Tipitina's stands at the corner of Napolean and Tchopotoulis ("the chop"). A couple hundred more feet down Napoleon is the Mississippi River. This is the best place to be on Friday nights and it is not just because of the music. Across the street from the bar, a middle-aged black woman sells fried chicken. Alicia seems to always be in the right place at the right time. You know you have chosen the best music, and the right place to watch it, if Alicia has set up her fried chicken stand.
Tonight the lineup is the Hot 8 Brass Band and Trumbone Shorty (Troy Andrews). By 11:10, Hot 8 has already been off the stage for twenty minutes and the filled to capacity crowd is waiting anxiously for the main act. Andrews, at the age of sixteen, is already a New Orleans legend. Most New Orleanians in the crowd remember a young Trumbone Shorty bouncing around the stage with his trumpet as an eight year old. He even had a bar in the Treme neighborhood named after him. In the last few years, he grouped with a few high school friends, and formed his current band. A few days after this show, he was booked to play with U2 and Green Day at the Superdome, but he was focused on tonight. Tipitina's is a rusty place with a balcony and a basketball hoop in the middle.
The bar curls around the edge and the sound equipment takes up the majority of the back of the bar, but there is a lot of space left for the crowd, and a huge stage. When the lights finally turn low and the band members begin their groove, there is a strong sense that something special is about to happen, and it does. Within a couple minutes of stage savvy anticipation, Trumbone Shorty does a couple jumps onto stage, and begins to waive his gigantic arms up and down. The crowd roars. Still hopping and smiling, he takes his trombone and plays a series of passionate funky noises.
By this point, the whole place is rocking, and people are following his lead. His stage presence radiates around the room, and for those who have never seen him, they can only shake their heads in bewilderment. The similarities to a young Prince are obvious, and after he takes his shirt off and plays with the microphone stand, he becomes almost a mirror image, without the black leather pants. He wears a black tank top instead.
After doing crowd jumping renditions of Lenny Kravitz, Curtis Mayfield and James Brown, he stops the music, and breaks it down for the audience. As the music comes back alive, Trumbone Shorty waves his head back and forth, and begins, "You can check my face/ on myspace-o, you can check my face/on myspace."(www.myspace.com/tromboneshorty) Loving every moment of it, the crowd repeats after him, and within minutes the place is louder than it had ever been before. Two hours after beginning, Trumbone Shorty pretends to leave, but immediately returns to the stage and play for another half hour. It is 2:30 in the morning, and almost everyone is still there. New Orleans music is still alive.