Bonerama bills itself as a rock band with brass. But it is more than that. Bonerama incorporates elements of rock, soul, fusion, pop, jazz, brass, gospel and blues and even a touch of reggae into its unique sound. Bonerama is one of the funkiest and most interesting bands to ever come out of New Orleans.
Bonerama was formed in 1998 by trombone players Mark Mullins and Craig Klein. During Bonerama's career Mullins and Klein have added and subtracted members with quite a few prominent New Orleans musicians (including Stanton Moore, Eric Bolivar, Charlie Wooten, Russell Batiste, the late Brian O'Neill, AJ Hall, Rick Trolsen, Eddie Christmas, Steve Suter and Charlie Kroger) either sitting-in for extended stays with the band or working as full-fledged band members. Three trombones is a very unusual format for a rock band. There aren't many classic rock outfits that incorporate even one trombone. Horn-based instrumentation is not usually associated with songs such as the Allman Brothers Band's "Whipping Post," the Rolling Stones' (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction," the Edgar Winter Group's "Frankenstein," the Beatles' "Helter Skelter," Bruno Mars' "Locked Out of Heaven," Led Zeppelin's "The Ocean," Black Sabbath's "War Pigs" and/or Jimi Hendrix' "Crosstown Traffic." A Bonerama performance may include any or each of these diverse songs. By placing the trombone, up front and center stage, as the lead instrument in a rock band, the sound is unlike anything else. Its different in the best possible way and it works!
On this pleasant Halloween weekend at New Orleans' Mid City Rock 'N' Bowl, Bonerama was comprised of Mullins, Klein, Greg Hicks (trombone), sousaphone player/bassist Matt Perrine, guitarist Bert Cotton, and drummer Walt Lundy. Any Bonerama concert is a huge party with dancing, audience participation and fun for all in attendance. Seeing Bonerama is an experience. Seeing Bonerama in its hometown is something to behold. Seeing Bonerama at Mid City Rock 'N' Bowl is a legendary experience. The atmosphere, anticipation and performance are all amped up well beyond any "regular" performance. A performance on Halloween weekend is even more special. Audience members were decked out in their finest costumes and Klein wore a skeleton mask for much of the performance.
Not only does its audience play off of the energy provided by the members of Bonerama, the band members play off of each other. The vibe is high-energy and above all else fun. If the smiles on the faces of crowd members signify animated, happy-go-lucky, carefree fun and exuberance, the same can be said of the band members who look as though they are having even more fun than their fans. Klein, Mullins, and Hicks all delivered on vocals. Cotton's guitar rang loud and true. And the rhythm section of Perrine and Lundy brought it all home—smoothly providing a quintessential driving New Orleans syncopated backbeat.
Highlights of the energetic two-set performance included the new song "My Girl's Oh So Fine," the cover of Led Zeppelin's "When the Levee Breaks," "Shake Your Rugalator," the after midnight surprise when Mullins' son Michael joined the band guesting on (what else) trombone, the Bonerama-energized and brassed-up version of the traditional Mardi Gras Indian chant/song "Indian Red" and "Mr. Okra."
Bonerama is a force of nature. It doesn't play by the "rules." It has carved out for itself, and its fans, its own special place in the music lexicon. By doing so, it has created its very own sub-genre. Its funkified, rockin' brass onslaught will satisfy the most die-hard fans of rock music, brass bands as well as funk and soul fans alike. Judging by the crowd of New Orleanians and tourist that packed Rock 'N' Bowl on Halloween weekend the band has succeeded in its mission to bring its special version of classic rock, improvised riffs and vintage funk to the masses.
Photo Credit: Christine Connallon
[Additional article contributions by Christine Connallon]