Over the weekend, Rebirth Brass Band packed out Oak Cliff's Kessler Theater in a sold out show. I arrived early, walking six blocks from Bishop Arts District to the historic venue, because it was a beautiful evening for a stroll in one of my favorite Dallas neighborhoods. On the way I pass a bar patio, and an old man sitting by the rail asked me where I was going. Without stopping or engaging him, I told him I was walking to New Orleans, and I heard him laugh.
When I got to the theater, I mingled amongst a diverse crowd in the lobby. Friends, family, fans, and lots of New Orleans natives visited over drinks and appetizers along with a few members of the band. One patron, a woman in her mid-twenties, told me that she lived in the Big Easy for nine years. During that time, she was a regular at Rebirth Brass Band's weekly Tuesday night gig at The Maple Leaf. Now a Dallas resident, she never misses a chance to get her fix.
As I filed into the theater, I quickly found myself in a study in show etiquette. Older patrons who arrived too late to snag a cocktail table grumbled at the lack of general admission seating. I watched one party of six or seven well-dressed, middle aged patrons move their table closer to the stage three times within an hour. Others sat on the floor, leaving a sizable dance space in front of the stage, which many adorable couples took advantage of during Kristy Kruger's impressive opening set.
Accompanied by a Dixieland Band of local gigging musicians, Denton's own Kristy Kruger was an ideal first act to the evening. In a beautiful beaded gown she crooned sweet bluesy melodies, led her all-male band like a pro, and gave charming audience banter between songs. Before the song, "Instructions for a Sudden Death", she quipped "I like to write pretty little songs about lighthearted stuff like death". I particularly enjoyed her yearning ode to insomnia, "I Long For The Night All Day". But the highlight of her set was a roaring rendition of the classic standard "I Want A Little Sugar In My Bowl", during which local burlesque performer Honey Cocoa Bordeauxx joined her for a surprise performance that brought the house down.
When intermission broke, I hit the bar and bathroom only to come back and find patrons filing to the edge of the stage, ready for the headlining act. Just before showtime, I was invited backstage to meet the band. Standing in a circle together, warming up their respective instruments, they thanked me graciously for coming out. Their eagerness to get onstage matched that of the anxious crowd. I shared a cigarette with trombone player Corey Henry, told them to break a leg and then the party really started.
The energetic crowd danced the night away -- Rebirth performed a raucous set of fan favorites. When these men take the stage, armed with brass and percussion, they hold the crowd in the palm of their hands. The call-and-answer crowd participation element of their shows keep Rebirth fans hanging on these musician's every breath. At one point, the woman I'd met in the bar earlier turned to me and said, "See? This is like medicine!". Standout numbers in the set included the fun and bouncy, "I Like It Like That", and the classic, "Casanova"- during which the band invited female patrons on stage to dance with them. Their encore of "When The Saints Go Marching In" was a perfect end to a perfect night.
As I walked back to Bishop Arts, I passed the same bar patio, and the same old man who'd tried to engage me in conversation earlier.
"How was your trip to New Orleans?" he asked, jokingly.
"Too short." I told him