by Red Cotton
Although The Original Pinettes have been around for over 20 years, they haven’t enjoyed the success of their male counterparts in the brass band world. For years, the world’s first all female brass band has booked gigs here, a rare festival appearance there, opening for larger name acts when their own shows struggled to hold a crowd. Then just over a year ago brass band leader Christie Jourdain started noticing audience numbers grow at the Original Pinettes shows. Fast forward to this weekend which marks their first Essence Fest performance Saturday night at the Coca-Cola Super Lounge. A gig they’ve been trying to book for 13 years finally came seeking them.
“I was at work when I got a call from an out of town area code, a woman named Ashley Smith who books for Essence Fest,” recalls Jourdain. “She said she saw a lot of our videos on youtube and loved us.” Jourdain was in a state of shock. Not only was this a dream come true but since booking Essence Fest, their opportunities for exposure have grown exponentially. “We’re now being interviewed by Time magazine and Grammys.com. And two of my band members were sought out and booked to play with Chaka Khan Saturday morning at the Convention Center.”
Jourdain recalls when her awakening about the band’s status occurred: October 23, 2010.
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“I wanted us to get into the Red Bull Street Kings Competition. We tried and tried and tried but we never made it. I just thought it was gonna be the same ole brass band competition and I figured ‘we could do that’. But then I went and saw for my own eyes how serious that battle was and I knew - we would not have not been ready. It was serious! It was a real battle! No way we woulda made that. (Event producer) Karl Washington who booked it, said the same the same thing to me. He said we didn’t have the ‘eye of the tiger’.
I went back to the band and said “It was a real battle competition. I’d never seen anything like it. We woulda choked. We wouldn’t have made it to the second song. We have to get serious about what we’re doing.”
Months later, the band went on tour overseas to Istanbul. And when they returned, there was a noticeable change in their performances. A palpable confidence and ownership of the stage infuses the newly revamped Pinettes show. “Now (The band) interacts with the audience, they rap...” says Jourdain. “I don’t have to tell them anything now. Every woman plays their part. And now we’re playing more gigs all over the place. Weekly gigs on Frenchmen, Mardi Gras parades, Zulu competitions, French Quarter Fest, Jazz Fest. We’re even on the show Treme this year. Now people come to our gigs and people request OUR originals.”
“For us, doing Essence Fest is one of those milestones. Last year, we got so close with a contact but it fell through. It just wasn’t the time. The foundation we have now is rock solid. Now’s the time.”
So what’s the next milestone on the Pinettes horizon? Jourdain hits her mark without pause: “Next up I’m pushing to get a Big Easy Award. We want an award from our own city. If we can’t get love from our own city, how you gonna get love from anywhere else?”
The Original Pinettes Brass Band will be performing Saturday 7:30pm at Essence Fest in the Coca Cola Superlounge.