The Bad Cactus Brass Band was a New Orleans Second Line street jazz band based in Phoenix, Arizona. Founded by sousaphonist Benjie Messer, their members included many of the fieriest jazz musicians in the Phoenix area.
Their CD’s include original dance music, funky street beats, traditional Dixieland, gospel and swing, and pop songs reinterpreted with a brass band sound. Powered by tuba, drums, trumpets, saxophones, and trombones, the Bad Cactus Brass Band brought a Mardi Gras energy to street corners, festivals, parties, nightclubs, weddings, and funerals.
Bad Cactus Brass Band burst onto the Phoenix scene in 2009, and within a year their distinctive take on New Orleans jazz and funk had become a prominent voice of the city. Their joyful energy and second line traditions graced many of the area’s biggest festivals, including Phoenix’s Fabulous Fourth of July, Tempe’s Fiesta Bowl Block Party, Tempe Oktoberfest, Glendale Glitters, the Scottsdale Arts Festival, the Desert Botanical Garden’s Luminaria Nights, and free summer concert series put on by both the Scottsdale and Chandler Centers for the Arts. They were featured on radio and television and marched in the Phoenix Annual Parade of the Arts and the Phoenix Saint Patrick’s Day Parade. Their performances at charitable events were sponsored by corporate giving programs of Phoenix’s most successful companies. They worked with the Downtown Phoenix Partnership to found the Downtown Phoenix Mardi Gras Parade and Festival in 2011 and provided entertainment for many of the Valley’s other Mardi Gras-themed events.
Always on the lookout for new experiences, Bad Cactus Bass Band performed at elementary schools, picnics, churches, theaters, pep rallies, talent shows, farmers markets, ASU fairs, fraternity parties, pub crawls, block parties, house parties, nightclubs, Chinese restaurants, burlesque shows, weddings, Suns games, casino nights, benefit and charity concerts, Christmas tree lightings, grand openings, corporate luncheons, industry expos, anniversaries, senior centers, and funerals. They appeared at German events as a polka band, at Jewish events as a klezmer band, and at the Phoenix ComiCon as the world’s first New Orleans-style chiptune band. They performed on street corners, on the light rail, on escalators, and in elevators, in record stores and libraries. Musical guerillas, they paraded uninvited into clubs, stores, and several breakfast establishments before 6:00 AM.
Bad Cactus Brass Band released three albums, Arizona Mardi Gras, Christmas Cactus, and #musicbombing. They toured throughout the Southwest and opened for the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Stooges Brass Band, Rebirth Brass Band, and many other New Orleans acts.