Zydeco, Mardi Gras Indians & All That Jazz

So, I was down in New Orleans for the Amnesty International USA Annual General Meeting the same weekend as the French Quarter Festival – blocks away!

As you can tell from my last post, I was pretty faithful to AI while the conference was going on, only making one brief break for the festival on our marathon 12+ hour day Saturday. Fortunately, there was time to catch a lot of music before and after the conference Friday & Sunday, and I felt like I was seriously cheating on the Seattle music scene. ; )

After exploring the Garden District, where I was staying, a little more Friday morning, I headed over to register for the AGM, but found it was too early, and headed down Canal Street to the waterfront. I started to explore stages and stages of music, sprawling down the waterfront and through the whole French Quarter! Did I mention all this is free?! Crazy, man!

Here’s a plug for sponsorship, with an idea of the scale of the festival, narrated by Charmaine Neville:

Here’s the first band I heard, the Audacity Brass Band. So, New Orleans, and so good! Check our their MySpace page at: http://www.myspace.com/audacitybrassband

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Then I came across more good jazz with Cullen Landry & Midnight Streetcar. Here’s a video of Stagalee someone posted from the festival:

Their website at: http://www.midnightstreetcar.com/

I wandered further down the waterfront, then over to Decatur Street, listening to a singer, at I think, Dutch Alley, sing The House of the Rising Sun (which was kind of cool, and appropriate, hearing wandering around the French Quarter.

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I ended up down at the Old U.S. Mint and discovered – money! No, better than that – zydeco! I had no idea how much I loved zydeco!

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Tank & the Zydeco Codebreakers were playing. I wish I had a better picture than the one from outside the fence, and a good video (the sound quality is bad for the few online). There are more tunes, and even currently, pictures from the festival at: http://www.myspace.com/zydecocodebreakerz

I wandered back up, it must have been, Chartres, taking in the sights and sounds of the French Quarter until I got to Jackson Square, the beautiful, flowering, park in front of St. Louis Cathedral.

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I was getting hungry, and I watched the cook from the Bywater Bar-B-Que booth stir up some Cajun Chicken Tasso over Rice and it looked good, and tasted good too!

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I listened to Banu Gibson & New Orleans Hot Jazz while I ate lunch.

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I ran into Jenny, from our Seattle group, on my way out of the square, and we set off to explore more music, before Jenny was due back from volunteering for the conference.

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This young group of musicians were playing in front of the cathedral.

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Jenny introduced me to Snoballs as we headed back to the waterfront stages, which are far tastier and more substantial than sno-cones. I was thinking, $3 for a sno-cone? I don’t know. . . I was glad I tried one.

We went and found a place to sit and listened to Irene Sage for awhile.

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Jenny wanted to check out the dance lessons at the French Market, so we headed down there, but didn’t make the lessons, though we did make the music.

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According to the schedule, Steve Pistoius and his Southern Syncopators were playing, although when I checked online, I’m not so sure, and many of them were wearing Treme hats.

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There was dancing, too! This guy also turned out to be an artist, and was sketching Jenny & me later while we were still watching. He promised to send Jenny a copy.

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Then there was the woman with the adorable parasol. Ahh, New Orleans! I thought of getting one, but they don’t seem to practical for Seattle’s rain.

Jenny didn’t have too much more time until she was due back volunteering at the conference, and I wanted her to hear some zydeco. So we headed back to the stage at the Old U.S. Mint.

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L’Angelus was playing – the 4 oldest siblings of a large family. Jenny was able to stick around for a couple songs, and I stayed awhile longer.

Here’s a video of them playing Connolly’s on 45th in New York City in November of last year:

Later in the set they brought out their little sister to sing a traditional Cajun song, and she was adorable.

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Check out their website at: http://www.langelus.info/

It was time for me to head back and register for the conference, making it in time for the meeting with the Board, as I chronicled in my last entry.

Saturday’s schedule at the conference was really packed. When I did take my one brief break, late in the afternoon, I wasn’t sure which way I was headed. The bands I wanted to hear had already played, or so I thought. I got to Jackson Square, and caught the last part of Charmaine Neville’s set, who had played long past her time slot, right up to the next scheduled band!

Here’s Charmaine from last year’s French Quarter Festival:

She’s awesome, and yes, she’s related to The Neville Brothers. She’s Charles Neville’s daughter.

Charmaine’s website at: http://www.charmainenevilleband.com/ 

I caught a few more jazz bands on Bourbon street before heading back.

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Sunday, after the conference, I couldn’t get any of our local group members to decide to go to the festival, and I just had to get going. Free, live, great music! Come on!

I was trying to figure out which direction to go. It seemed to me there was someone I checked out onlilne I wanted to see, if I could just find it on the schedule. . .

Then I saw it – Amanda Shaw & the Cute Guys, down at the zydeco stage near the mint. It was totally packed, even outside the fence. I didn’t think there was anyway I was going to get in, let alone get anywhere close to the stage – but I did. Amanda and her band really rocked, cajun style!

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Most of my photos were washed out by the sun (not a problem I’m used to in Seattle). I managed to block some of it with my hat for this one.

Here are Amanda Shaw and the Cute Guys at the Louisiana Music Factory a couple years ago:

Amanda’s got a new album coming out, Good Southern Girl, and audio clips streaming: http://www.amandashaw.com/

After buying Amanda’s last cd Pretty Runs Out, I headed back to the waterfront to check out some more music and cool off with one of those Snoballs. I wandered all the way up their Riverwalk and found some great funk, and the wildest looking band I’d ever seen (not being from New Orleans).

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Big Chief Bo Dollis, Jr. & the Wild Magnolias! Those are the Wild Magnolias.

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That’s Big Chief Bo Dollis, Jr.  He introduced the woman in the magnificent pink outfit as his mother, Queen Rita!

My late mother’s name (which made me smile).

I later learned they were Mardi Gras Indians, which explains the mardi gras beads they threw into the crowd. . .

Here’s some video from the festival:

Wow! They were great!

Bo Dollis, Jr. took the microphone into the crowd at one point, giving it to a man who turned out to be his father (who all the locals in the crowd knew), Bo Dollis, Sr., in a motorized scooter.

Somebody caught that on video, too:

They were the last band on that stage and the festival was closing. I picked up a couple strands of mardi gras beads from the ground on the way out (and left a lot more there, I think the locals are pretty jaded on mardi gras beads).

I was sad the French Quarter Festival was over, but there was still a lot of New Orleans to explore. I took advantage of the cheap rates at the hostel ($17 a night) and was staying another day and a half. More on my adventures (and misadventures) in New Orleans when I wasn’t at the conference or the festival in my next post.

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