My freshman year at Loyola University New Orleans, I took an introductory class to music industry studies. The course was taught by Gregory Davis, trumpet player for the legendary Dirty Dozen Brass Band. In addition to learning about the music industry, Mr. Davis inadvertently taught me a lot about the NOLA mindset.
The Dirty Dozen Brass Band skillfully blended R&B and funk into the traditional brass band sound. They pushed the sound forward since their beginnings in 1977. The modern NOLA brass band scene would not exist today if it were not for the innovative sound of the DDBB. They have also toured and collaborated with a ton of artists over the years, from Widespread Panic to the Black Crowes to Norah Jones.
Davis would often pose questions to the class. “What’s a publicist?” he would ask. “A person that promotes an artist,” someone would respond. Davis would answer in his gravelly tone, “Well, yes and no. Kinda sorta…” There was no concrete answer, there is always more to the story. “Yes and no” and “kinda sorta” were his most uttered catchphrases.
Davis would discuss the challenges of touring the world and being on the road. “Some people would say no to drugs, but some of the bands we toured with would say yes to drugs,” he told us once. “The audience would sometimes bring drugs and throw them onstage for the bands,” he stated warily.
NOLA is a city of contradictions, often swirling together, existing in a strange harmony. It is home of the drive-thru daiquiri shop, home of the high school bar. When you leave a bar, you can grab a rum and Coke to go. New Orleans is land of no last call, bars close when they want. “Are you drunk?” “Kinda sorta…” “Is this building up to code?” “Kinda sorta..Napoleonic code.” “Is the streetcar on time?” “Yes and no…Mostly no.”
There is no place like NOLA. NOLA embraces the contradictions that just wouldn’t work anywhere else. It will forever be funky and there is no “yes and no” or “kinda sorta” about that.