The only time that all 10 members of Hot 8 Brass Band could be seen on stage was when the audience dropped low to the floor to dance to the band’s music.
Hot 8 Brass band is a New Orleans-based group who mix jazz, R&B and hip hop with traditional brass sounds. The Grammy-nominated ensemble played in Sheffield on 26 February at the O2 Academy the song ‘Get Up’ was just one of many tunes which showcased their ability to energise a room full of people.
The band started off the night with their reggae rendition of Joy Division’s ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’. The deep bass sound provided by the sousaphone echoed throughout the room and blended with the trumpet’s high-pitched melody. This created an infectious energy that got audience members snapping their fingers and tapping their feet. Of all the songs played, this one highlighted what the band is all about. Each member plays a different instrument that produces its own unique sound. All are perfectly in sync with one another and can easily produce one distinct melody.
The mood quickly changed from energetic to sombre when the band played ‘St. James Infirmary’, a song about a dying lover. The slow and melancholic jazz song resembled that of a funeral procession, the drawn-out riffs of the trumpets and saxophone making the performance feel intimate and emotional. The brass instruments serve as the stars of the show, however, it was Bennie Pete’s vocals which stood out the most, his surprisingly deep and raspy voice deepening the gloomy atmosphere.
Hot 8 were able to bring back the celebratory vibe with their infamous rendition of Marvin Gaye’s ‘Sexual Healing’, but the instrumental of the R&B and soul song wasn’t as intense as ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ or ‘Get Up’. The repetitive chants of “Wake up wake up / Get up get up” coupled with the beats of the snare drum still got the audience rocking from side to side.
The final song, “What’s My Name?” brought a new wave of liveliness and energy to the room. It was clear from the way the Hot 8 members closed their eyes and rocked to the rhythm that they connected with this song the most. The same melody was played over and over by the trumpets. Each time however, a new layer of either vocals or drums was added. The end result was a loud and spontaneous sounding number that made audience members break out into dance.
Hot 8 Brass Band’s sound is a breath of fresh air from the electronic and techno music dominating mainstream media. The use of brass instruments gives the band’s music more depth and complexity. It was clear from the audience responses that their songs don’t just invoke an emotion, but an attitude. It’s a kind of carefree attitude that makes people forget about their worries and focus instead on living in the moment.
Image: Derek Bridges