Under the white canvas of the Southern Brewing beer garden tent, the string lights that zigzagged across the metal support beams splashed on the smiling faces of AthFest goers of all ages.
Some clapped to the rhythm, some tapped their foot, some moved their whole body, while others simply stood there to take in the thumping rhythm, the high-pitched cry of the trumpet and the call and response of the Dirty Dozen Brass Band.
The seven-person, New Orleans-based group was founded in 1977 and its name is derived from the club they used to perform at, the Dirty Dozen Social and Pleasure Club. With music comprised of elements of bebop, jazz, funk, R&B and soul, their signature “musical gumbo” has since launched them to world-renown fame.
Due to isolated thunderstorms and lightning, the Southern Brewing Main Stage shut down during the middle of the The Norms’ set Friday night. By 9 pm., the rain stopped, but after some technical difficulties with the main stage, it was announced that Linqua Franqa and the Dirty Dozen would perform under the beer tent.
“They combine the traditional brass band sound with a bunch of funk stuff and they made it relevant for a new generation of people.”
- Camden O’Bryant, Clemson student
Cordoned off with red tape, a cramped corner space near the front of the tent became the impromptu stage for the two headliners.
The heavy night air buzzed with energy as the first notes of the Dirty Dozen’s set were played nearly two hours after their scheduled time of 7 p.m.
For Kay Duncan, a teacher from Commerce, the delay and makeshift set-up turned out to be the highlight of her night as she was called onto the stage by tenor saxophonist and singer Kevin Harris during one of their songs.
“It was amazing because they’re amazing,” Duncan said. “I’ve seen them before, and I know how good they are. And them wanting me to go up there and dance with them made me so happy in my soul.”
She swayed to the music in blue, elephant-printed pants as listeners clapped their hands high above their heads and smiled at her joyous abandon.
Duncan first saw the Dirty Dozen perform in Las Vegas with Athens rock band Widespread Panic two years ago.
“I like this band because they can get down,” Duncan said. “They connect with multiple people and they play the horn music like no other band.”
Another long time fan, Camden O’Bryant, has been listening to them for five year now and came to AthFest to hear the band specifically.
A senior biology major who attends Clemson University, he said his involvement in a jazz combo at school as a tuba player led to his discovery of the Dirty Dozen.
The band’s mix of sounds and styles is what draws O’Bryant to their music and what he believes they contribute to the national jazz scene, particularly with the newer generations.
“They combine the traditional brass band sound with a bunch of funk stuff and they made it relevant for a new generation of people,” O’Bryant said.
“I like this band because they can get down. They connect with multiple people and they play the horn music like no other band.”
- Kay Duncan, teacher
As the songs melded and morphed into the next, the singers called out to the audience and even gave a shout out to the Bulldogs. The energy among the crowd only increased as the show went on.
For Athens resident Jerry Saylor, this was both his first time seeing the Dirty Dozen and his first time at AthFest, but he said he’s thoroughly enjoyed both.
“I liked the energy that [the Dirty Dozen] gave off,”Saylor said. “I liked that they incorporated other people onto the stage and I like the call and re-call that they gave to the fans.”
Despite the late hour, fans of all ages still gathered under the cramped tent and spilled out into the street to experience the band that brought heart and soul to AthFest for another year.