by Andrew Rusli
A balmy LES night. Inside the Mercury Lounge it’s dark and noisy and the crowd is babbling. People in dresses, t-shirts, flannel and collared shirts mingle. The stage is lit in a blue haze that gives the effect of cigarette smoke, though no one is smoking.
“Mic Check 1 2 1 2! How y’all doing out there tonight?!” The Hot 8 Brass Band kicks it off, the crowd is a sea of heads and outstretched hands. It’s party music, a vigorous pulsing New Orleans jazz funk, where the band is from. People dance and sway and sweat, the band yells out call and responses. Horns squeal and wail in syncopation. The entire group performs standing like a marching band, except for the trumpet player in the wheelchair, a double amputee.
Hot 8 plays at one dynamic: loud. It’s forte all the way through, from the singing to the drumming, with hardly any breaks in between songs. The crowd hollers. Their raucous cover of Sexual Healing is the highlight of the night.
As they near the end of the show, the band calls the ladies up to the stage to dance while they pass around a guitar case as a makeshift tip jar. It’s inviting and earnest music, nothing aloof – refreshing to see in a city like New York.