Family, friends, fans, and more gathered in New Orleans on Tuesday to honor the life of Russell Batiste Jr. with a traditional second line parade following the drummer’s recent death. Among those in the joyous procession were Batiste’s Vida Blue bandmates Page McConnell (Phish) and Oteil Burbridge (Dead & Company) and many other artists and members of the NOLA music community.

Footage posted by New Orleans painter Frenchy, known for his dynamic depictions of live music, shows a large congregation dancing with Batsiste’s casket raised above their heads in celebration by pallbearers clad in purple suits. The mourners were joined by a brass band who can be heard in a clip shared by Oteil Burbridge. Of note, McConnell quickly made his way from New Orleans to Dayton, OH later in the day for Phish’s Tuesday night performance.

The upbeat, celebratory mood may seem unusual to those unfamiliar with New Orleans’ jazz funeral tradition, which values the celebration of one’s life as much as the mourning of their death. “On the way to the cemetery it was customary to play very slowly and mournfully a dirge, or an old Negro spiritual such as ‘Nearer My God to Thee,'” Eileen Southernbut writes in The Music of Black American. “[On] the return from the cemetery, the band would strike up a rousing, ‘When the Saints Go Marching In,’ or a ragtime song such as ‘Didn’t He Ramble.'”

In a note posted to social media after the ceremony, Oteil Burbridge wrote, “While I have had many tears today I am so grateful to have been able to be in New Orleans today for this Second Line for my friend [Russell Batiste]. This is one of the many reasons that New Orleans is my favorite city in America. Drums and rhythm are the heart and soul of NOLA. The legacy that Russell left in New Orleans and the world in general is so large. Even larger than I realized. We’ll miss u so much Russell. Thank you for the incredible music and unparalleled memories.”

Check out photos and videos from the second line celebrating Russell Batiste. To read more tributes to the late funk drummer, click here.


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