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Trash-Can Band

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"Bangin' on a trash can
Drummin' on a street light."
Doug, "One Little Voice"

You've got music in your soul. You can feel the rhythm, see the crowd, and hear the notes play out even in the most deafening of distractions. But you've got a problem: you don't have any instruments. Maybe you lost yours, maybe there's no way to get them, or maybe, as is sadly often the case, you just can't afford it... either way, it doesn't matter. You can feel the music and you're not going to let something so simple as a lack of instruments stop you.

Anything is possible if you have the ingenuity to do it. Pick up a trashcan, bang on the lid, and make some drums. Pull together some shoestrings and make a guitar, and break off a lead pipe and make it into a trombone. Break out the stomping boots and the tap dancing shoes while you're at it. Pretty soon, you've got yourself a Trash Can Band, and before long the music just flows out. Even the A Cappella groups can do it!

Compare Everything Is an Instrument and Banging Pots and Pans, neither of which are unusual for such a band.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Domo TV: "Rock and Roll" features Domo and the fox child playing on guitars while the little bear plays on drums made from a toaster, a log, and a dangled pot lid.

    Asian Animation 
  • One episode of Lamput consists almost entirely of the docs banging on trash cans in a music-like rhythm trying to catch Lamput.

    Films — Animated 
  • The Triplets of Belleville have quite a few moments like this. And when the composer was invited to perform the main song at the Oscars, his backup band was playing on vacuum cleaners and bicycle spokes...
  • Cats Don't Dance has Danny pull together one of those to help the disillusioned animal actors get their spirit back. It eventually grows into a huge block party, with a montage of all the characters dancing or playing makeshift instruments.
  • Tarzan: Terk, Flynt, Mungo, a couple of other gorillas, and Tantor the elephant use miscellaneous items they find to play music during "Trashin' the Camp."

    Films — Live-Action 

  • In the Gordon Korman book Bugs Potter LIVE at Nickaninny, the title character steals pots and pans from his family's campsite to make an impromptu drumset.

    Live-Action TV 
  • A few episodes of Home Improvement had a group of workers from K&B Construction come onto the Show Within a Show and talk about the weird things they do on the job (like cooking and hygiene). In the last episode of season 1 and the last episode of the show overall, they performed as a band using instruments made mostly from power tools:
    • Rock Flanagan (Casey Sander) plays the angle grinder on a fifty gallon drum;
    • Dwayne Hoover (Gary McGurk) used hammers on an anvil and a set of chimes made from galvanized piping;
    • Pete Bilker (Mickey Jones) used screwdrivers as drumsticks, a set of trash cans and gas cans (and a wrench) as drums, plus a set of circular saw blades as mounted crash cymbals (the wrench and saw blades only appear in the first performance);
    • John "Juke" Logan (himself) played a normal harmonica that he apparently kept on hand on the job site; and
    • Janeen Rae Heller (herself), having made a solo appearance in an earlier episode of Tool Time, played the saw.
      • The five returned as their band for the series finale of both "Tool Time" and Home Improvement itself, joined by other recurring characters: master upholsterer "Sparky" Henderson on staple gun, Eddie from Eddie's Body Shop on shock absorber, plumber Felix Myman on plunger, and IndyCar racer Mario Andretti on horn (actually a steering wheel from his race car).
  • A Jug Band, as seen on The Muppet Show from time to time, as well as in Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas , is a specific type of Trash Can Band, consisting of a jug, a washboard and a washtub bass.
  • On Glee, a power outage inspires a lesson in acoustics for New Directions. Then they take it one step further, performing "We Will Rock You" using everything from trash cans to bottles to chains and broomsticks as their instruments.
  • The Goodies: The boys form one in an attempt to relieve their boredom in "Holidays".
  • Hank Zipzer: In "Open Day", Dean Bitterman Mr. Joy—as part of an attempt to close the music department—has sold off all of Westbrook Academy's musical instrument. Desperate to promote his department to the perspective parent, Mr. Rock finds of a box of parts that had fallen off broken instruments and, with Emily's assistance macgyvers them into a set of new, unique instruments. He uses these to form a marching band and crashes Mr. Joy's presentation.

  • Blue Man Group makes music out of unusual objects, like PVC pipes.
  • Spike Jones' version of The William Tell Overture (also known as Feetlebaum) includes a section played entirely on kitchen implements.
  • Music for One Apartment and Six Drummers.
  • Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Down on the Corner" is about a partial trash can band called Willy and the Poor Boys.
  • The Junkestra is another truth in television example, using various "found objects".
  • The Spinto Band have done a version of their song "Later On" entirely using kitchen implements and food.
  • Non-musical example: for "Breaking the Girl", off of the Red Hot Chili Peppers album Blood Sugar Sex Magik. The members went into a nearby dump and rounded up a bunch of trash cans and other garbage that they used as percussion in the song's breakdown.
  • Though they otherwise use conventional rock instruments, the band Skeleton Key have a member who plays "junk percussion" on every song.
  • The music video for the song "Troll Hammaren" by Finntroll shows the trolls playing weird, makeshift, "trollish" instruments which nonetheless deliver the sound of normal percussion and guitars.
  • There is a band called the Trashcan Sinatras, although they do not play trashcans.
  • The Duke Louis Sound has a cardboard box drum kit, and saucepan cymbals.
  • Jazz drummer Frank "Josh" Billings, also known as "the Suitcase Drummer", was known for playing a suitcase with brown paper spread across the surface using kitchen utensils.
  • This is how the joke Fake Band Impaled Northern Moonforest started out with members from Anal Cunt: they couldn't use instruments seeing as people were sleeping at the time.
  • Phil Collins' drum rig was made up to look like this (or even was this) during the "Both Sides" tour, which had a "homeless/poor urban area" design to it.
  • Shawn Crahan of Slipknot is known to do this for part of the percussion sets for the band's two custom percussionists (one of whom is himself), using baseball bats to bang on drumcans and beer kegs alongside standard drumsticks for tom-tom drums, floor toms and bass drums.
  • The Scottish folk singer Dougie Maclean plays the digeridoo in some of his songs, most notably "Buffalo Jump". Rather than risk the instrument on tour, he used a length of drainpipe. Apparently, this started a trend of kids playing drainpipe-digeridoos in his home town of Dunkeld.
  • The Junk Yard Band started out as one of those, playing on hubcaps, plastic buckets, crates, cans, and discarded pots and pans and such, but later, they began replacing those with real instruments as they began to be able to afford them.
  • Savage Aural Hotbed is a Minneapolis-area Avant-Garde Music band that uses oil drums, PVC piping, power tools, and gas burners in addition to rock instrumentation and taiko-style drumming.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • In one The Broons strip following the regular theme of "Daphne and Maggie think they've met potential boyfriends who are classier than most folk in Auchenshoogle, but they're not", they're under the impression their beaus are classical musicians, but when they take the family to a concert, they find out they're this.

    Theme Parks 
  • Disneyland's Trash Can Trio appear to be part of the regular janitorial staff until they suddenly launch into a performance.


    Video Games 
  • Laren from Freddi Fish plays jugs as musical instruments, he can also play his tummy like a drum.
  • The Jungle Drums track from Half-Life sounds like it's being performed by one.
  • One of the drumkits you can purchase in the Rock Band games is the Warehouse Original Kit, a bunch of boxes, rusty cans and pipes put together. It's purely aesthetical, though.
  • One large set piece in Machinarium centers on helping a robot band after their instruments were destroyed by the Black Cap Brotherhood. A hi-hat robot drummer even improvises with an empty oil drum when you find one.
  • The Vent Kids from Warframe love to din Fortuna by banging with whatever metal parts they have on hand. You can hear their "performance" whenever you attempt one of their K-drive courses out on Orb Vallis. Certain residents will share their opinion of it once you're at a high enough standing with Fortuna.
    The Business: “Boon, Roky, and their assembled orphan tribe. Troublemakers, but they’re just getting by. I don’t begrudge anyone who has to live in the vents - though I do wish they had better taste in music. ‘Skeg’ was it? Sounds like a bag of hammers being thrown down a flight of stairs.”
    Smokefinger: "The music of the vent-children – 'Skeg,' they call it – is a self-evolved musical form, unrestrained by conventional rules of composition. Utilizing improvised instruments, the vents themselves become part drum, part valve, part echo chamber, playing a vital role in the creation of this entirely original acousmatic experience and making sure I never get any mucking sleep!"

    Western Animation 

    Real Life 
  • Steel drum bands play drums made from steel 55-gallon barrels.
  • Calypso drums started out the same way.
  • Jug band music is made with homely items found in any shotgun shack: the eponymous ceramic jug, an improvised bass made from a washtub and a broom handle, a washboard and thimble for rhythm, a pair of spoons, and possibly some simple actual instruments.
  • The Landfill Harmonic
  • Most kids who went to primary school in Australia had at least one day where they learned about "bush bands" and their instruments, which included the "tea-chest bass" and the lagerphone, a kind of giant wooden cross with bottle caps nailed to it. The "bush band" phenomenon is also found in England, under the name of "skiffle", and in America as "jug bands".
  • In the United States (and possibly other countries) there are a rather large number of street-corner drummers who ply their trade using buckets and other random junk. They're usually very good.
  • Some Industrial musicians use garbage as percussion (or, more commonly these days, samples thereof). Test Dept. and Einstürzende Neubauten are both good early examples who used things like springs, pipes, sheet metal and other metal-based rubbish as instruments.