Litter's bête noire: An Interview with Brandon Giannasi of the Trash Bash Music Stash
Saturday, November 5th will be the first Deep Ellum Trash Bash Music Stash organized by Brandon Giannasi.
Brandon is a project manager for a commercial construction company and frontman for the band Gringo Soul. In 2014, Brandon organized the first Trash Bash Music Stash around lower Greenville, an event which he has successfully repeated for the last two years.
The lower Greenville Trash Bash event was created as a way to get people to volunteer their time to clean up the city streets – removing accumulated litter from neglected areas – and in return join an after party with free beer and food, door prizes, and live music from Gringo Soul and other local bands.
In addition to the TBMS that took place last July, Brandon has organized another, smaller event to take place in Deep Ellum this month.
From the website: This call goes out to music lovers who want to help with the conservation of Dallas! It will begin at Stonedeck Pizza Pub on Saturday November 5th 2016 at 10AM. Upon arrival to Stonedeck Pizza Pub, coffee & donuts will be provided during litter route sign up. Each route will be less than a mile from Stonedeck. If you are with friends, we will keep you together! Adequate supplies will be provided to help with the litter removal process. The litter clean up goes on for about one hour. Upon return to Stonedeck Pizza Pub, each volunteer will be rewarded a free draft beer (or soda), complimentary bites from a buffet, live music from 4 local music acts, & the chance to win raffle prizes all day long! We will see you soon at this sound attempt to keep Dallas clean.
URBAN URBANE was an official sponsor of the July 2016 Trash Bash, and a sponsor of the November 5th Trash Bash event as well. This interview was conducted via email.
Cary Birdwell: Brandon, can you briefly tell me how you were inspired to create these anti-litter events?
Brandon Giannasi: I was inspired to create these events by a few different factors, the first being from other musicians. Growing up, I watched other musicians such as Neil Young and Willie Nelson use their music and influence to promote ideas that bring about change that they believed in. Being a musician myself, there came a day where I said to myself, "Let's go bigger than just being booked at this local tavern to play a 3 hour set, get paid, and leave."
Furthermore, my music has a distinct style. It may not be everyone's cup of tea, but many people are receptive to it. I love people and truly enjoy entertaining them. I wanted to birth something into existence that would bring people out for a reason larger than the music, all the while getting to play music while they were there. Then, if I got them to come out, perhaps they would end up liking my music as well, because it is heartfelt and I have always put a lot of effort into it. And it has worked. I've gained a few new fans, sold a few more CDs, and the city is a lot cleaner!
I also like that the event supports other aspiring musicians as well, because we always have at least 4 acts on the bill. We also have art booths where select artists can set up for free if they donate a couple custom pieces for the raffle, so it supports the arts, too.
Also, from being in commercial construction and having a work truck, I started scrapping metal as much as I could in 2012. This metal was largely to be considered litter, and the rest was from construction sites, as well as dumpster dives. I felt like Mario from Mario Brothers always looking for his gold.
I think this scrapping mentality transferred over to me coming up with the idea for rewarding volunteers that pick up litter, in the same way I was rewarded with money for picking up scrap metal. I've also never liked litter, and I am in disbelief as to how it is just everywhere. I don't get how we humans could be fine with just throwing something out on the ground of God's green earth. It doesn't register with my mentality. However, we have to be the small example of a large change we want to see happen in the world though. I have to be it.
CB: I was not able to attend the July 2016 event, unfortunately, but I take it you had a larger turn out this time. What was the 2016 event like compared to the last two years?
BG: 2016's event was the same structure as the previous two years: arrive, get free coffee and donuts, pick a route, get your litter removal supplies and equipment, ride the party bus to edge of trash route, walk back to venue picking up as much litter as possible, obtain your gift cards, enjoy live performances from local musicians, and win raffle prizes in between sets.
The gift card amount to the bar went down from $15 per person in year 2014 to $10 in 2015, and to $5 per person in 2016. However, this year we also gave each volunteer a $10 gift card to a local retail store of their choice – either the Melissa Benge Collection or Whole Earth Trading Company. We have also have beer on the party bus every year, but only about half the people drink because it is 10:30 in the morning. I always want to give the volunteers as much as possible, so I do everything I can to obtain the most perks for them, but I really have to go with the flow and be flexible and grateful for what businesses are willing and able to contribute. I negotiate with the tavern owners, sponsors, and contributors to get the most bang for our effort.
Volunteers went from 75 people in 2014, to 120 in 2015, to right around 300 in 2016. The Deep Ellum event on November 5th will feel a lot more like the first year, and it will be easier to manage. However, I plan on doing many more huge ones in the near future.
CB: Are you receiving any support from local businesses or the city of Dallas for these events?
BG: Yes. Sponsorships come and go, but are always appreciated. I will keep their info up on the website indefinitely as a contributor. Green Dallas has always supported me with encouragement and advice. Groundwork Dallas has always provided the equipment and supplies for picking up litter. The money needed for Trash Bash Music Stash has always been raised through emails and cold calls to local businesses. Usually, people are much more unsupportive than supportive, but that's a wall you just have to break through and celebrate all the more when you find someone who is willing to contribute! I've found myself getting frustrated when people turn me down, but I quickly navigate out of that mind set and resume seeing the silver lining while still respecting that person's opinion for saying they aren't able to participate.
CB: Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a total nut about recycling. Are your volunteers separating trash from recyclables when they pick up litter?
BG: In the beginning, I was mainly concerned with just cleaning up the city streets and getting the garbage out of everyone's field of vision. It wasn't until 2015 that Naima Montacer from the Katy Trail Weekly and EnviroAdventures.com recommended we start implementing recycling. So we did, and I have found value in doing it that way ever since. I have also learned why recycling is truly important for the planet! However, in reality the metal scrapping I had been doing was a way of recycling, it just never dawned on me to make the extra effort to recycling things at the Trash Bash Music Stash until Naima brought it up. I was already taking on a lot, and I just saw it as another thing which would slow me down. But it is truly one of the most important things, and I am very glad we have been doing it since. We provide blue bags now and they get filled up pretty quickly.
CB: How much litter do you think you picked up last July? Is there any way to know?
BG: July 16, 2016 we picked up 1,380 pounds of litter, which was an average of 5 pounds per person. I brought all of it to McCommas landfill and they weighed it while it was in my truck. They know the weight of the truck empty, so that is how they are able to determine how much was in it. I then kept all the blue bags which were filled with recyclables and took them to the recycling transfer station on Harry Hines.
CB: There are so many places in Dallas that need this kind of attention. Are there any particular reasons why you’ve chosen lower Greenville and the Deep Ellum areas to focus on?
BG: I pick up litter sometimes alone and post signs in the ground that tell people to go to the Trash Bash Music Stash website to help spread awareness. There is really no particular reason I chose lower Greenville and Deep Ellum. Poppy Xander, a musician who has played all 3 years, wanted to clean up Deep Ellum. She has performed at Stonedeck Pizza in the past, so she approached the owners about organizing an event from there in November.
I secured the Truck Yard in the beginning, although I originally planned to do it at an art house called Two Bronze Doors in 2014. I planned to get all different permits and have it be a yard party, but Jason Boso of Truck Yard helped me realize that if I had it at a bar then all that work would be done for me. I had initially asked him to be a contributor for 2014 "yard party style” event, but he flipped the script and brought it to my attention how I should just have it at a bar. We both agreed that the Truck Yard would be the perfect place for it.
CB: What do you have planned for 2017? Are you able to tell us yet?
BG: Nothing on the horizon for 2017 yet, but I know something big will happen. I imagine I will just keep following the core Trash Bash Music Stash structure I have been following. We will have a few smaller ones with limited capacity, and larger ones like this past July. I will begin calling around to bars and clubs trying to get them onboard to do one at their establishment. My main goal is to have every major city around DFW having 3 Trash Bash Music Stash events per year – spring, summer, and fall. It's such a big idea, but I need to put it into action. It has been a success with this smaller model, and I know it will work on a large scale level, too. Stay tuned, and remember to spread the love not the trash!
CB: Thanks Brandon. I look forward to participating in the November 5th Trash Bash event.
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