It’s been this way forever. If you live in Pensacola and want to hear some incredible music, you make the three hour trip to New Orleans. That’s beginning to change.
In recent years, and to our benefit, the music has been traveling the other direction, from New Orleans to Pensacola. In October, DeLuna Fest is keeping this new trend alive and well. At last count there are over ten musicians and bands from the Big Easy playing at DeLuna, mostly on the Gulf Winds Jazz & Heritage Stage.
The musicians and bands range in style and tenure; however, the roots are the same. The NOLA musician lineup includes Anders Osborne, Cowboy Mouth, Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Honey Island Swamp Band, Kermit Ruffins, Mute Math, Trombone Shorty, Revivalists, Voice of the Wetlands, Tim Laughlin’s New Orleans All Stars and more.
One NOLA legend making the trip to DeLuna for the second year in a row is Kermit Ruffins and we’ve heard he’ll be playing two sets during the weekend — including a special late-night Saturday performance. We’ve heard it’s hard to pry Mr. Ruffin’s away from New Orleans during football season, so we’re lucky the Saints are on the road to Tampa Bay during DeLuna weekend.
IN had the opportunity to speak with a few of the New Orleans artists: Cyril Neville from the Voice of the Wetlands All-Stars, Anders Osborne , Roger Lewis from the Dirty Dozen Brass Band and Aaron Wilkinson from Honey Island Swamp Band.
Voice of the Wetlands All-Stars
Voice of the Wetlands All Stars is a band formed to become the voice of Louisiana’s wetlands, which cannot speak for itself. The membership changes from time to time depending on who is available to sit in. They play all the big festivals, and even appeared at Vinyl Music Hall, to spread the message about protecting the wetlands. The members appearing Oct. 16 at DeLuna will be Tab Benoit, Cyril Neville, Big Chief Monk Boudreaux, Jumpin’ Johnny Sansone and Waylon Thibodeaux.
IN spoke to Cyril Neville, the youngest of the famous Neville Brothers, who has played with the Meters, toured and played with Galactic, formed his own family band, Tribe 13, and appeared on dozens of recordings for other artists all over the world. About being in Voice of the Wetland All-Stars, Neville says, “It is a twofold experience, music and helping. The land is leaving and not coming back. Coastal erosion affects everyone, loosing acres of land. And, the animals are watching.”
About his heritage in the music world Neville says, “I got my strength from taking on music gigs as a 14-year-old. I wanted to make a living making music.”
He was born into it. When he was very young, he would meet and hang out with musicians, famous and locally famous from New Orleans.
“We made magic in our living room,” Neville says. “I was blessed to grow up in New Orleans, inside a family steeped in culture. It was great to be part of the New Orleans fabric; it was the gumbo I was cooked in.”
Neville has such an active musical career. He, his wife and son are recording music together and individually. He has been touring and recently formed a new group called The Royal Southern Brotherhood This new group includes Devon Allman, Mike Zito, Charlie Wooton and Mean Willie Green. Keep a lookout for tour dates.
Anders Osborne is Swedish-born, but New Orleans raised. At a very young age he decided to strike out on his own to play music. He landed in the best place to do just that: New Orleans. He still lives there today with his wife and kids.
“I was able to experience the best New Orleans has to offer, playing and learning from such greats as Snooks Eaglin, George Porter, John Mooney, Dr. John, Allen Toussaint and many more,” Osborne recalls, of his early experiences in the New Orleans music scene. “The lineage in New Orleans is passed on to the younger musicians; the ones sneaking into bars, assimilating and learning from the generations above them.”
He is wielding his influence on his own children as well. He writes music in the presence of his kids, his music room is open to an open kitchen space where he says his daughter is often found composing and creating her own work.
Osborne’s catalyst for selecting a genre of music was from living in New Orleans. The lineage and culture, it was modern mixed with traditional music.
“The Dirty Dozen Brass Band was groundbreaking and a big influence on me,” says Osborne.
Osborne also has influences from outside the Big Easy: “My first concert was Neil Young and he had a huge roaring impact. So did all the singer/songwriters of the early 60’s and 70’s. Then I mashed it up with New Orleans influences.”
Osborne spends a week each year on Pensacola Beach and is looking forward to playing at DeLuna Fest this year. He likes the idea of taking advantage of our extended summers here along the gulf coast with a music festival.
Dirty Dozen Brass Band
IN caught up with Roger Lewis of the Dirty Dozen Brass Band as he was busy walking his dog in New Orleans. The band was formed in 1977 and revolutionized the New Orleans brass-band style by incorporating funk and bebop into the sound.
Lewis spent his early years playing piano in church. He moved on to playing the horn and later toured with the likes of Irma Thomas and worked with so many others, like Dizzy Gillespie. The Dirty Dozen Brass Band started out with a few instruments and kept growing. The biggest legacy was bringing the baritone saxophone to the forefront.
Over 30 years, Lewis has traveled all over the world, and played with such greats as Elvis Costello, Modest Mouse, Charlie Musselwhite, John Lee Hooker and Curtis Mayfield.
Lewis says this about the experience, “I was able to travel the world and bring music to the people, it is a beautiful thing,” he says. “One of my favorite experiences was when I looked out my window in London, touring with Fats Domino, and I saw Big Ben, the same picture I had seen only in encyclopedias. I was blessed. ”
The Dirty Dozen player invites everyone out to DeLuna to enjoy a little Louisiana in Florida. “Come on out, and get baptized in New Orleans music,” Lewis says.
The Honey Island Swamp Band
The Honey Island Swamp Band was no stranger to Pensacola when it played last year’s inaugural DeLuna Fest. The band, along with the Soul Rebels Brass Band, has come up with something called Swamp and Soul; each plays a set, then both bands play together, making for a spectacular event.
IN spoke to Aaron Wilkinson about the band and coming back to DeLuna.
Wilkinson says the band is staying busy.
“We have been touring nonstop, making some great music with fellow musicians, and playing festivals all over the United States and Canada,” he says. “Many have been sold out shows.”
The band is currently road testing, and in pre-production of, an upcoming album set for release next year.
Wilkinson is from Pensacola and is looking forward to playing DeLuna, as well as seeing family, friends and fans.
Be sure to catch all of New Orleans’ offerings available at DeLuna Fest this year. You won’t be disappointed. All four of these bands and musicians — Voice of the Wetlands All-Stars, Anders Osborne, Dirty Dozen Brass Band and The Honey Island Swamp Band — will be appearing on the Gulf Winds Jazz & Heritage stage.
Also appearing on the Gulf Winds Jazz & Heritage Stage during DeLuna weekend:
Yo Mama’s Big Fat Booty Band
Shamar Allen & the Underwags
Papa Grows Funk
Kermit Ruffins & the Barbecue Swingers
Tim Laughlin’s New Orleans All-Stars
WHEN: Oct. 13-16
WHERE: Pensacola Beach
COST: $189.95 General Admission Weekend Passes (in advance)