WEST DES MOINES, Iowa — At about the same time each day, a mundane corner in West Des Moines turns unique.
The sound doesn’t fit the scene–it’s a sight that seems out of place. You can’t help but stop to ask. When you do, you meet Shaquille Phillips, and it all starts to make sense.
“When we drove past here to take my mother to work,” he says, “this spot reminded me of another spot where I used to drum in Chicago. So I was thinking, like, why not just drum right there while my mother works here?”
Phillips moved to Iowa a month ago to be closer to his mom. At the corner of 22nd and Kingman, he plays for fun, not for money. And while the reception has been mostly positive, not everyone has been Iowa nice.
“’Why don’t you try to get a real job?'” he recalls being asked more than once. “‘Why don’t you try to get a real drum?’ ‘What are you doing?’ A lot of people ask me that.”
He has a real job–at the Taco Bell behind him. And the drum? Well, it’s as real as it needs to be.
“Wendy’s (restaurant) has the best buckets,” he laughs. “The pickle buckets.”
In Phillips’ hometown, the Chicago Bucket Boys are street-level celebrities. Their bucket-playing art draws crowds–and dollars.
West Des Moines loves Chicago’s baseball and pizza–and now the city has a bit of its rhythm.
“Bass, mid-pitch, higher-pitch,” he points out, explaining the different sounds that emanate from the same bucket.
Sticks last about a month–the buckets, not nearly as long. He hopes to get ahold of some sheetrock buckets, as he says those are the best. But what he’s really hoping for is a bigger spotlight.
“I’m trying to make this open doors for me.”
Drake University offered him a chance to play at a basketball game next season, and he drummed outside the Relays last week and got a chance to see the Isiserettes.
“I stopped playing and I heard their drums, their snares,” he smiles. “Oh my God! I loved it! They’re good. They’re real good.”
He’s good, too–and he’s hoping it takes him somewhere.
“Like open up for Famous Dex or for Katy Perry or something…”
Why stop there?
“…or to go to California and to be in a movie…”
He’s a young man with elaborate dreams, a family guy with a special talent, and a happy new Iowan.
The things you learn when you stop to ask. And here you thought he was just a dude playing a bucket.