Sunday, April 14, 12:30p
GE Digital Big River Stage
“We started the band around 2010. We were doing a lot of brass band music, but we wanted to go in a different direction when it came to incorporating horns into guitar, drums and stuff like that,” Edward Lee tells me. He’s the musical director of MainLine and the self-proclaimed “Sousafunk Prince.” He tips his hat to the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, whose unorthodox approach to brass-band music served as a blueprint for MainLine. “Dirty Dozen has been making this type of music for a long time, and it just takes one person to evolve it. One of my mentors in this game is Kirk Joseph,” Lee says of Dirty Dozen’s sousaphonist. “When I told him that we were trying to do something like a Dirty Dozen, but a little more contemporary, he said ‘Yeah. New Orleans needs someone to use a different type of style in brass-band music.’”
Joseph left Lee with some sage advice: “Don’t call yourselves a brass band.” For Lee, the decision to shake loose of the term was an obvious choice. “We really don’t play any contemporary brass-band music, or any type of Rebirth [Brass Band] or Hot 8 [Brass Band]. Most of our music is original songs, so we have our own original repertoire. That’s been a challenge in itself—trying to cross over from being called a brass band.” As such, MainLine brands itself as a funk/hip-hop/soul band that just so happens to feature a heavy brass section. They source inspiration from the music they listen to on their own time, which includes everything from Chicago to Migos.
Together, the seven-piece ensemble (the current lineup of the band is comprised of saxophonists Douane Waples and Erion Williams; trombonist Christopher Miller; guitarist Matt Galloway; keyboardist Kashonda Bailey; drummer Donald Magee; and trumpeter Harry Morter) will appear at this year’s French Quarter Festival, a gig which the band has played before but which is never anything less than a big deal.
“It’s always a pleasure playing at French Quarter Fest,” says Lee. “I believe this is our fourth year in a row performing there. It always gives us an opportunity to present our band to new people. It always pleases me when somebody says ‘I heard you guys from all the way up the street! I had to come over here and see what was goin’ on.’”
One of French Quarter Fest’s greatest strengths, he says, is that it’s free. “It gives everyone an opportunity, young and old, to come experience what we can do. It really tests us, as well, because we have to be able to adapt our set. It’s always a complex set of people at French Quarter Fest.”