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All-Stars Jamboree

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After 18 years, the Bucktown
All-Stars are still rocking out
and gaining fans

Anyone who goes to a Bucktown All-Stars show has great time. The
audacity of the band is unrivaled, and it’s expressed through their
instruments, sound and rollicking roller coaster shows. For the past
18 years, the band has performed a mix of rock, soul, funk, R&B and
legendary New Orleans classics. The large crowds are a testament to their
enthusiasm and their role in the New Orleans music scene. Unleashing
their infectious onstage chemistry and high-energy mix of second-line funk
and Motown soul, the Bucktown All-Stars have added a true Crescent City
flavor to festivals, nightclubs and special events across the Gulf South. If it’s
a party, it’s the Bucktown All-stars, and if it’s the Bucktown All-stars, it’s a
wild one. The band spent some time with New Orleans Living to discuss what
makes them who they are.

How did the band form and why?
We were high school friends that formed an R&B band to perform in a
talent show. We enjoyed it so much, it just evolved and 18 years later the
band is still here.

What makes the band unique?
Much of what makes us unique is our attitude. We truly enjoy performing
and that is very evident to the crowd. The Bucktown All-Stars perfectly
capture the energy and sound of New Orleans. Brassy horns, soulful vocals
and heartfelt rhythms are injected into every song. We bring an energy
and playfulness to every show that is unique to the industry. That energy is
contagious, and we constantly feed off that energy, back and forth. Also, while
we do adhere to the standard cover band playlist, we infuse the personalities
of all the band members in our show. You hear the songs, but we do them in
our own special way, both vocally and instrumentally. In addition, we make
it a point to honor the great musical traditions of New Orleans—from jazz to
R&B and funk—and play many of the classic local songs.

How are you guys so much fun?
We truly enjoy playing music together, and when we’re together our
collective IQ drops dramatically and our immaturity levels rise alarmingly.
We feed off each other and are all pretty much clowns who happen to
possess some musical ability. One of the most asked questions is, “Are y’all
just putting on a show or are you really having that much fun up there?” and
the answer is we are really having fun, sometimes to the detriment of the
music but always to the benefit of the experience!

What are some of the band’s accomplishments? What special events have
you played?

Our awards are listed on the Web site, such as multiple winner of OffBeat
Magazine’s Best Cover Band, but our accomplishments are more in the way
we can involve the crowd, whether the event is for thousands of people or at
an 80-year-old woman’s birthday party in her living room. We’ve done every
major event that New Orleans offers.

How does the city shape your music?
The vibe of the city is what we bring to the stage, from Saints home openers
and pregame events to Mardi Gras events and local festivals and all that is in between! The city is a part of all of us, and we all come from different
places and times within the city. We have Uptown, downtown, backatown,
outatown, the West Bank and St. Bernard all represented to some extent.
We’re naturally N’awlins!

Tell us about your legendary Rock ’n’ Bowl shows.
Bucktown and Rock ’n’ Bowl work so well together. We’re a great fit for each
other. It’s the right combination of atmosphere, music, fun, food and drink.
Think of the overused “gumbo” cliché—it’s the right mix of ingredients. We
were a bit nervous if the “magic” would carry over to the new location, but it
has and has even grown better. Each time we play Rock ’n’ Bowl, we have no
idea what to expect except to know that it’s going be a wild night. Anyone can
and often does show up. From celebrities to local legends and of course our
own crazy wonderful fans. We started performing at the original location over
14 years ago.

What about the rebound after Katrina?
We all chose to return to the city. It is true what they say about New Orleans
that you can never really leave here. We believe that is very unique to this
place, if you look at other cities like Atlanta, Houston or New York City.
There are a lot of people who live there but aren’t connected to the place.

How do you feel New Orleans is evolving?
People want to be a part of New Orleans. They want to visit the city and enjoy
the food. They want to experience the vibe of a truly unique place. And they
want to dance to the music that has made this city what it is. That’s where
Bucktown comes in. For us locals, we’ve all come to realize that this is a very
special place—to not take it for granted as we might have before the storm.
This is crossing racial and social lines in a more positive collaboration than
I have seen before. I think the popularity of brass bands has helped this
relationship develop and allowed us to expand our play list and bring that
New Orleans feel to many tunes that we play that were not “New Orleansy” in
their original form.

What is the longest show you have ever played?
About eight years ago, Bucktown played the infamous Samedi Gras preparade
party on Orleans Avenue to start Endymion. At the end of our set, we
climbed aboard Captain Eddie’s SS Endymion to entertain the crowds along
the route. You don’t realize how long that route is until you play the whole
ride. It was an incredible experience and a great way to see the city. After a
five-hour ride, we closed the Endymion Extravaganza with a 90-minute set.
What a night!

Who is at the top of the list of New Orleans musicians who are the most fun
to play with?

We once shared a stage and several songs with the Dirty Dozen Brass Band
and Irma Thomas. We also played with Frankie Ford, who was a lot of fun.
Herman Ernest is a total professional at the top of his art. The most fun is
watching another local musician sit in with the All-Stars and hearing them
react at how much energy the band has. It’s contagious. We’re still waiting to
play with Dr. John and Harry Connick Jr.