In line with the Bayou Steppers

While visiting with Rachel and Abram of the Neighborhood Story Project in New Orleans Saturday (April 5), Sherry and I found out that there would be a Second Line Parade noon the next day starting at some obscure street intersection that meant nothing to us touristas. parade6I had a slight notion what this meant because my daughter’s school Jazz Band had played a Second Line piece at a concert last year.

It was an all brass (tuba playing bass) with percussion (snare and bass drum) mobile procession. It was loose, fun, everyone got a solo, and I got to play long comping on a banjo (I’m a third rate banjo player, but I’ve learned to fake playing most stringed instruments). We were a bunch of white kids (grant me this one exaggeration) trying on our “soul.”

Turns out that Second Line parades happen nearly every Sunday in New Orleans. parade1They’re local events sponsored by Social and Pleasure Clubs from around the city where a brass band and costumed dancers lead neighborhood people winding through their own streets. No one watches a Second Line parade because everyone’s in it. As it winds its way, it grows as people come out of their houses and join the parade. Since Katrina, these parades have taken on an even more symbolic role of hope, unity, and community than they already had.

parade2Our particular Second Line Parade was sponsored by the Bayou Steppers, (advertised on their banner as the first integrated social and pleasure club in NO). The picture here I stole from NOLA Entertainment, but we were at this very parade. It started at the very humble intersection of 2nd and Dryades where people were milling around while the band got organized. Sherry and I had a quick lunch of some great Cajun shrimp soup with a boiled egg in it sold from the back of a rusty pickup. Then the band started up and we headed out.

It was an amazingly beautiful day, which my pathetic photos don’t do justice to, but suffice it to say that the music was amazing and I’d have missed my flight home to be there if I’d have needed to.



It was a great party – sunny and 80 degrees while at home Duluth was in a sleet storm. It wasn’t all happy, though. At one point, the whole parade stopped while the brass band played a dirge (Just a Closer Walk) to honor someone who had recently died (we never found out who, but it’s a frequent Second Line phenomenon). Also, we wound through a neighborhood that was probably only about 1/3 occupied. Below is an upper level apartment that appeared occupied, but still in shambles.


The parade wound toward downtown and pretty near our hotel, so we eventually abandoned it to catch our flight home.

Interestingly enough, when I was asking hotel staff about Second Line parades, one woman directed me to Harrah’s Casino, where a Second Line band parades around 24/7 while people pump cash into slot machines. The average tourist doesn’t get out of the Quarter/Hotel/Casino district of New Orleans, so she was just responding to what’s normally expected, I guess. I’m glad we didn’t take her advice.



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