REVIEW: The Hot 8 Brass Band at The Garage


The Hot 8 Brass Band
(The Garage. 10th October 2015. Review by Lorna Cole)

On the last night of their 18-date British Isles tour, New Orleans’ Hot 8 were most determined to go out with a big bang. They crammed on to the stage at the North London rock venue, The Garage on Highbury Corner, with some serious bad ass brass.

This raucous revival of the ensemble’s 20 years of re-shaping the marching band jazz resonated with the joyfully rowdy audience who were unable to resist the opening request to Rock with the Hot 8. The infectious drive throughout the band’s recent retrospective release Vicennial multiplies when the ‘glorious celebration,’ as Dan Bergsagel called it in his review of that CD, is taken to the stage.

At the will of laid-back sousaphone player Bennie Pete the packed house was bounced to Louisiana and back over references to our favourite classic hip hop and soul, spiced with the group’s distinctive Bayou funk. Peppered with commands of call and response master and Hot 8 trumpeter Alvarez "B.I.G. AL” Huntley it was impossible to resist feasting on all the authentic southern flavour they were serving up.

Oozing party ethic, you’d never know this band has been beset by the kind of dramas and tragedies you might expect from a TV box set. Every joyous toot says ‘in your face adversity’ especially evident in their nod to the Specials and reminder of band’s hardship and displacement during Katrina, Ghost Town.

We were all swept away in the dynamism and the sweat, building up to some sultry heat for the Sexual Healing Marvin Gaye reversion sing-a-long the crowd seemed to have been hanging on for. I have to admit, my hands were clasped over my eyes to protect me from gratuitous scenes of bumping and grinding I can imagine akin to antics at the heart of Frenchman Street on Fat Tuesday back in the band’s home town. I can’t lie, I got a little queasy. There were more moments for feelgood familiarity to come, with the much more restrained Temptations cover, Just My Imagination.

Then just when I was thinking that all the sweat had dripped and all the hits had been wheeled out and it might even be time for coats, they re-raised the rafters with their reggae blaster, infused with Stevie Wonder’s jammin'.  They left us blown away, and wondering what new twists they’ll blow our way.

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