One of the best experiences on my recent trip to New Orleans was getting to witness a second line brass band parade from start to finish.
I was there with a friend documenting the work done by the social clubs that put them on, and as much I tried to stay on the sidelines and away from the action, every person I encountered and was introduced to was warm, gracious, and welcomed me as a guest in their space.
We began at the house where the procession started, awaited the kickoff at noon, and watched one brass band after another play out dance squads and parade kings and queens as they emerged from the home. Then we spent a few hours following the parade at various points.
I remember a moment early in the day, when the first groups were coming out of the house and I heard this incredible live music all around me along with all the smells of food and drink being prepared in the street and everyone was cheering on a dance squad decked out in matching suits with big feathers to accentuate their moves and then another brass band joined in and then there was the queen surrounded by 5 feet of feathers all around her head looking absolutely like queen of the entire planet earth. It hit every one of my senses at once. It was a celebration and a culture unlike anything I’d seen before. And it was beyond wonderful. I just lost it and started crying at the pure joy of everything happening all around me.
We followed our favorite brass bands for a few miles and walked up and down the route amidst all the people taking part. There were so many cool examples of people doing what they loved. There were bicycle clubs, motorcycle clubs, people on horses, people with huge 4x4s and people in lowriders. There were people selling burgers, beers, drinks, and cocktails from the backs of their cars and trucks. There were dogs everywhere and people with snakes and people smoking weed in the streets and dancing along and there were even cops at the start and finish of the procession but everyone was cool with each other. I didn’t hear a single voice raised in anger anywhere. I never saw the cops do anything but shake people’s hands and keep the party moving. It just was so many handshakes, hugs, and dancing for hours.
It was an entire day of pure joy and celebration of great music and people. And it happens every week! Over 40 Sundays per year! I was overwhelmed in the best way possible by the whole day and I couldn’t help but think it must be incredible to get to experience it every week. No matter how bad your week was, or how unfair things seem, there’s always the party on Sunday to feel good again and celebrate the best life has to offer.
Second lines are fucking incredible.