By Jay Burton (New Orleans, LA) – On Saturday, September 24th, the Red Bull Street Kings event made its highly anticipated return to the Big Easy. Featuring four of New Orleans’ top brass bands in a fierce head-to-head competition. Sporty’s Brass Band, The Big 6 Brass Band, Young Pinstripe Brass Brand, and Kings of Brass Band faced off under the warm New Orleans sunshine in a three-round tournament to determine who was the best brass brand in New Orleans.
Launched in 2010, the Red Bull Street Kings event challenges bands to incorporate traditional brass band standards with original tunes of all genres in head-to-head style rounds. Previous iterations of the event took place underneath the Claiborne avenue overpass. The 2022 installment took place in the Lower 9th Ward at Music Box Village.
The event kicked off with DJ Kelly Green getting the crowd warmed up with classic New Orleans songs. Before the event began, legendary personality and host for the event, Downtown Lesli Brown jumped on stage to introduce the panel of judges. Judges included hip-hop icons Mia X and Mannie Fresh, local legends Christie Jourdain (Original Pinettes and 2013 Red Bull Street Kings winner), Alana Harris (Deputy Director of Arts and Culture) and Chris Herrero (Band Director).
The event started with each band playing a second line on their way to the stage and performing a traditional brass band song. In the 2nd round, each band was paired with a Hip-Hop Artist from New Orleans.
“I love these types of events because it brings the city together. I think it’s going to be really cool to watch this play out. I’m just super excited about seeing everybody rock out. It’s just a good event, it’s dope.” said Alfred Banks, who performed with Kings of Brass.
JZZLE performed with Big Six and Treety performed with the Young Pinstripes.
“It was beautiful. It was an honor to be a part of such a huge thing in the culture on both levels, local and national.” said $Sleazy EZ after performing with Sporty’s Brass Band
In between rounds, the crowd was kept entertained by the sounds of DJ Kelly Green and Flagboy Giz, who performed his blazing single “We Outside” with DJ Raj Smoove. Other performances included a New Orleans All-Star Brass Band, the Zulu Tramps and the Queen of the Streets, Secondline Shorty
The bands were scored on stage appearance, material, energy, musicality and innovation. The final round came down to Sporty’s Brass Band and Kings of Brass Band. As the performances progressed, the energy of both the bands and the crowd continued to get higher and higher
After the final horn, it was determined that the final round was not enough to determine a winner. So legendary producer Mannie Fresh got on the mic and declared that we needed an encore. They needed one more song and the bands needed to blow it up. The crowd broke out into cheers as they realized they were about to witness one final battle between these 2 amazing bands.
When the dust settled it was the Kings of Brass that walked away as the winners.
“This helps everybody in the brass band community. Even with us winning, even if somebody else would’ve won it helped the whole community,” said Gregory Warner of Kings of Brass.
“This one is for the city we love. This is for everybody. This is for Big 6. This is for Sporty’s. This is for YPS (Young Pinstripe Brass Band). This is for all of you. Somebody had to win,” said Caleb Windsay of Kings of Brass in celebration.
Not only did this help the brass band community, but it also benefitted multiple organizations in the city of New Orleans. All proceeds from ticket sales will support the following New Orleans organizations: Dinerral Shavers Foundation, Louis Armstrong Jazz Camp and Roots of Music.
“The love for the music and the culture is way bigger than the competition,” said host Downtown Lesli Brown. “The culture is deep. I’m pretty sure anyone that didn’t take the crown today still won.”
The celebration of brass band traditions, merging the rich musical legacy of New Orleans with its progressive hip-hop culture made soundwaves through Music Box Village as spectators savored the vibrant sights and sounds of brass culture. The electric vibe was created and carried by the city itself.
A great event was thrown by Red Bull that helped showcase the Brass Band community on a big stage and also might provide insight into what the future could be for the youth of the city.
“The thing that I do like to see is that we’re perpetuating the culture. Giving something for the youth to look forward to. There are a lot of kids running around here. So they can see what the next level of music may be if they’re in marching bands or something, they can see something to look forward to” said John Perkins, trumpet player for Sporty’s Brass Band.