Pre-Flight Entertainment

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There are few things worse than being stuck in an airplane on that terrible tarmac. The universal groan when the Captain announces that you’re being held, the restless legs, the inevitable temperature rise as body heat accumulates in that little tube and they can’t turn on the AC because you’re gasoline level has been pre-measured to the point of torturous efficiency, the hours that seems to tick by at their own luxurious pace, and the smells, oh God, the smells.

It’s terrible, horrible place, and a God-awful experience virtually all of us have had to endure, yet wouldn’t wish on our worst enemies.

But every now and then, it’s not so bad. Your neighbor isn’t just nice, they’re interesting. Sometimes the flight attendants will give you free drinks, with real alcohol. And, occasionally, there’s a band.

Ok, most of us have never gotten to experience that part, but apparently it happens, and fairly frequently. About once a year, 5 minutes of research would have it.

On January 7th of this year, aboard a USAirways flight to New Orleans, passengers spent their delay enjoying the sounds of an elderly barbershop quartet.

To be brutally honest, I think would’ve prefer a quartet of crying babies, but those nerdy old men are awfully sweet, and after hours of swamp-ass and vacuum sealed oyster crackers, I bet you that lemon party starts looking pretty wild.

Passengers on a 2013 flight from Beijing to Macao were a little luckier, except for their 3-hour wait on the runway. A quartet of four musicians from the Philadelphia Orchestra happened to be on board, traveling for their 2013 Residency & Fortieth Anniversary Tour of China, and after a little cajoling they treated passengers to a fine performance, complete with iPhone accompaniment.

But if I had my way (and a time machine, and some liquor, and any reason to travel to Canada), I would catch Air Canada Flight AC 876, a 2012 flight where, during a short, 20-minute delay, The Lemon Bucket Orkestra, “Toronto’s Only Balkan-Klezmer-Gypsy-Party-Punk Super-Band,” played an epically raucous four-song set to a packed plane.

Now, I’m not going to tell you should all pack your accordions and slide whistles and Jew’s harps next time you fly just in case there’s a delay and it’s your time to shine, but the fact that airlines are warming up to musicians inside and out of the baggage hold is a wonderful thing. Allowing musicians to travel with their equipment in hand, unmolested or broken or needlessly taxed, is a massive step forward in encouraging the global exchange of art, and a big reason unexpected treats like this are possible.

So here’s to United no longer breaking guitars! Here’s to checking in a tuba for under a grand! Here’s to full drum kits, contrabass, and lush ensembles and here’s to friendly and pleasant alternatives to crying yourself into a drowsy stupor over the eternally-too-few Johnny Walker Red mini bottles you desperately begged for before the flight attendant left you back here to die, because this is where you live now. You’re plane folk.

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