Disneyland Continues Changing Its Tune With Live Music at the Park [Alt-Disney]

Hook and Ladder Company play us out. Photo by Gabriel San Román

The Hook and Ladder Company drew their usual crowd on Sept. 18 in front of the Disneyland Fire Department. Donning old-timey firemen uniforms, the piano-drum-and-brass band entertained onlookers with Dixieland jazz, adding to the whimsical wonder of Main Street USA. Little did parkgoers know that it would be the musicians’ swan song.

Disney creatives have trended toward a drum-and-bugle-corps sound nowadays, giving the Hook and Ladder Company the shaft. With the beloved group founded by former members of the original Disneyland Band now gone, there’s an adage that comes to mind: Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.

Live music overall at the Disneyland Resort has been undergoing some changes. The new Disneyland Band, which debuted during the park’s diamond anniversary in 2015, is pretty popular with parkgoers, but all is not harmonious. Shortly after the Hook and Ladder Company layoffs, musicians with two full-time bands in New Orleans Square had their shifts cut down, all but ensuring hours and benefits would disappear by year’s end.

“Some of them are scrambling, trying to bridge the gap with their sick time and vacation days to retain benefits,” says Edmund Velasco, vice president of American Federation of Musicians Local 7.

It’s a scenario that’s all too familiar for Disney California Adventure musicians.

“They don’t really want to have full-time musicians,” says Velasco of DCA’s operations team. “There’s nobody there who’s scheduled five days a week in the same band.”

Velasco started playing tenor sax with the original Disneyland Band before retiring from the company in April, so he knows live music is an essential part of the magic. It gives parkgoers an experience that a loop blaring from a speaker—or an animatronic DJ R3X at Oga’s Cantina—cannot.

“When people go to the park, they’re just thrilled to be able to see somebody actually performing live for them,” says Velasco. “There’s a connection that a musician can achieve with the audience that can’t be replicated any other way.”

Hook and Ladder Company, play us out one last time…

Gabriel San Román is from Anacrime. He’s a journalist, subversive historian and the tallest Mexican in OC. He also once stood falsely accused of writing articles on Turkish politics in exchange for free food from DönerG’s!

15 Replies to “Disneyland Continues Changing Its Tune With Live Music at the Park [Alt-Disney]”

  1. My wife and I use to go to the park just to watch Buddy Rich perform which was included in the price of admission. He was always fantastic.

  2. I am a passholder, and when I go to the parks and the crowds and line times are insane, I love just watching the musical entertainment. I have a lot of friends who are or were in the various bands. It’s sad when they have to go away. Feels like losing a part of my family

  3. There is some good in change but getting rid if live entertainment as crowd control and budget concerns or just because son higher up doesn’t like it it not a good thing

  4. And on the other end of the spectrum, Knott’s Berry Farm has seen a flock of Disney’s Mad T Party fans come in after contracting Hiatus and The Sufferagets for the summer. Other former DLR and Tomorrowland bands like Surburban Legends, Mariachi Divas, and Tomasina are bringu their fans to Knotts too.

  5. The live music and the bands at Tomorrowland was one of the main reasons I got my pass. Now all that is pretty gone. Even the bands at Downtown Disney isn’t quality they used to be. I’m seriously debating about dropping my Disney pass for Knott’s. It seems most of the bands that used to play at Disney are now there for their summer nights. I think I’m going to get a Knotts pass

  6. With the amount of money the Walt Disney Co. Takes in on a Daily Basis from it many many parts, the excuse of not enough funding for live entertainment is just absurd. They have thr money to do and fund any show or band from now until eternity.

  7. It all started in 2006 when the infamous and very popular band, The Bayou Brass Band was laid off for a New Orleans show that was terrible… SMH
    The Bayou Brass Band was a killer band with great music and talented musicians luckily they are still around… but not at Disneyland anymore.

  8. I am knocked for a loop with this news.
    This is a change that is not positive.
    I can’t express how much I love the live musicians…it is a part of the Disney experience! The one thing Disney could not have wanted to change, would be the atmosphere of the small town Main Street U.S.A.

  9. Since the early 1980’s I would go several times a year just to hear various bands or on special music weekends or events. Now I rarely go for the rides, but still occasionally just to hang out and listen to the Main Street performers or the strolling musicians around New Orleans Square. They’ve all been harder to find lately, leaving me little reason to visit the park.

  10. This is sooo very Sad. Our passes cost $2200!! That’s a heck of a lot money for just 2 people. Where is that money going??? And we actually had a horrible experience on our April visit. Experiencing CM’s that actually used words like I can’t and we won’t!! They even took my phone out of my hand and walked to another area to check our dining reservation!!

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