Tubaluba: Seattle’s answer to New Orleans

Tubaluba photo

Tubaluba, a second line Seattle band plays the second Live at Lakeview on Thursday, July 2.

Before he started Tubaluba, a New Orleans-inspired brass band, Josh Wilson was a member of the University of Wisconsin Marching Band.

“Madison is a 16-hour drive to New Orleans and, when you are a teenager, that is potential for a weekend,” said Wilson, who had an epiphany when he did make it to the Big Easy. “I didn’t know band could be so cool. You go to New Orleans and you say, ‘Oh my God, these guys are amazing and funky and they are having fun. It was a totally different world than what I grew up in.”

Certainly playing for 100,000 people in Big Ten stadiums throughout the Midwest must also have been cool. But witnessing second line bands marching down Bourbon Street was enough to blow a young Badger’s mind and imagination. While there were about 200 members in the Wisconsin band, only a handful made music a career after college. Wilson did just that after he moved to Seattle.

“I’d been playing in bands forever and ever and I finally had an opportunity to have my own band,” Wilson said. “It turned out to be a really fortuitous thing to have a brass band 2,500 miles away from New Orleans. People were into us and amazed by us, like the same way I was. It’s been cool being way up in the Northwest and to introduce people to what happens in New Orleans every day.”

Wilson is a lifelong pianist who played trumpet in college. He plays bass drum when Tubaluba is on the move and keyboards when it is onstage.

“My mother is a holdout on the Tubaluba name,” Wilson said. “She said you should never name a band after an instrument you don’t play.”

Tubaluba is not an entirely dedicated second line band. It has a singer who performs on about half the songs. So there is an element of surprise to folks who see Tubaluba for the first time. The band might march into a venue and play several songs before introducing the singer.

The band’s second album, “Champagne Sunday,” which was released on Fat Tuesday, has 10 songs, six with vocals and four that are all horns, Wilson said. Tubaluba’s new singer Samantha Willis will appear on the record. Mariah Ralston, who played with Tubaluba last summer during a show in South Lake Tahoe’s Heavenly Village, has moved to Los Angeles. However, Ralston will remain with the band part time. When at home in Seattle, Tubaluba has nine players.

About Tim Parsons

Tim Parsons is the editor of Tahoe Onstage who first moved to Lake Tahoe in 1992. Before starting Tahoe Onstage in 2013, he worked for 29 years at newspapers, including the Tahoe Daily Tribune, Eureka Times-Standard and Contra Costa Times. He was the recipient of the 2011 Keeping the Blues Alive award for Journalism.

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