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Arts & Culture

Nothin’ Like A New Orleans Second Line

Second lines are spontaneous audience participation in a New Orleans brass band parade that is a special and important part of New Orleans culture.

New Orleans is big on tradition, and folks here practice them with passion. One fabulous ritual that is carried on with great pride is the second line. If you aren’t from around here and you’re not sure what I’m talking about, let me break it down for you. Brass bands are big down here and they play everywhere for almost any occasion. New Orleans brass bands will parade for joy and for sadness; for weddings, for funerals; festivals and celebrations, and sometimes even just because. With every brass band that marches is the potential for a second line. The “main line” or “first line” is the main part of the parade and/or the brass band. The people who follow behind dancing, enjoying the New Orleans music make up the “second line.” It’s also common to twirl and bounce an intricately decorated umbrella or a handkerchief while strutting behind the band.

I’m not a New Orleans native, but I married a Cajun man and let me tell you, there really is nothing like dancing and strutting in a second line. My first experience was at my wedding, and with my white umbrella gifted to me by my new mother-in-law bouncing and twirling away, I nearly second-lined us right out of town, with our handkerchief-flinging wedding guests in tow.

If you are from here, you know how amazing a second line is; and if you are someone who has never experienced this, find one and get in line. The joy, the release, and the rhythm that takes over is like nothing else. Since celebration is what New Orleans is all about, it’s not hard to find one parading along at any given moment.

Kudos to @crphotpgraphy on Instagram for taking this stunning photo of a brass band leading a second line that truly captures the energy, feeling, and rhythm of what it’s like to be a part of this special New Orleans culture.

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