Second Line, Oldstyle

My kind of bar crawl.

A combination memorial and celebration hosted by a Social Aid and Pleasure Club. They ‘roll’ on Sundays in any part of the city except during the hottest summer months.

I’ve been to second lines here and there, promo events put on by radio shows or bars, but I consider this to be my first, true experience. Walking and dancing with offspring of the originators. This last Sunday it was the Lady Jetsetters hosting, Stooges Brass Band playing. (For those interested, a quick Google Search of “Lady Jetsetters 2014” will get you some videos and even the route map.)

From what I understand, Social Aid and Pleasure Clubs formed due to insurance companies refusing to cover newly freed slaves. So for life’s tragedies, members of this club would gather with food, comforts, and whatever they could contribute to help out the afflicted member(s). With this arrangement a person would be guaranteed a funeral with brass band and their family the loving embrace of community. A mourning of loss with the celebration of living.

We gathered on Earhart, southwest of Broad St about noon-ish, waiting for the royalty to come strutting out of their quarters. And while we waited, there were people vending refreshments of all kinds. Coolers strapped into wagons, overflowing with beverages on ice. Grills and smokers, loaded with meat of all kinds, carried high on trailers along with their tenders. Small pick-up trucks parked within the crowd, a couple people in the back end mixing drinks from a full complement of booze bottles lined up on top of the cab. Trays of jello shots and baked treats floated in and out of the crowd.

The band struck up, the notables emerged and we were soon on our way. One, big, rolling street party. Dancers and walkers moving en mass. The wagon vendors rolled along with the us, weaving in and among the movers and shakers. The larger vehicles held back as the crowd left and then drove a different route to meet us at our next stop.

In addition to a comfort stop at the occasional bar along the route, we would pause at a home or curb to memorialize someone. There were no speeches or commentary. Just the band converging on a lawn or porch. Participants dancing in a circle around them. People emerged from surrounding buildings to watch or join in. Every porch, landing, or utility cabinet became a dance stage.

slineBrass instruments threw music into the air, people sang and clapped to familiar tunes. The groove was awesome. Everyone moving in their own way, to a single rhythm. At some point I ended up drifting into the path of the first line and got swept up by one of the dukes for bit of a dance. We sang a chorus together and then I was off again to the sidelines.

The route was over five miles but I only made it half way. I maintain it was the vodka and cranberry at Silkys that did me in. I’d really wanted a Jello shot but when my ass hit the bar stool I went for the immediate gratification offered by the lovely bartendrix. Water might have been wiser, and maybe another tasty pork treat.

Next time I’m going for that Jello shot.


Book on the beside table:
Jitterbug Perfume, Tom Robbins