Review and Photos by Bob Adamek – [email protected]
Thursday night, February 25th, the venerable State Theater in Falls Church, VA hosted a live show featuring a truly inspired, high energy performance by Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue. Perhaps the inspiration on this night came from the announcement, just hours earlier, that Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews had just signed his first major label record deal with Verve Forecast, joining a considerable stable of artists such as Herbie Hancock, John Fogerty, Blues Traveler, Jamie Cullum and Ledisi among many others. Or perhaps that news was just something taken in stride for this close knit band of road warriors and old friends.
One of the magnetic draws of this band is in how much they love playing music and playing it together. When you watch someone that enjoys what they do so much, it is utterly contagious. It is hard not to suppose that if you were the one on stage, in front of all those people, that is how you would be, enjoying the moment to the fullest. That is how this band handles itself, in a perpetual state of enjoying their work. The back line is made up of drummer Joey Peebles, percussionist Dwayne Williams and bassist Mike Ballard. The moments that Peebles is not smiling or sharing that exuberant attitude with Williams or Ballard are few and far between. Troy Andrews keeps that same energy alive on the front line with his astounding trombone playing, equaled only by his trumpet playing and accompanied by his strong vocals and energetic dancing. Pete Murano commands his Epiphone Les Paul guitar in much the same way, with dexterity on his solos, and a funky bad right hand on his rhythm playing.
Troy Andrews is a driven band leader. He seems molded in the tradition of James Brown, drilling his band through an impressive display of musicianship and syncopated rhythmic songs that kept the audience moving all night. At one point Troy had saxophonist Robby Marshall take off on a solo, which was filled with such energy and fury that it gave me an ice cream headache at the thought of what it took to play such a solo. Meanwhile Troy stood facing the rest of the band, conducting them through a series of rhythmic hits; pointing, directing and improvising as he went along, the band responding to each of his movements with precision.
Testimony to the tough work ethic of this band is that they packed the State Theater on a Thursday night, and held the crowd captive through the end. I asked Joey Peebles how they can keep that level of energy up all night and he said “The band really feeds off the energy of the crowd, tonight was a great night”. Sprinkled through the crowd were many New Orleans Saints shirts and Tipitina’s shirts, suggesting that these folks were already fans and knew what they were getting into. I spoke to the people standing behind me, who had never heard the band and had no idea what to expect; by night’s end, they bore the tell tale marks of exhaustion and exhilaration.
The State Theater is a real throwback concert venue. Built in 1936, it was remodeled in the late 1990’s. The original stage is still in place and there is a state of the art sound system installed to go with a terrific light show that features slowly meandering clouds of smoke which capture curtains of changing light, setting a beautiful backdrop to the band. The balcony seats remain but the main level seats are gone, replaced by tables and chairs, and an ample dance floor in front of the stage which provided the perfect setting for hundreds of dancing fans.
The core of this band has been together since they were kids, and their remarkable musicianship belies the fact that they are only in their early twenties now. The newest regular member is Dan Oestreicher on baritone sax with Robby Marshall filling in on tenor sax for the east coast part of their current tour. Orleans Avenue glided seamlessly through a mix of covers near the end of the show that included Fire On The Bayou, Hey Pocky A-Way, Blister In The Sun, and the iconic song Shout, which peaked the audience into a delirious, wall crumbling frenzy.
After the show the band came out into the lobby and to a member, greeted the audience with the same genuine enthusiasm that they treated the stage. This year has seen them play on Good Morning America, ESPN’s Sport Center and is finding them in prestigious time slots at some of the biggest music festivals in the country. Their career arc is only beginning. Their first major label album Backatown drops on April 20th, don’t miss out.
Check out some more photos of the show by Bob Adamek