When I headed out from Monroe on Sunday morning, it was still raining. Although I had hoped the rain would end, it really did not, and was still going on when I arrived in New Orleans. I stopped and ate lunch at a place called Dis & Dat on Banks Street, a burger concept opened by the same people who started Dat Dog. From there I made my way over to the Treme Coffeehouse, and enjoyed a latte, as the second-line I had hoped to see was not being held due to the rain. Instead, I called my homeboy Darren from the TBC Brass Band, and we ended up riding out to Pizza Domenica with him, and then to the Maison Bourbon for live jazz. Ultimately, we ended up at the Howling Wolf in the Central Business District, where the Hot 8 Brass Band plays every Sunday night.
After being somewhat perturbed at the Hot 8 Brass Band performance the other evening which had been marred by the comedian, I was thrilled at the opportunity to see them again at the SXSW Hackathon Championships, not having to share the stage with anyone else. There was a still a smaller crowd than there should have been for this concert, but at least those that were there began to get a little more lively and involved as the Hot 8 played. After all, it’s impossible to resist the grooves of New Orleans-style brass band music.
I walked from the Convention Center to Lustre Pearl and arrived in what I thought would be plenty of time for the Hot 8 Brass Band performance, but when I got there, nobody was being allowed in because there was already a significant crowd inside. People were allowed in as others left, but while we were still waiting in line, the band started playing. Fortunately I got inside soon afterward, but it turned out that the Hot 8 were booked alongside a comedian, which I could have done without. He was funny, to be sure, but I came to hear great New Orleans brass band music, not jokes. Still, the Hot 8 were excellent as always, and it was fun being outside in the early evening.
Dinerral Shavers was the snare drummer in the Hot 8 Brass Band, so it was very appropriate that the Hot 8 closed out the night of entertainment in his memory at the Howlin Wolf in New Orleans. The largest dance crowd of the night piled into the area in front of the stage, and it was touching to see Shavers’ mother dancing with his picture. But best of all was to know that not only did we have a good time, but that the proceeds from our fun will go to help young people in New Orleans avoid the pitfalls of the streets. That’s worth paying the price of admission ten times, in my opinion, and means that Dinerral Shavers still lives in his city, and continues to have a major impact on youth.
Dinerral Shavers was a snare drummer for the popular Hot 8 Brass Band in New Orleans, and a well-loved teacher at a local high school when he was abruptly murdered in early 2007 by a teenager who had been feuding with his stepson. Out of the tragedy has come an organization set up in Shavers’ memory by his relatives, a foundation that supports the arts, music, culture and anti-violence initiatives in New Orleans, and so on Saturday, January 11, 2014, the Dinerral Shavers Educational Fund sponsored a “brass band blow-out” at the popular Howlin Wolf music venue in the Central Business District. The evening began just after 9:30 PM with a new band, the Most Wanted Brass Band, many of whose members have come from other area bands, such as the Stooges. As such, the band is new, but the members are seasoned veterans and it is a good and tight aggregation overall. What started as a sparse crowd soon filled up, and eventually, the dancers took over the area nearest the stage.
The Hot 8 Brass Band performs uptown at Joe’s House of Blues at 7th and Dryades in New Orleans on Thursday night, 5/23/13
While the music and fun in the park were first-rate, sadly the same cannot be said for the park itself. The first thing I noticed upon entering was a worn and dilapidated complex of wooden buildings that looked like ruins of a failed amusement park. A sign in a window identified part of the complex as the former studios of New Orleans’ great community radio station WWOZ. One would think that the buildings could be restored and put to good use, or else torn down. Their presence in the park adds to the image of a park that is rarely used and which has never lived up to its potential. However the Jazz in the Park concert series seems a step in the right direction.