Dirty Dozen Brass Band and Toubab Krewe are Instrumental at The Independent

Dirty-Dozen-Brass-BandPhotos by Sam Heller

Two instrumental groups with fairly different musical palates joined forces at The Independent Friday for a pleasing one-off combination. Dirty Dozen Brass Band and Toubab Krewe have been making their way through California on different paths, but their travels united them for one night over the past weekend.

Live music fans that embrace a variety of instrumental-based live music walked away happy, as these two groups provided a juxtaposition to the evening that isn’t often found in the standard headliner/opener format. The duality of sound from these two groups provided a welcome mental get-away from the city.


Toubab Krewe invoked visions of Africa with their swelling percussion and diverse melody that emits from instruments such as the soku (Malian horsehair fiddle), kora (21-string harp-lute) and kamelengoni (12-string harp-lute). These foreign sounding (and looking) instruments are played in unison with the more familiar guitar and bass, and the result is a nuanced world-music sound.


The opening performers, whom could normally headline the Independent on their own as judged by the amount of early arrivers, are heavily influenced by traditional West African music. It wasn’t just Toubab Krewe’s take on world music that impressed, but it was the wall of sound that brought the most intense auditory pleasure, especially when the wall of sound built to a release point. There is no doubt these moments were enhanced by the house lights at The Independent.



Once the excursion to Mali was complete, it was time to head back to New Orleans for some southern love. There is a special place in my heart for NOLA brass, and Friday’s headlining performance from New Orleans institution Dirty Dozen Brass Band reminded me why: It’s all about the party and feeling good!

The Dirty Dozen opened with “Ain’t Nothin But a Party,” getting the crowd involved early with the call and response of “Paaaartay.” The legendary brass group then launched into “Papa Was a Rolling Stone” and then worked it back into “Ain’t Nothin But a Party.” “Dirty Old Man” was a highlight toward the end of the set, as three ladies made their way on stage to make the song more of an interactive skit than the telling of a story.

It must be noted that the current keys performer that is touring with the Dirty Dozen did a top-notch job of keeping the show going, not allowing songs end for the most part. Instead, the keys created a bridge from song to song. The keys were a welcome addition to the group, as the addition of the keyboard player made the show sound more jam-based and less classical New Orleans. But there was plenty of brass of course, and what is left of the original Dirty Dozen performed wonderfully over grooves that were locked in by the keyboards and drums.

Both groups had almost equal amounts of time to perform on Friday, and that was a fair move since so many people were in attendance for Toubab Krewe. It was a night to remember as two excellent instrumental bands, one string-based and the other brass-based, brought their music and culture to San Francisco.

Upcoming Shows at The Independent:
Israel Vibration – Tuesday February 19
Con Brio – Friday February 22
Ivan Neville’s Dumpstaphunk – Friday April 5



  1. “interactive skit,” yep that’s about right.

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