It was Monday night at d.b.a. in New Orleans and Glen David Andrews was putting on a performance not easily forgotten.
Every patron in the packed club, off the main drag, on Frenchmen Street, was willfully committing themselves to this possibly dangerous intoxication. Dripping in sweat and eyes in rage, the six grown men on stage seemed both recklessly out of control of the situation while also fully in charge of this new experiment.
In a city known beyond borders for its jazz, this new experiment was something out of the ordinary. And that was a good thing. In the audience, we had little clue what to do with ourselves other than fall into the trap of these sounds—only interrupted when we were asked to catch the falling lead man, Glen David Andrews, as he threw himself into the crowd to be passed around, trombone held high.
Andrews was born in New Orleans, a product of the Treme Neighborhood. He’s been wielding the trombone since age 12, performing for passersby in Jackson square for 20 years before taking the stage for his first permanent gig at d.b.a.
He’s a towering presence there, literally, standing at 6-foot-4. And he’s a connected presence in the city’s famed jazz community. The older cousin of Trombone Shorty and brother of Rebirth Brass Band drummer Derrick Tubb, Andrews grew up with the famous brass bands of New Orleans.
“But d.b.a. was the first club to give me a residency and they have backed me through some very trying times in my life,” Andrews said. “You know, it’s more than just a gig. They wanted to see me become a New Orleans great musician.”
The club is nestled in a cozy, unassuming brown building on Frenchmen Street, a comfortable nine blocks from the nausea of Bourbon Street. Only a small sign hangs above the front door of d.b.a., letting you know you’re about to enter the most exciting three letters of your life.
We had no idea really what to expect when we walked into the club. It’s not entirely fair to describe Andrew’s performance as a show. It was an experience. It also would not be fair to describe his music as jazz. Or as blues. Or as gospel.
With a golden trombone as his weapon and raspy voice as his tool, Andrews and his band battled through every stereotype that night of what limits a traditional blues artist should recoil from and challenged all the boundaries an R&B musician should never cross. He crossed them all, creating something entirely unique.
Andrews can be found at d.b.a. (which, depending on who you ask, stands for a number of different acronyms) every Monday night. If you find yourself so lucky to be in New Orleans on a Monday evening, you hardly have a relevant excuse to pass up your opportunity to experience the fist-pumping-gospel-rave-sweat-flying-jazz that has made Andrews’ reputation.
“My music,” Andrews said. “It’s the same ingredient that’s in Rebirth Brass Band. Same ingredient that’s adopted by Trombone Shorty. A mixture of pure R&B, punk, gospel, blues and folk rock.”
Off stage, Andrews can be short-spoken, but when the lights shine bright, his personality explodes.
Andrews isn’t the type of artist to take requests, but he did have a favor to ask of us the night we stood in d.b.a. He wanted to be passed over the crowd. “Will all the strong men please come to the front of the stage,” Andrews requested. And everybody did.
As my visit to d.b.a. taught me, you never really experience jazz until you’re holding it over your head.
Andrews did everything he could do make certain we were as much of the show as he was. “Jump around!” he pleaded. “Everybody scream!” he demanded. And everybody did.
Nearly three years have passed since I first heard it for myself, but his ultra-catchy song Rockstar, still plays in my head.
You gotta be what you wanna be,
Don’t wanna anyone to know where you want to go.
Love the one who’s your girl.
She want a rock star,
I’ll be a rock star.