The Jazz Crawl celebrates the beautiful tradition of the New Orleans Second Line by highlighting its many forms.

The main attraction of the Jazz Crawl for Charity is the traditional New Orleans second line parade lead by a brass band and the day’s randomly crowned Royal Court of the Krewe. The moving block party of drums, horns, Mardi Gras décor, and second liners waving with their parasols and handkerchiefs contagiously inspires bystanders to join in the celebration. The Jazz Crawl makes for a one of a kind spectacle when you inject the majestic backdrop of historic King Street in Charleston as the setting for the event. 

The New Orleans Second Line originated as a celebration of life following a graveyard service at a funeral. The power of the music and energetic spirit of the parade allowed people to put their grief and sadness aside for a moment to enjoy themselves as they celebrate the life of the person they were laying to rest. Over the years, the term ‘Second Line’ has come to take on a few different meanings and the Jazz Crawl for Charity does its best job to showcase all of them during the event.

The earliest form of a New Orleans Second Line and jazz music.

Some people say that jazz music was born out of death. The earliest form of a New Orleans second line took place as a celebration of life following a funeral. Being below sea level, it is expensive to bury a body above ground in New Orleans so funerals had to be arranged by local ‘benevolent societies’ that gave social aid to members of the neighborhood. Residents would put money in these clubs hundreds of years ago so they could afford to have proper burials for loved ones. ‘Social Aid & Pleasure Clubs’ would organize the funeral by providing the preacher, the church, the casket, and a brass band to escort the casket to the graveyard. Following the church service the casket, family, and members of the club would follow the brass band to the graveyard. This group of people was referred to as the ‘first line’ or ‘main line’, and all the others following to pay respect were known as the ‘second line’. While the second line follows behind the casket on the way to the gravesite the songs are soulfully slow and powerfully somber to pay respect to the lost life. This hymn portion of the procession is known as the ‘dirge’. Following the burial, or ‘cutting the body loose’, the tempo and spirit of the second line music picks up and the tears about the person who had passed give way to gratitude as everyone joyfully dances to celebrate the life that was lived.

The Jazz Crawl includes a ‘dirge’ to pay respect to the memorial donations made in the name of loved ones. 

The Jazz Crawl for Charity symbolizes the traditional jazz funeral by making contributions in memory of loved ones. Direct donors have the option to sponsor the donation of a brand-new instrument engraved with the name of a loved one, or fund a memorial scholarship. The second line procession of the Jazz Crawl starts with a brief ‘dirge’ to pay respects to the memorial donations that were made before breaking into higher spirits with the trumpet’s blare of the the classic New Orleans second line tune.  

The Second Line evolved into festive neighborhood parades that were organized regardless of a funeral. 

Over time the rise of the insurance industry began to phase out the ‘social aid’ aspect of the Social Aid and Pleasure Clubs. New clubs began emerging for the sole purpose of ‘parading’ for the pleasure of club members and to unify the community with a festive celebration. Thus, the term ‘second line’ became synonymous with ‘parade’, as these clubs would parade in the ‘backatown’ neighborhoods just about every Sunday in the fall and spring regardless of a funeral. 

S&P Clubs are now fueled by cultural pride and serve as living pieces of New Orleans history and keepers of the Second Line tradition. In the late 1990’s, now known as the ‘Main Line culture’, club Kings and Queens started to appear on the parade routes along with the Grand Marshal and the rest of the group. The royal titles and wardrobe of brightly colored suits, sashes, hats, and bonnets honored older members of the club, members of other clubs, or people that were influential or adored within the community.

These second line parades are not heavily advertised outside of the club members and regular devotees, but once the drums and horns start moving through the neighborhood everyone joins in. The longer parades are stop at designated bars along the route to allow people to take a break from marching and dancing. Funneling the patrons of the second line into the different establishments was a way for the S&P clubs to support local small businesses within the neighborhood.

The Jazz Crawl crowns a King and Queen of the Krewe with a random drawing at the beginning of the event.

Like the S&P clubs of the Main Line culture, the Jazz Crawl elects royalty to resemble a ‘carnival krewe’ of Mardi Gras. Stemming from Patty’s ‘Mystic Krewe of Vieux Do’ Mardi Gras parties, the Royal Court of the Krewe is selected by a random drawing at the beginning of the event. As everyone checks in at the starting location all the women receive a concealed rose and all the men receive concealed Mardi Gras doubloons. After an announcement is made everyone unwraps their roses and doubloons to reveal the Royal Court of the Krewe. Some of the roses and doubloons are exclusively marked to elect a King and Queen, Dukes and Maid, and the Jester to join the Grand Marshal and the band in the Main Line. 

Local small businesses, artists, and musicians are showcased throughout the event. 

Also like the S&P clubs of New Orleans, the Jazz Crawl unites the Charleston community to support local small businesses and talented creatives. The event’s impact goes beyond the donation to a local music school or nonprofit. Each stop funnels patrons into supporting establishments and showcases the talents of local musicians, artists, designers, chefs, and bartenders involved with the celebration.

Letting loose and moving your body to the rhythm and pace of the band. 

Another prominent meaning of the term comes in the verb form. ‘Second lining’ refers to the type of dancing that takes place during a second line parade. Second lining is a strutting and stepping dance that feeds off the energy and movement of the band. In a second line you are supposed to let loose and let the power of the drums and horns move you. People pat their feet, clap their hands, shake their hips, and twirl parasols and handkerchiefs. There is no right or wrong way to second line dance as long as you are letting the beat of the music move you on pace with the parade. 

The ‘second liners’ of the Jazz Crawl create the spectacle that invites bystanders to join in the festivities. 

Upon checking in for the event, Jazz Crawlers are encouraged to “Grab something to shake or twirl, or just shake your booty and twirl your hips.” There are beads, handkerchiefs, parasol, and boas to help get people in the second lining spirit. Everyone is reminded that they are part of the ‘Krewe’, and their movement and energy is what fuels the band and creates the spectacle that entices bystanders to join the festivities. 

Above all, a New Orleans Second Line is a magically uplifting celebration.

One common theme throughout the history and evolution of the New Orleans Second Line is its unparalleled ability to lift people’s spirits. The power of the music and festive energy of the parade creates a magical atmosphere that will move you whether you are saying farewell to a loved one, letting loose with your friends and family, or celebrating a momentous occasion like a wedding. The Second Line Jazz Crawl for Charity has grown to become a vehicle for sharing the history and culture behind the iconic New Orleans tradition. 

Bringing The Spirit of New Orleans to a City Near You

Experience the magic of a New Orleans Second Line in the city streets of your hometown. 

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