Can Charleston party as hard as New Orleans? Not if the ushers at Friday night's Rebirth Brass Band concert at the Cistern have anything to say about it. They strictly policed the front of the stage, keeping revelers confined to the sides, until a few defectors rushed the front and everyone else followed suit. The three flustered ushers made a valiant attempt to corral the dancers back to their designated areas, but they failed miserably. It was a hilarious battle of wills, and you could tell that the band was secretly pleased when the partiers triumphed.
Dressed in jeans and T-shirts, the Treme-based band brought a loose, casual vibe to the sometimes-stuffy Cistern. At home on the streets of New Orleans, Rebirth's high-energy, raucous sound is not something to be enjoyed sitting down. As the nine-piece band lit into their first big, brassy number, people were already wiggling in their seats, clapping, and whooping. The energy level remained sky-high throughout the show as the band played funky originals and fresh reworkings from greats like Duke Ellington and Miles Davis. Trombone player Stafford Agee occasionally sang and chatted with the crowd, while founding members Phil and Keith Frazier held up the rhythm section in the back.
The various band members showed off their individual talents with frequent solos on the sax, trumpets, drums, trombones, sousaphone. The only low points in the show happened when the mics weren't properly adjusted and certain players' contributions couldn't be heard right away — as when a trumpeter shouted "Make Some Noise!" in what sounded like a low whisper. He seemed disappointed when no one followed his instructions.
The entire crowd was on its feet by the time the band played their last song, the joyous, jazzy "Cassanova." The audience demanded an encore and the band delivered with none other than NOLA's signature song, "When the Saints Go Marching In." New Orleans might be sick of the tune, but Charlestonians ate it up.