The Stooges Brass Band might operate in the shadow of other, more well-known New Orleans brass bands, but the group has created a significant legacy in its 18-year run. The band mixes hip-hop and New Orleans jazz into a style it calls "street music,” and it definitely lived up to that billing last night at Music Box Supper Club during a three-hour (with a 20-minute intermission show).
Dressed casually in sneakers and jeans, band leader Walter Ramsey confessed he didn’t know how to dress appropriately for winter as the six-man ensemble gathered on stage. “We are the Stooges from New Orleans, y’all,” he said casually before laying down the ground rules for the concert. There would be “100 percent crowd participation” and every time the band said “hey,” audience members needed to throw their hands in the air. The rules didn’t need enforcing.
The show started with a bit of jump blues that featured a terrific woozy trumpet solo. It helped get the crowd warmed up for the first set’s signature song, “Wind It Up,” a tune for which the band has developed a unique dance that involves “winding up” as if to deliver a fastball pitch. The group divided the crowd into two halves to see which half of the room could master the dance moves.
The second set started with a birthday tribute to one of the concert’s patrons. The band started “Happy Birthday” with a simple trumpet solo but then expanded the tune into a full New Orleans-style brass band romp complete with tuba and trombone. “We want to take you back a little bit with us,” said Ramsey as the band launched into a cover of the Jackson Five’s “I Want You Back” that segued into Michael Jackson’s “Rock With You” and concluded with a version of Pharrell’s “Happy.” The group dedicated “Why Dey Had to Kill Him?” to a musician who was shot and killed by New Orleans police in 2004. Though the subject matter was rather sobering, especially considering the recent police shootings that have taken place, Ramsey didn’t let it change the concert’s festive mood. As he put at the second set’s start: “In New Orleans, we celebrate life. Even when we die, believe it or not, we celebrate.”
Last night’s concert had a great celebratory vibe to it, even if the music sometimes sounded distorted and the members were ultimately better at rapping than they were at singing.