ashley dean

Three years ago, I was stomping my 4-inch heels at a crusty Louisiana bar while soulful jazz band tore through a rendition of "Mercy."

It was a dive-y roadhouse called Ruby's in Mandeville, a town that sits across Lake Pontchartrain from New Orleans. I have an aunt, uncle and three cousins living down there, and the eldest cousin was getting married. Tradition in that town is to head to that crusty roadhouse after your wedding reception, knock back a few Bud Lights or well whiskeys in your pretty white dress and get the train of that thing good and dirty.

Another bride got up on stage in a wedding dress straight out of the '80s. It was long sleeved with impressively puffy shoulders. Then, my bride got up on stage. Well, not someone I was marrying, but the eldest of my 16 cousins and the first of us to get married. We raised our drinks to Katie and Chris and resumed blind dancing.

I don't remember if the place was shaking from the sheer force of music and dancing or if it was the extended hours of wedding drinking in heels making me unstable. Either way, something was moving and, a few years later, that was why I was looking forward to being back there when my other cousin in that family got married last weekend.


This time around, the band rocked, for sure, though it wasn't quite the level of oomph the last band brought. It didn't really matter, because the tradition is what's important. They brought the bride and groom on stage for a toast, and I felt exactly as good as last time.

It got me thinking about the way music is tied to our traditions. I don't mean musical traditions -- as in the customs and history that exist within music -- I mean the importance of music in our major life events.

How many times have you heard someone say they want a New Orleans funeral? A big part of that is the idea of people getting drunk and celebrating your life instead of being sad that it's over, no doubt. But for many people, including me, that second line parade is very appealing. Second line is a NOLA brass band parade, and it's hard to imagine why you would want some somber strings or nothing at all once you've seen a second line at work. Er, at play.

Thursday night (tonight!), I'll be at Conor O'Neill's to get rowdy before lead singer Nate Cook of The Yawpers gets married. I expect to feel that same, somewhat-out-of-control elation.

It's inescapable. Whether you're the lead singer of a band or a woman getting married, music is there. Even sports are more fun when there's a marching band instead of some hits cranked out of the sound system. The live band at the wedding last weekend was a cover band, but it was still better than hearing those songs played off a laptop.

Sometimes I worry that we'll lose that. This weekend restored my faith. Not everyone wants to hold on to tradition, and not all traditions should be held on to, but the presence of a band can change any event.

It's as simple as Beyonce's presence at the presidential inauguration. She sang with a backup track and we realized that what we didn't know wasn't hurting us. The energy and emotion was what punched you in the gut. When we want to feel things, we want a band to soundtrack it.

What I'm saying is, don't stop believing (in traditions). Because that song actually doesn't seem so terrible live.