In our June 2020 magazine, I did a story about the “Singin’ Trolley” being put on by local non-profit, We Love LB. At the time, I didn’t realize a month later I would actually be the musician on the trolley singing to Los Altos, the neighborhood I grew up in and have lived in virtually my whole life.
The Singin’ Trolley is a neighborhood concert, created during Corona Virus times to bring music up and down the streets of a neighborhood allowing residents to stay on their own front lawns, socially distant, but still feel like they’re at a concert-in-the-park-like event. It occurs usually on Saturday evenings for 90 minutes and is paid for by locals who want to “sponsor” their neighborhood.
So what was it like? Well, in a word, “cool.” In four words… “Small town America vibes.”
I’m a sucker for small-town type events and this was the ultimate. The trolley goes up and down streets very slowly, while the musician (me in this case) played as many hit, top-40 songs as they know. People stand and sit on their front porches, listen to the music, sing along, and wave as we roll by.
Overall I had a blast doing it, and was quite honored to see people follow the trolley on bike, on foot, on golf cart, and film as we rolled by. It was also special to be in Los Altos, a neighborhood where I recognized hundreds of faces in the crowd.
If you’re thinking of sponsoring it, or playing it, or more likely planning to hang out in the front when it’s in your neighborhood, here’s some answers to a lot of the questions I’ve gotten:
What's it Like?
It’s a neighborhood concert, but it’s more “neighborhood” than “concert.” What I mean by that is, don’t expect to hear a bunch of awesome music for 90 minutes. If you stay on your porch you’ll hear 2 minutes or so of music as it rolls by. To me this event is more about atmosphere. It’s different, it’s unique, and it’s so damn neighborly. I’ve never had so many people wave at me. It’s an excuse to get on your front porch, wave at neighbors, see something different, and remember how awesome your Long Beach home really is.
If you’re specifically into the music-aspect then walk or bike behind the trolley and you can hear the whole concert. A lot of people biked, but it goes so slow I really think a walk would work too. However, be warned that because most viewers only see the concert for a few minutes, the musicians are encouraged to play “hits” and even repeat the most popular songs so that everyone can sing along while it drives by their house.
What was it like to play on a trolley?
I believe every Long Beach musician would agree it’s the most unique gig they’ve ever played. It’s definitely very bumpy. A few times I had to stop and hold on to the trolley while we made a turn. I hit a few wrong notes (whoops) which I’d really like to blame on the bumps but then again, I always hit a few wrong note.
I was the first keyboardist so there were some set-up concerns (guitars are easier) but everything went smoothly. It was non-stop hit songs, and it was hot as he**, but it was really really fun. Seeing people sing along to classics like “Sweet Caroline” and “Brown-Eyed Girl” was so cool. I saw lots of people I knew and they would wave at me and I would try to wave back but it was very hard to maneuver. I was also playing piano standing and had to be in an athletic stance so I would fall over…so I guess what I’m saying is I may have looked weird and unfriendly (lol), but I did what I had to do to get the music out!
Were there a lot of people watching?
I’d say yes. There definitely were hundreds who were set up to see the concert and hundred more who came outside when they heard it on their street. There were also stretches of nobody. As a musician, it was frustrating on the 2-3 streets that didn’t have people watching especially because I felt like I was really rockin’ the piano on those streets. However, as anyone who’s ever tried to organize anything will attest to… you can’t get them all. I’d say the turnout was very good for what it was. Perhaps if it stays in that 5pm-6:30pm time slot as the days get shorter and colder it will be even better. It was definitely scorching in the middle of July so I understand people not wanting to sit on their lawns for an extended period of time.
What was the coolest part?
Without a doubt the kids and the birthdays. We stopped at four houses to play happy birthday and I think all were surprises. It’s always fun to surprise someone with music on their birthday.
But the only thing cooler than the birthdays were the countless kids looking up at the trolley in awe. They thought it was so cool and that’s what made it cool. Some would run after it, some hopped on their bikes to follow it, some just looked up in awe at me and the trolley trying to process what the heck was happening. Kids up and down the street loving it while the parents waved, that’s an image I won’t forget.
How do I get it in my neighborhood?
The whole thing is put on by WE LOVE LB. I was contacted directly by local realtor and friend Michele K, who sponsored the event in Los Altos and wanted me specifically to play the music. However, you don’t have to know a musician if you want to sponsor it.
If it’s in your neighborhood and going to come by your house you’ll likely get a flyer on your doorstep the week before. I’m not the organizer, just someone who’s watched the trolley once and sang on it once.
For more info go to welovelb.org.