D.C. band Bluebrain and blog ReadysetDC hosted the Cherry Blossom Boombox Walk this past Saturday, asking people to bring boomboxes to the National Mall to add some music to the annual cherry blossom festival.
About 100 people gathered at the carousel on the National Mall, where they were supplied with cassette tapes containing parts of a song written by – and intended to promote – local musicians.
“We put all the tracks on different tapes, so all of you guys are holding a part of that bigger performance. Together we are all going to press play at the same time,” Bluebrain’s Ryan Holladay said to the participants.
The song began with soft electronic music, and the group began parading toward the Washington Monument, turning heads and trampling picnics and kite-flyers in the process.
“We’re going to be in a lot of tourists’ photos,” said D.C. resident Dan Miller, a writer who said he participated in last year’s walk in Dupont Circle.
Bluebrain and ReadysetDC, a D.C.-based culture and arts blog, invited artists like Chad Clark from Beauty Pill, Animal Collective’s Brian Weitz, indie-folk act Maureen Andary, DJ Will Eastman, and Sockets Records’ head Sean Peoples to submit short, three-to-five minute songs. Brothers Ryan and Hays Holladay, who make up the duo Bluebrain, put the tracks together and produced a 41-minute final composition.
“Everybody worked separately, so it was a string of different pieces,” Ryan Holladay said before adding, “It’s really fun to write music for something weird like this.”
And it was weird. Tourist Raul Abreu said the group confused him.
“I didn’t know what they were, if they were advocating for something,” he said. “But you couldn’t miss them. They really caught our attention.”
Gena Gora, a first-year GW medical student, said she received a Facebook invitation and thought the event sounded like fun.
“I like music. I like good weather. And here, the two go hand-in-hand,” she said.
Alex Mazer, an American graduate, said he also found out about the boombox walk through Facebook.
“For me, it was just about walking around with a boombox in beautiful weather,” he said.
The music was mainly electronic, although the tones and voices varied as the piece progressed.
Hays Holladay said going up the ramp to the WWII Memorial was his favorite part of the walk.
“I think [the sound] was reflecting off the stone. It wasn’t as loud in the open as it was there, so there it really was just rich.”
Bluebrain was introduced to the idea of a boombox walk when Ryan Holladay attended a similar event, coordinated by composer Phil Kline, in New York City. Ryan called it “a cool kind of alternative concert experience” and set out to recreate the scene in D.C.
Hays Holladay said the walk provided a totally different way to listen to music.
“This was a great time,” he said. “It was great to have other artists contribute to it.”