Given the flood of new young brass bands coming out in New Orleans now, it’s hard to imagine that the brass bands almost died out completely in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. If Danny Barker hadn’t formed the Fairview Baptist Church Brass Band in the early 1970’s as a way of keeping young people out of trouble, there might have been no brass bands at all today. Fortunately, the success of the Rebirth Brass Band and the Dirty Dozen encouraged a number of other young people to form bands of their own, incorporating a youthful, hip-hop swagger to the style. Arguably, the best of this second generation of New Orleans brass bands is the To Be Continued Brass Band, also known as the TBC. At one time, regular gigs were hard to come by for the TBC, but nowadays they play weekly at a couple of venues, including their regular Wednesday night appearance at Celebration Hall on St. Bernard Avenue.
Celebration Hall is located just north of the I-10 overpass in the 6th Ward, and is the kind of New Orleans venue I like the best. Located in the inner city, it’s nothing fancy, just a nondescript building on a street corner with barbecue grills smoking out in front and a crowd of people milling around the entrance. Inside is dark, except for the rows of Christmas lights just under the ceiling, but a crowd has come to see the To Be Continued band, and it’s their hard-core fans from the neighborhood. They yell encouragements and come out of their chairs to do the second-line dancing in the large dance floor in front of the stage where they’re playing, and before you know it, the place is so packed that you can hardly move around. There’s no better atmosphere to enjoy authentic brass band music, and when it was time to leave, the crowd begged for one more song. TBC obliged by playing “When Somebody Loves You Back” while marching out to the front door and onto the sidewalk in front, ending another of those quintessential New Orleans moments.