Portland Bucket Drummer: Thomas Brown
Portland’s Rhythm Section: The Story of Thomas Brown
Portland dances to the beat of its own drum, and those drums are played by Thomas Brown. Thomas is a street performer, bucket drummer, and to anyone who spends much time in downtown Portland, a local celebrity.
“I’ve been playing drums since I was five years old. I started playing in the church where my dad was the pastor, my mom played the piano and my sisters sang. About 13 years ago, I saw someone downtown playing drums on buckets, and I thought, you know, I could probably do something like that.”
That day thirteen years ago, Thomas started out with two buckets – one to sit on and one to hit. Today he travels with eight different pieces to get the dynamic sounds that echo through the streets of the Rose City.
In terms of skill and entertainment, Thomas is like many other performers – very talented and very enthralling. You can’t seem to pass him on the street without stopping for at least a minute to dance with the crowd or at the very least figure out how he is making all those sounds come from an assortment of items you probably have laying around your house.
However, unlike other street performers, Thomas gives more than he gets. Sure he has an empty bucket for bills out in front of his setup, but he’s not necessarily out for the money.
“I’m a plumber during the week working 6-4:30 every day, but Saturdays I’m usually around town playing the buckets. God gave me this gift to play the drums and it’s my goal to use that gift to uplift other people.”
Wailing some sick beats in front of a crowd – and trust us, these are some sick beats – is not what gets Thomas out doing work on his days off. He doesn’t use the buckets to draw attention to himself but rather help passers-by to stop, think, enjoy and appreciate a moment in between a busy day, week, life. He gives us permission to pause.
“I just want people to feel some joy and happiness. There is a lot of negativity going on in the world today, so I try to give out some encouragement and make a few days better. I just try to help. Help is a keyword. If we can help somebody then I think we are doing what we are supposed to be doing in life. Help other people by uniting instead of separating.”
It is a simple mantra, which is why it is so powerful when you come across Thomas. Luckily there is a good chance you’ll come across him whenever you are wandering around the streets of Portland. Thomas is usually around Pioneer square in downtown Portland but he is also a fixture at most of the sporting events in the city. That how we got wind of him. He keeps the excitement of games going stadium side after Timbers, Blazers, Thorns or the Winterhawks bring home the “W” or set out to get ‘em next time.
“I love sports and embrace the sports culture of Portland. People love their teams here and I love to play for them.”
Well that’s Thomas for you. Go find him around town. Go explore this great city. And take a second to pause and enjoy the wonderful rhythm section of Portland.
Portland Bucket Drummer: Thomas Brown from Rick Gilbert on Vimeo.
We love you Mr. Brown