One Band's Key Instrument: Wheels An acoustic jazz band in Los Angeles make their way to their gigs, instruments and all, by bike and skateboard. Occasionally, they have to use the metro, but human-powered transport is preferred.
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One Band's Key Instrument: Wheels

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One Band's Key Instrument: Wheels

One Band's Key Instrument: Wheels

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Some musicians arrive at their gigs in a tricked-out tour bus, others perhaps in a limo. And there's BJ Leiderman, who writes our theme music. He likes to arrive by paddleboat. In downtown Los Angeles, there's a popular band that likes their transportation green. They're the Vignes Rooftop Revival, and reporter Lisa Napoli explains.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

LISA NAPOLI, BYLINE: The music began five years ago on a rooftop of a loft building on Vignes Street in rapidly gentrifying downtown Los Angeles - neighbors, like musician Erik Miron, enjoying a meal together with the dramatic skyline shimmering in the background.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

ERIK MIRON: After a while, the instruments would come out, and we'd start goofing around. And it evolved into something where we decided to take it down from the roof and into the bars and restaurants.

NAPOLI: Bars and restaurants have been mushrooming up all over this once-dreary part of the city. One gig led to another, and now the core members of the Vignes Rooftop Revival, accompanied by a rotating cast of musical friends, plays 200 shows a year. That a homespun acoustic jazz band stays so busy is one kind of impressive; its carbon footprint is another.

MIRON: It's funny. We're almost like an Amish jazz band. We don't use cars or electricity so much.

Hitch up the trailer here.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHAINS JANGLING)

MIRON: All right. We're ready to go.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Enjoy your show, guys.

NAPOLI: Miron's got a full wiry beard that makes him look right out of Pennsylvania Dutch Country. He loads up his guitar, banjo and trumpet and hitches his trailer to his bicycle, getting ready for the commute via side streets to the next gig a couple miles away. Bandmate Patrick Torrez says Los Angeles isn't as bad as some people might think for biking.

PATRICK TORREZ: It's a little hard with two instruments on your back, but I've gotten used to it, more or less.

NAPOLI: Bass player Bergen Moore uses different wheels to get to the show - a skateboard. His instruments got wheels, too. To get a bit of speed as he rolls the bass through the streets, he grabs onto one of his bandmates' bicycles.

(SOUNDBITE OF SKATEBOARD WHEELS ROLLING)

NAPOLI: What's the worst thing that's happened to you while doing this?

BERGEN MOORE: There's a couple of them. Definitely, they all involve falling.

NAPOLI: Once, he even started playing a show when a friend pointed out he had blood on his sleeve from a tumble. But nary a broken fretboard nor pothole nor agitated motorist daunts these musicians.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

NAPOLI: Though they do enjoy playing the tavern around the corner. Then, they get to indulge in an even simpler commute - walking. For NPR News, I'm Lisa Napoli in Los Angeles.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

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