By Reebee Garofolo
On the occasion of our 20th Anniversary in 2023, the Second Line Social Aid & Pleasure Society Brass Band decided to change our name to the GOOD TROUBLE BRASS BAND. Here’s how we got from there to here. The band was founded in 2003 by an ad hoc group of musicians who joined with members of Bread and Puppet Theater in a parade in Boston to protest the Gulf War. They felt the need to be loud and active in the streets as the war was escalating, and enjoyed playing together so much that they decided to stick together and become a band. The original name soon followed.
As with our previous incarnation, a number of things about the band have stayed the same. GOOD TROUBLE remains an activist, not-for-profit, “raucous, stomp-your-foot-and-belt-out-the-choruses” New Orleans-style street band based in Somerville and Cambridge, Massachusetts. Our commitment to New Orleans music and culture remains part of our identity and, as always, our mission involves collaborating with activists and organizations working for a variety of progressive causes. We are also a part of the organizing force behind the HONK! Festival of Activist Street Bands that takes place every October in Somerville’s Davis Square. We continue to be loud and proud, acoustic and mobile. We play wherever we are needed.
Although our original name had served us well for more than twenty years, our anniversary felt like the right moment to reflect on our identity and our mission. The impetus for the name change came mostly from newer members of the band, who put forth several compelling reasons for the change. For one, it seemed that using the term “second line” could sound like we were claiming a genre that didn't belong to us. And while we have always been inspired by New Orleans Social Aid and Pleasure Clubs, the fact is that we approach “social aid” as political activists rather than as a grassroots mutual aid organization. Finally, the name was so crazy long and clunky that almost no one who ever introduced us got it right the first time. (Like all musicians, however, we did agree that “pleasure” should always be a part of our cultural practice.)
So, we wanted a new name that captured our essence, but in fewer words – one that sounded aspirational, as we strive to support social justice efforts, both local and global. After a lengthy band-naming exercise, we settled on GOOD TROUBLE BRASS BAND. The name derives from the simple, yet powerful, maxim of the late civil rights icon and congressional representative John Lewis, who once said: “When you see something that’s not right, not fair, not just, say something, do something, get in trouble, GOOD TROUBLE.” This was our reasoning:
Increasingly, we seem to be inundated with news reports of things happening in the world around us that are neither right, nor fair, nor just: the rise of white supremacy and the threat of right wing insurrection, gun violence run amok, Supreme Court decisions that turn back the clock on reproductive rights, affirmative action, voting rights, and more, global brinksmanship that propels us ever closer to all out war, and an environmental crisis that threatens our very existence. In such a climate, we see it as part of our mission to make trouble for the trouble-makers . . . GOOD TROUBLE!
At the same time, like John Lewis, we assign equal weight to both of these terms. We are aware, encouraged, and emboldened by all the GOOD work being done by unions, anti-racist organizations, environmental activists, promoters of gender equity, immigrant rights groups, affordable housing advocates, and other progressive forces that seek alternatives to capitalist exploitation.
While we approach the world with a sense of mission, we do so in a spirit of camaraderie, collaboration, and fun. We bring a joyful noise to any cause we support. And we never fail to move the bodies and put smiles on the faces of the people we work with. Ultimately, like the HONK! Festival itself, we endeavor “to create an irresistible spectacle of creative movement and sonic self-expression directed at making the world a better place.” It is in this spirit that we have become:
the GOOD TROUBLE BRASS BAND!