting the maximum sound quality out of buckets and discarded kitchenware. He checked out a local Boston busker who played bongos to find out how much he made. He knew he could do better. "The first day I made $100, and that was it," he declares. "I said, “I'm giving up crime.'" It wasn't easy going at first, but gradually he earned credibility among the city's law enforcers, garnering a favorable reputation for his training of inner-city youths in the art of street drumming. Two years ago he came to Miami for Super Bowl weekend and was seduced by the weather. "On the weekdays during tourist season, I'll struggle," he says. "I'll make $80 or $100 if I'm lucky. It's just enough to get by. But on weekends I can make double that."

Steve Satterwhite
Steve Satterwhite

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Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays

On weekend nights he haunts Lincoln Road, Ocean Drive, and Washington Avenue

In front of the entrance to the Miami Cultural Center at West Flagler Street and SW First Avenue

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Although Thrown still laments the run-ins with the law that led to the loss of a complete set of cast-iron pots and pans and his prized professional-musician's cymbal, he is enjoying a brief reprieve from harassment. The City of Miami Beach has declared a moratorium on issuing citations to buskers until after December 22, when the city commission will consider a proposed street artists' ordinance. For now the beat goes on. Until the municipality fashions an outdoor music policy that allows for Thrown's street approach to music, he remains perched on that sharp and slippery edge he knows too well.

On Halloween, protected by the spirit of the pagan holiday, Thrown balanced gracefully along that cusp between legitimacy and lawlessness. Hundreds of revelers formed a circle around him in a spontaneous dance macabre to the drummer's high-energy grooves. A squat group of aliens with enormous heads wiggled wildly. A diva with an astounding black mane shook her rump. Goblins, robots, pirates, and all manner of Miami's raised dead formed a party line that wound a repeated circuit around the kitchenware drum kit. Wearing a ghoulish mask, Thrown kept a significant expanse of Lincoln Road spellbound with his driving beat for more than an hour. As some dancers tired, others came to fill their place. Thrown accommodated them all, bent long and low over his kit, refusing to quit until the costumed visitors moved on. By the time he called it a day at about 3:00 a.m., he walked off, exhausted, with $500 and a very sore back. For the aging diva, the toddler in his first Halloween mask, and the wandering tourist, Thrown was one reason Miami Beach became, for a moment, the right place to be.

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