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Mummers Parade 2008

January 2, 2008

mummers with brass band
Happy New Year! I haven’t written in a while because I tried to use all of my spare time over break to work on finishing my basement. I barely got a thing done, so it looks like it’s going to be another two-year project.

I did manage to get out and brave the cold wind to watch some of the Mummers parade up Broad Street on New Year’s Day.
The Mummers take some getting used to, so as a typical Philly transplant it’s taking me a while to warm up to them. Don’t get me wrong- I really respect them and their tradition, I just have a few (usual!) complaints:

Some of the themes are getting a little tired. Can we retire the 50s drive-in theme, or the pirate theme, just for a few years?

They mummers still know how to offend most races even tho blackface was banned decades back.
This year alone there was a Mexican theme with members dressed as tacos and burritos. The also had a group dressed (again) as American Indians, which is fine I guess, but they were also doing “wo wo wo” sound while banging on their lips. It’s a thing that anyone who’s seen the Seinfeld episode knows is taboo. Heck, my little kids know they’re not supposed to do that. They also had an Egyptian theme, where the members weren’t in blackface, but um, brownface. I guess it’s all in good fun.

My biggest beef is their dreadful rule which allows woodwind instruments but bans the use of brass (the saxaphone is brass but it has a reed, so it’s a woodwind).

Who’s horrible idea was that? The brass section is what gives a band it’s SOUL. I used to live right behind the Mummer’s Museum and had to listen to the bands play every week over the summers. They had some good stuff, but man, what I’d give to hear a trombone or a trumpet.

What they have done in recent years tho is recruit some black brass bands from other parts of the country, notably New Orleans. There were rumors that some famous bands like the Dirty Dozen have marched in the parade but I haven’t found evidence to substantiate it. I did see one band from Camden called the UCC Royal Brass Band which added some MUCH needed funk.

When these bands hit Two Street they get the entire street dancing. THAT’s New Year’s Day needs!

I also have to give them some credit:

The props and outfits are definitely amazing.

The Mummers are a truly American folk institution who’ve been doing their thing for over a 100 years. If these were black groups like the ones in New Orleans (and they had some soul and dance moves) they’d be world famous.

Albert Yee has some photos on his flickr site.

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