No BS! Brass rock two-day release party

Nick Bonadies
Spectrum Editor

Those still unfamiliar with Richmond-based No BS! Brass – a New Orleans meets East Coast funk outfit, think Dixieland on steroids – can know at least that as a basic rule, No BS does what it does big.  These are a dozen-plus guys armed with saxes, trumpets, trombones and one monster tuba, poised to fire delicious high-energy danceability on the audience like cannon artillery.  Anything less than big would come off as, to say the least, a bit out of character.

Their CD release party at the Camel Club last weekend, celebrating the band’s self-titled third album “No BS!,” lived up to the big hype.  Beginning with No BS’s regular two sets on Friday night, the festivities didn’t end — at least officially — until 2 a.m. on Sunday.

“Richmond has put its sweat into us, and now we’re looking forward to putting our sweat back into Richmond,” trombonist Dillard Watt said of the Camel show on the band’s blog.

No BS! Brass, formed in early 2006 from “Richmond’s heaviest sounds,” has drawn a substantial following at their monthly shows at the Camel (and recently Balliceaux), having appeared in sets with acts like Chicago’s Jeb Bishop Trio and at events like Best Friend’s Day at Hadad’s Lake this past summer.  Many in attendance at the Camel this weekend were clearly repeat offenders. Crowd members roared at the first notes of their favorite songs, dancing and singing along to an infectious and infinitely danceable ear-banging groove like only a thirteen-man brass band can deliver.

There was little excuse not to sing along yourself, even if you’d never heard the music in your life: No BS’s expertly-constructed tunes take a good fifteen seconds to crawl permanently into your ears, and being mostly instrumental, there aren’t many lyrics to forget — with the exception of some crowd favorites like “Ain’t Even Gonna Call Ya” (“you been actin’ wack as hell, girl / you need to get your head right.”)

An unstoppable energy was channeled by a rock-solid musical proficiency – headed by co-founders Lance Koehler on drums and Reggie Pace on trombone, these were truly professional players, lucid and unfaltering in their playing (each of the thirteen can deliver a mind-blowing solo) as well as in their sophisticated prowess as composers and arrangers.  The band’s website discusses a musical approach “stripped away all of the ‘b.s.’ … to give the audience something solid, unique, organic, real, and powerful.”

Perhaps it’s to be expected – according to bandleader Pace, the majority of No BS have earned or will soon earn Bachelor or Master of Music degrees, many of them from VCU Music.  Trombonist Bryan Hooten, to whose hometown of Birmingham, Alabama the band toured earlier this summer, is a current professor with VCU Music, having received his master’s there in 2006.  Taylor Barnett on trumpet, who earned his master’s at VCU in 2004, also served as professor in the department before seeking his doctorate at James Madison University.

“Going to music school prepares you with your basic level of your musicianship, and then you have to use the tools to come up with whatever it is you’re going to do,” Pace said.  “They don’t teach you to be a brass band in school, [laughs].”

“No BS!” is the band’s third release, following 2007’s self-release “Where’s Stefan?” and last year’s “Alive in Richmond.”  This month, No BS Brass is set to appear in VCU’s Brass Fest at the Singleton Center, as well as a performance for the Richmond Folk Festival.

For more information on No BS Brass! band members, recordings, and upcoming performances, visit their website, or their page on Myspace Music at

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