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Big Bands, jazz, orchestras, the Brighton Beach Bandstand has hit every note and hosted all genres of musical acts since its 1884 debut. An iconic stop in the southern coastal town, the area was developed during the 1800s and quickly became the hottest summertime destination for British folks, thanks to the development of a new train station.
The bandstand was quickly dubbed the “Birdcage” for its intricate ironwork details. Originally built to shade ladies from the summer sun, musicians recognized the space as a convenient spot with a captive audience, and swung into action to repurpose it as a venue. Of course the men followed, hoping to cajole a young woman into a dance or two.
Listening to music overlooking the English Channel is nothing if not picturesque. But there was one design flaw: The restrooms were located on the lower level of the Bandstand, imposing a rippling cacophony of consistent flushing water that even a trumpet couldn’t drown out.
The toilet orchestra was among the many reasons the bandstand saw fewer performances over the years. Upkeep was neglected, and by the 1970’s it was so dilapidated that the bridge linking the Bandstand to the upper promenade of the boardwalk was dismantled.
Locals came to the rescue, not wanting the iconic Bandstand to meet a similar fate as two other dilapidated piers that had been swept out to sea. Renovation efforts began in earnest in 2008. Floors were carefully removed and the cast iron structure was transported to a nearby foundry, where 40 layers of accumulated paint and grime were scrubbed from the iron details.
Today, the Birdcage Bandstand stands proud once again, squeaky clean and reconnected to the upper promenade. The old restrooms were flushed out and replaced with a quieter cafe, offering bands a full set without any impromptu toilet solos.
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