The musicians greeted each other warmly and chatted while preparing their instruments on the edge of the wide lawn as the clock ticked down to the start of their latest protest.
The gaggle tooted their instruments experimentally, made eye contact with each other, then launched into a rendition of “The Saints Go Marching In.”
As the first few bars rang over the rest of the assembling protest, I heard a horn blare a G note behind me. Another Tin Horn Uprising member walked past me to join the group, already playing.
A trombone lit up from afar and a woman stepped in to join; a man enthusiastically slapping a hand drum emerged from behind, beaming.
By the end of the song, the group had tripled in size, brass instruments and drums pumping out the honky-tonk New Orleans tune over the protest amalgamating on the sidewalk.
Tin Horn Uprising, a Hudson Valley protest band, formed in the months after Trump’s election and have been regularly playing at protests ever since.
Lisa Lindsley, a saxophonist and one of the founding members of Tin Horn Uprising, said the band decided early on not to endorse individual political candidates.
But the band’s politics are placed solidly on the left.
“We support organizations and actions that promote equal rights and non-discrimination regardless of nationality, gender identity, ability, race, religion, national origin,” Lindsley said, as well as “promotion of the environment and reproductive rights.”
After Trump was elected, “folks wanted to try to put a band together to support any actions that would come from the elections,” she said.
When asked what the band sought to accomplish, Lindsley responded they “want to support organizations that are protesting our country’s descent into fascism and make these actions more visible and more powerful through music.”
The band first officially rehearsed at the Old Dutch Church in Kingston in January 2017. About 40 people showed up, Lindsley said.
The band rehearses every Monday in gatherings devoted half to political organizing and half to music, she added.
Tin Horn Uprising last played at the Orange County Correctional Facility during a protest against the prison agreeing to house ICE detainees, Lindsley said.
The band is perhaps best known for their presence at Faso Fridays, the protests held in front of John Faso’s office in Kingston every Friday during the Congressman’s tenure. Smaller Faso Fridays were also held in front of his offices in Kinderhook and Delhi.
Faso Fridays became a nexus for progressive activists in the region during the two years they was held. The numbers waxed and waned according to the week’s news, but the protest could attract hundreds of people, and democratic political candidates like Pat Ryan and Antonio Delgado could be found riling up their liberal base.
“I think the people who started doing it regularly…felt like they were making a difference,” Lindsley said. “It really highlighted how terrible Faso was, that this group of people were willing to go every single Friday and spend a chunk of their day outside.”
Three members of Tin Horn Uprising – Scott Langley, Lisa Noonan and Adam Katzman – were arrested during a protest at Faso’s Kinderhook office in December 2017, but “they knew they were going to get arrested,” Lindsley said.
Nine protestors in total were cuffed after the group entered the office and refused to leave, staging a sit-in in support of a stand-alone bill extending protections for DACA recipients, according to the Register-Star.
All nine were charged with several offenses each, including violating the local occupancy code and obstruction of governmental administration. They eventually pleaded guilty to trespassing and were ordered to complete community service, according to the Register-Star.
Jim Luckner, another founding member of Tin Horn Uprising, said he plays the baritone or alto sax at the band’s protests “depending on the situation.”
An engineering consultant who started to take music seriously in the 2000s, Luckner said he first attended activist events while in college in the early 1980s, but protesting was never the first thing on his to-do list.
“I wouldn’t rank myself as primarily a political activist,” he said. “I don’t feel like that’s been the driving force in my life.”
After Trump’s election, however, his activism kicked up several notches, and he was motivated to help form the band, Luckner said.
A protest in 2017 rallying against a proposed appeal of Obama’s Affordable Care Act (ACA) had the most tangible effects, Luckner said.
“[We] had this rally in downtown Kinderhook, and [Faso] wasn’t there and it was locked up – it was Saturday morning – we were like, ‘fuck this man, let’s go down to his house,’” Luckner laughed.
Faso’s house was within walking distance of the Kinderhook Office, and he talked with the protestors on his lawn after arriving home. Things were going calmly as Faso borrowed a megaphone from a protester to be better heard and addressed the crowd’s concerns.
Then Andrea Mitchell stepped in.
Mitchell, who attended the school where Faso’s wife worked as a nurse, said she had several severe ailments, including a brain tumor, and was kicked off her insurance when diagnosed because she was considered to have a pre-existing condition.
Mitchell, her voice shaking, asked Faso to promise not to vote to take her health coverage away. Faso promised not to, hugging her, then promised a second time, then a third.
Faso voted to repeal the ACA a little more than three months later.
The exchange between Mitchell and Faso was caught on cell phone video and posted on YouTube, where it has been viewed nearly 30,000 times. Parts of the clip were featured in ads during the 2018 midterm election, and Mitchell talked about the incident in commercials for Antonio Delgado, who went on to beat Faso.
Both Lindsley and Luckner said music added something important to protests.
“There’s the tendency for people to get really wound up (at protests), and it ends up being unproductive, even personally destructive to ourselves, to our own psyches, and the music kind of brings people back, reminds them who we are, and what we are, and brings us together,” Luckner said.
When the group was forming, members wanted to be a part of Hudson Valley activism in the coming years, he added, and a blaring brass band added to protests.
“I’ve been to a lot of protests where there’s nothing much going on, and people on the street are not paying attention to it,” Luckner said. “Having a brass band – if nothing else, it brings people’s attention.”
Interested in joining Tin Horn Uprising? Email them here.
Afterword: A Young Roger Doesn’t Protest
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