For a minute, Fall for the Arts felt like a street festival in the French Quarter. With a sweaty crowd all hopped up on fried chicken, foie gras, fish tacos, frozen lemonade, and lukewarm beer, the Rebirth Brass Band of New Orleans launched into shout-alongs of "Who Dat?" and honked its horns like a drunk driver in gridlock.
Kids, fat guys, and black ladies with blonde hair danced in tight circles at the foot of the stage. Someone spilled a drink on a drum. And suddenly some old man busted out his Satchmo impersonation.
See the cut for three videos from the Brass Band's Sunday set.
If you don't know Rebirth, then where you been? The band just turned 27 years old. (Note for TV junkies: The crew recently showed up on the new HBO show, Treme, from ex-journalist and co-creator of The Wire, David Simon.) For a shorthand understanding, there are three trumpets, two trombones, a sax, double drums, and a big fat tuba.
Sometimes a New Orleans player gets sick of "Saints." No matter where you roam, everybody wants to hear those words: "Oh, Lord! I want to be in that number! When the saints go marching in!" It doesn't even matter that there are a billion other songs in your repertoire.
The "Saints" burnout, though, seems to have subsided with last year's Super Bowl win. And the Rebirth Brass Band tore into its loose and victorious version with "Who dat? Who dat? Who dat saying dey gonna beat dem Saints?" -- and a repeat winner's punchline: "Two dat!"
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Right up until 4:13 p.m., the band brought the brass. It was all heavy funk and party music with improvised bits and snatches of pop standards. You got expected soul stuff like Bobby and Shirley Womack's "I Used to Love Her." But you also got some totally unexpected '90s throwbacks, including an extended instrumental of TLC's "Waterfalls."
Then the tuba burped its last breath and it was time for another lukewarm beer.