In 2010, Red Bull sponsored a battle of the bands between popular local brass bands – calling it Street Kings. This year, they reprised the contest packing Claiborne Ave under the I-10 overpass. This year’s bands included TBC, New Breed, New Creations and the Original Pinettes – the city’s only all-female brass band. Like most events in New Orleans, there were craft booths, food booths and bars a-plenty. The winning band receives mentorship from Trombone Shorty during 3 days of recording time in the Red Bull Studios. Trombone Shorty also served as one of the judges along with Kermit Ruffins, Walter Ramsey (of the former winners – Stooges Brass Band), WGNO’s Lebron Joseph and Offbeat Magazine’s Jan Ramsey. The event was hosted by the energetic duo of DJ Slab 1 and Glen David Andrews.
Each band was given the opportunity to enter with a flourish (video below) then play a number of songs including standards and originals. TBC competed in 2010 and many still feel they deserved to beat the winning Stooges Brass Band. I’m a fan of both but I did think TBC would have the advantage of knowing what to expect. New Breed, a band including members of Baby Boyz Brass Band and Trombone Shorty’s nephew, played like pros. It was hard to believe they were the new kids on the block. There was one guy in New Creations who played an instrument I’d never seen before and I liked the age range of the group – from youngsters to seasoned vets. The Pinettes had the advantage of pretty singing voices and I got a kick out of seeing Jazz, Corey Henry’s daughter, following in her father’s footsteps. The Pinettes entered the competition playing Let’s Go Get ‘Em and it was clear they came to win.
Everyone seemed excited by the idea that the Street Kings might turn out to be Street Queens, but TBC seemed to command the crowd and New Breed is clearly one of the city’s best new bands. As the clock wound down and the second round was announced, the Pinettes and New Breed were the survivors. I’d be lying if I didn’t say there will be more years of people saying TBC should have been chosen as the crowd seemed shocked to see them once again go home empty handed.
The two remaining bands battled it out again and the Pinettes came out the victors. It was gratifying to see all those talented women holding their trophy up. But the big winner was the city of New Orleans, which was treated to over 5 hours of free live music and dancing thanks to Red Bull’s outreach.
I ran straight from the concert to line up for the Krewe of Boo parade. As a new member of the Pussyfooters dance troupe, this was my first big parade with floats, throws and a giant crowd. The Kern family, who’ve been building parade floats since 1947, had the great idea of going “green” this year with locally made throws including candy, pralines, Voodoo dolls and kids toys recycled at Arc of Greater New Orleans.
Our new official Pussyfooter uniforms aren’t ready yet so one of my sisters-in-pink leant me hers along with some ruffled shorts. Though I stood out in the crowd dressed in head to toe pink at Street Kings, I fit right in when I found our group gathering next to the floats on Elysian Fields.
Many of the Pussyfooters had told me that I might experience a thrill the first time I put on my corset so I’ll admit I was a bit bummed that I didn’t have my own corset yet for the potential “thrill” moment. I even wondered if I would feel nothing as I zipped up the borrowed corset, but pink power pulsed through me and I did indeed feel the rush of being a member of this amazing group of women. Better yet, instead of being bummed, I realized that having that moment in someone else’s corset forever bonded us in a memory, building the sisterhood that is at the heart of the organization.
The 3-ish mile route flew by so fast that I could hardly believe we’d traversed the city. I messed up my dance moves sometimes and my feet were beyond tired at the end but it was a thrilling experience. One of the biggest advantages to being in the parade was getting to see all the many costumes the parade attendees wore. I’ve lived in other cities that take Halloween as seriously as NOLA does, but I’ve never lived anywhere that let it last longer than a night. We have Halloween week here and LOTS of people wear costumes – even to the Saints game we attended Sunday.
There was a giant party after the parade at Mardi Gras World and I’m sure it was a blast but I walked my weary bones back to Canal Street to stop in for a few songs at Glen David Andrews’ regular gig at The Saint hotel’s Burgundy Bar then headed home.
At least once a week, people here find the need to say, “Only in New Orleans,” and Saturday’s festivities were a great example of the sentiment. At Street Kings, we met some men who were traveling with the Buffalo Bills (who we beat handily – Who Dat!?!) and they said how shocked they were when their concierge told them to head down to the overpass for an all-day free concert. They expected a homeless guy with a guitar and an upturned hat and instead got a taste of some our city’s best bands.
I was sorta sad not to watch the Krewe of Boo parade and catch throws – but it was amazing seeing my city blow past me as I danced and waved to smiling costumed people holding up cameras. I wear costumes for a living but dancing through the streets was like stepping through the looking glass – I continue to become more a part of the city and less a spectator.