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Street Sounds: The Movable Beat of Busman’s Holiday

“We started street singing just around town, and eventually found out that Jiffy Treat was a great place for it on Kirkwood.” - Addison Rogers

Busman's Holiday

Photo:

Brothers Lewis and Addison Rogers as Busman's Holiday (Courtesy Busman's Holiday)

Brothers Lewis and Addison Rogers have played music together as Busman’s Holiday since 2004.

Lewis was 14 and Addison was 18 when they released their first CD, Shirts & Skins, but they’re probably better known for playing on the streets of downtown Bloomington.

“We started street singing just around town, and eventually found out that Jiffy Treat was a great place for it on Kirkwood,” Addison said, referring to the now-defunct local ice cream shop.

Drummer Addison, and guitarist Lewis share singing duties in the group, and are often joined by another set of brothers, Nick Romy on upright bass, and Matt Romy on keyboard and melodica.

They were recently accompanied by a string section for several shows.

“We usually try to keep sort of a pop mentality to it, just accessible music,” said Addison. “And as far as the street goes, a full band always helps out, as opposed to just a guitarist. It’s much more of a presence.”

The use of instruments not typically used by buskers makes for a unique attraction.

“I find if we can get any weird instrument, it’s perfect, because playing on the street … people will go nuts about it,” Lewis said.

“People obviously like to gawk at my suitcase bass drum,” laughed Addison.

Indeed, the most obvious example of this might be Addison’s unusual percussion set-up.

After numerous unsuccessful experiments to make a bass drum, Addison found inspiration in a Samsonite suitcase and the most unlikely of pop culture icons.

“I don’t know how it came about, I must have seen it somewhere,” he said, explaining how he came to rig a suitcase into a make-shift drum.

“Now that I think about it, it may have been “Weird Al” Yankovic! He used his accordion case as a drum. Weird Al, you’ve done so much for us!”

The portability of Busman’s Holiday, coupled with their inclination towards playing unconventional venues, makes touring particularly adventurous.

“When you’ve got a band, and you’re rocking it, you need a PA, and you need a drum set,” Lewis said. “There are certain perimeters that you have to fit in to.”

“But with us,” interjected Addison, “We could play in a closet.”

“So it’s sort of good and sort of bad,” Lewis continued, “Because you can set up really cool shows that you wouldn’t normally play, and then a lot of horrible shows that people in their right mind would not play.”

According to Addison, the strangest performance the group ever gave was around Halloween of 2008.

“In the fall tour, when it was just Lewis and I, we were at a haunted house,” he said.

“And not inside the haunted house, but outside, playing to the line of people waiting to get in. And a band of 12-year-olds and 13-year-olds opened up for us… well, really they didn’t open up for us. We shared the bill, and they really had the crowd.”

Lewis and Addison’s rapport with each other translates into lively stage banter, and despite the sincerity and complexity of their songwriting, they try like to have as much fun with Busman’s Holiday as possible.

“We try to entertain,” Lewis said. “My philosophy on doing shows is always trying to leave the people entertained, and you know, maybe a little joyful?”

Josephine McRobbie

Born and raised in southeast Australia, Josephine moved to Bloomington in 1996. She graduated from Indiana University in 2007 with a B.A. in Journalism and Sociology. She is currently WFIU's broadcast assistant and arts reporter.

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