Back Alley Brass Band to perform at Kelce Jam, Boulevardia and more this summer

Photography Provided.

New Orleans-style brass band Back Alley Brass has become a staple of the Kansas City scene.

Although the group has performed at an array of venues and festivals throughout KC since forming in 2018, trumpeter Tom Lawlor and trombonist Matt Fillingham agree that playing at the inaugural Kelce Jam last spring takes the cake as their most memorable performance. The festival is the brainchild of Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce.

“Being able to be a part of that—after the Super Bowl and hosting the NFL Draft—and being on stage with Kelce as he’s slamming a beer with his Lombardi trophy on the ground, I’ll never forget that,” Lawlor says. “That’s for sure.”

Now, Back Alley Brass is gearing up to repeat the magic at Kelce’s music festival later this month.

Formed by a group of post-grad college friends from their days at Pittsburg State in Kansas, the band’s chemistry quickly proved to be cohesive in some of their first rehearsals. 

“It really caught fire with the passion from each player,” Lawlor says.

But it was when the then-fledgling band was playing on First Fridays in the streets of the Crossroads that it began getting noticed and captivating passersby, cultivating its fan base.

“I think that’s what catapulted us at the beginning,” Fillingham says.

Performing repertoire from the more traditional New Orleans second-line marching tradition, as well as the region’s second wave of brass bands—which draws heavily from funk and hip-hop—Back Alley Brass consistently delivers dynamic, boisterous performances. Currently, the 10-piece ensemble includes two trumpeters, two saxophonists, three trombonists, a sousaphone player and two percussionists. Impromptu guests often join in on the fun, too.

“If we have local artists and friends who are out and about, we’ll have a rotating cast jump up on stage and jam with us,” Lawlor says. “We get pretty crowded up there sometimes.” 

Last month, Back Alley Brass released a new album, Last Chance to Dance. The title pays homage to a traditional and frequent call-out in the New Orleans tradition. The album includes an exuberant mix of old and new, with originals written by band members, funky pop song arrangements such as Fillingham’s take on “Flowers” by Miley Cyrus, and their own renditions of NOLA standards, such as “Can’t Nobody Get Down.”

The band has a busy summer ahead. Following Kelce Jam, Fillingham and Lawlor’s most anticipated upcoming performances include the coveted Saturday evening slot at the ninth Boulevardia and headlining the inaugural Lee’s Summit Jazz Festival, both in June, as well as consistently performing at First Fridays in the Crossroads.

But beyond their local shows, Back Alley Brass has a couple other big priorities.

“One of our big goals is to get a lot of original songs and arrangements of popular tunes written,” Fillingham says. “And we’d love to do a Midwest tour.”  

GO: Kelce Jam, May 18, Azura Amphitheater, 633 N. 130th St., Bonner Springs, KS. Tickets available at

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