Meeting Up With Jon Batiste in the Eastman Lobby

Sometimes the action comes to you. 

We were in the balcony of the Eastman Theatre in Rochester when Late Show With Stephen Colbert Music Director Jon Batiste said his band had one more song to play, and they’ll meet us in the lobby. It was Second Line Time!

Batiste had foreshadowed the band’s offstage mobility in their opening number. Four musicians were onstage—Batiste on piano accompanied by bass, drums and percussion—but wasn’t that a horn we were hearing? When a sax player finally emerged from behind the fold of curtains on stage right, the applause he received was surely for his playing, but also expressed relief that we weren’t crazy—we HAD heard a sax. It kicked off a good show of mostly instrumental jazz. 

But now, the show was ending, and the band was filtering offstage while playing their final number. The players emerged in the audience, snaking around in the front rows, each with a mobile form of their instrument. Even the Cowboy-hatted drummer’s tambourine was still sounding in the house PA system. 

Everyone in the balcony was on their feet, but few were moving, so we slipped behind the people standing in front of their chairs and joined the stream of folks headed to the lobby. Descending the second, final flight of stairs the faint acoustic sound of the band seeped into our awareness, and was suddenly louder than what came through the PA. The band was somewhere in the mass of people swirling about in the lobby. We pushed on until we could move no further, hearing, but not seeing them. I pulled out my phone, shooting video from up high, thinking the camera might capture things I was unable to see live.

Then the seas parted, and sure enough, Batiste emerged perfectly framed in my iPhone. Turns out he’s about my height—not as tall as I expected. They circled up in front of us for a solo or two. By then my wife had her iPhone rolling video as well. What a thrill, to have the band cozy up to us that way.

After a few solos, Batiste led the second line right out the door where they camped on the sidewalk under the Eastman Theatre marquis along Gibbs Street. We followed them. What else could you do? Maybe they would march us to an ice cream store and buy everyone a cone.

Well, that didn’t happen. But we weren’t complaining.