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  • Callum McWilliams

Hot 8 Brass Band at Waterfront 24/07/2019


I’ve never been so happy and so publicly sweaty at the same time.

A few mates had introduced to the Hot 8 Brass Band back in November 2015 at Norwich Arts Centre. A younger, skinnier, even more annoying 17-year old me was completely blown away back then, so my expectations for this set at the waterfront were pretty high going in. Norwich residents Nebula Sun were supporting, and did a pretty good job of (very literally) warming up the room, getting us ready for some sweet brass sounds. A kind of unconventional jazz-folk feel to them, I’m sure I’ll be catching them again soon. Their debut 4-track EP ‘Through The Surface’ came out in March, definitely worth a listen if it sounds like something you'd be up for.

As the lights went down, a very hot Hot 8 walked out to a seismic cheer from the Waterfront crowd. Bennie Pete, the band leader said that the heat was making them feel like they were right at home in New Orleans. From here, the group channelled their huge New Orleans jazz-funk and soul for a good hour, and I think its fair to say everyone in that room felt like they were right in the heart of Louisiana on that night. The city that has given so much to jazz and soul music over history, from Louis Armstrong to Fats Domino to Dr. John. With every performance it seems Hot 8 get closer to that esteemed level of New Orleans legend status.

As a country, I feel audience participation may not be our speciality. Collective cringing and some sheepish singing is maybe the best that can be hoped for at times. Saying that, in some of the more recent gigs I’ve seen at Waterfront it feels like that tide might be turning, Gladboy springs instantly to mind. Hot 8 had pure 10/10 audience participation levels. The only bit that fell short was the (expected) deafening silence that full after the cry of “Is anyone here tonight from New Orleans?”. Other than that, It felt like being in a jazz trance, totally complicit with any request they would lay on us. I’m thankful they were only asking for some harmonies on ‘Shake Your Body’ or ‘What’s My Name?’ and didn’t ask us to go on some funk-fuelled crime wave. Would’ve obliged.

Their version of Marvin Gaye's 'Sexual Healing' was an absolute slam dunk, I urge anyone reading to check the video on YouTube. They’re just strolling through Brighton laying down their sound and it’s magical. Another highlight was their version of Joy Division’s ‘Love Will Tear us Apart’ that came out this year. Listening to the studio version will give a little glimpse into how great the onstage harmonies were, but hot 8 are truly a band better in the flesh than listening on your own time. When the room demanded an encore they came back out to give us their reimagining of The Specials’ ‘Ghost Town’, another really fun cover, with the perfect balance of respect to the original track, but enough new flavour to make it worthwhile. All in all, a fully immersive and captivating gig, on par with that at Arts Centre night 4 years ago, with added sweat. If you ever get the chance to see these boys live, jump at the chance.