Mardi Gras | 2.12-2.16 | New Orleans
Mardi Gras :: 02.12-02.16 | :: New Orleans, LA
By Dino Perrucci
By day we walked various parade routes, first the Krewe of Morpheus and Krewe of Muses, enjoying the Cameltoe Steppers and Miss Karina’s Bearded Oysters, amongst others. For most parades we rolled uptown to watch on St. Charles and Napoleon Streets, though Saturday we started in Lakeview, rolling with Krewe of Endymion and feting Saints owner/Grand Marshall Tom Benson and Head Coach Sean Payton like Crescent monarchs, with Trombone Shorty the Grand Marshall’s personal guest.
Carnival is truly a cultural and family event. Generations of kin and friends of all races come together and celebrate in magnificent unity; the likes of which I have never seen before. The only moment I ever feared for my own safety was during the Krewe of Bacchus‘ parade when Drew Brees, Saints quarterback, Super Bowl MVP, and 2010’s King Bacchus, turned the corner of St. Charles on a parade float. It was as if Touchdown Jesus had arrived, setting off complete pandemonium.
As we thawed from the Morpheus/Muses parades Friday night, we strolled to Tipitina’s Uptown for the first of four visits to the hallowed room. Thriving in this celebratory atmosphere, George Porter Jr., Leo Nocentelli, Ivan Neville and Raymond Weber (Dumpstaphunk) took the stage to cheers. Henry Butler was then led stage right to a thunderous ovation as the band took their spots, with Butler seated at a keyboard facing Ivan, who was buried beneath an array of keys. They immediately congratulated the Super Bowl Champions to more screaming decibels. Ivan and Leo repeated the salutations throughout the show, a harbinger of “Who Dats?” to come.
By Dino Perrucci
Henry Butler asked if he could take us to church, and that he did, with glorious bright piano and charming verve. Butler was distinguished royalty, and that’s amongst Porter, Leo, and Ivan, all stalwarts in their own right. The blind man stoked several raging Nocentelli screaming solos drenched in tubed-out distortion and Gibsonics. Porter and Weber responded with tight riddims and big wrap around fills swollen with laughter.
Ivan Neville’s charged “Fortunate Son” oozed Bayou and sparked some fantastic interplay between Ivan and Porter, plus more ragin’ Leo licks. This exhilaration was a theme for two full sets of huge smiles, jams and Crescent City spirit. “Talkin’ ‘Bout New Orleans” was just that – the pulse of a city ablaze. It’s Carnival Time!
For three consecutive nights we stumbled out of Tip’s and made our way down to the Blue Nile for the Backbeat Foundation’s 4th Annual Mardi Gras Funkstravaganza, a series of Royal Family hosted hoedowns lasting well into the wee hours, in true Quarter style. New York and NOLA are sister cities, and the likes of Adam Deitch, Eric Krasno and Nigel Hall would make their presence known at this Lombardi Gras, and of course, be joined by their NOLA forefathers all weekend long.
By Amanda Barry
On Saturday, the Nigel Hall Band (featuring George Porter Jr.) was geared to a more R&B feel. Krasno played bass before George’s arrival as Hall crooned with joie de vivre. A deep Rhodes take on James Taylor’s “You’ve Got a Friend” punctuated the early part of the set until Deitch commandeered the ship, directing Porter into murderous funk grooves. This was “Meters take Manhattan” on some crunk shit. Sheer delight shone on the faces of the elder statesman and boy wonder, as they played puppet-master to one another’s nastiness amidst carnival sights and sounds.
Sunday evening at the Nile was billed as Eric Krasno & Chapter 2, the Soulive guitarist’s red-hot side project; which this time featured Porter in the mix. Several cuts from Kraz’s forthcoming solo album – “76,” “Be Alright” and “Too Sweet” – joined stormy covers including a rare-groove styled rendition of The Beatles’ “Get Back” and an aggressive take on Jimi’s “Manic Depression.”
Kermit Ruffins & the Barbecue Swingers may have opened the 4th Annual Bacchus Blowout, but this was no warm-up act. Fellow Treme second-line prodigal son Ruffins absolutely owned this packed-to-the-gills room from jump. “How ’bout them New Or-lee-anz Saints!!” he greeted the roaring post-parade massive and led everyone into a jubilant “All Mardi Gras Day.” The audience upped the ante, as the obligatory “Saints Come Marching In” gave way to a bedlam-inducing take on the omnipresent Saints anthem by local rapper K. Gates, “Black N Gold New Orleans,” which was the theme song to the entire city – you couldn’t go three blocks without hearing a brass band, car stereo or house party system blaring it. When Kermit and Co. dropped it, the frontman’s lazy, gruff Treme drawl steeped in bliss, Tip’s fucking exploded.
By Dino Perrucci
After a lengthy changeover, the legendary Rebirth Brass Band delivered an enjoyable set of Crescent City ecstasy; cramped audience skanking and brass n’ drums thumping along. “Boe Money,” Derek Shezbie (trumpet) and Vincent Broussard (sax) led the troupe through an hour of bulbous brass anthems.
However, when headliner Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue took the stage just after 1 a.m., the energy levels in the room rose to even more raucous levels. Troy Andrews’ meteoric rise from child trombone prodigy and member of Rebirth to feted second-liner and member of Lenny Kravitz’s touring band to leading his own band is a true American dream. Hailing from the Treme, he has a long awaited album dropping soon and a reputation for superior showmanship. Leading a crack-band of childhood friends, including “Freaky” Pete Murano on guitar and Joey “In and Out” Peebles on drums, Shorty displayed a pomp ‘n’ verve that kept the room at full attention.
Andrews gave Kravitz a “le bon temps” lesson in crunkadelic rock with his reworking of The Guess Who’s “American Woman,” a pulsating banger with crunchy guitars and clobbering funk percussion. “Get Down” and “Orleans & Claiborne” were enigmatic doses of ridiculous second-line melodies and festive beats. “St. James Orleans Avenue” really took it to the Treme, and the new vibes took the crowd to “Backatown.” He led the boys through a medley that mixed hometown rapper Mystikal, the Black Eyed Peas, Sly Stone and the Violent Femmes. Crooning for the ladies, Shorty channeled Al Green and Marvin Gaye, and blew surreal trumpet runs between patented trombone romps that mesmerized the cuties.
Lundi Gras at Tip’s by Bob Compton/CapturedLight.com
The first show saw a short set of primarily new material from KDTU, highlighted by an incredible collaboration (“Baker’s Dozen”) between Denson, KDTU guitarist (and birthday boy) Brian Jordan and Galactic. The headliners threw down a show heavy on material from their newest record, Ya-Ka-May (JamBase review).
The annual Lundi Gras show was one to remember. Beginning with a fierce 90-minute set of firing KDTU, Diesel & Co. delivered the seminal “Ruff, Tuff and Tumble” and sultry “The Answer,” then closed with an ethereal version of “S&G,” a funk barnstormer that segued into evocative R&B. Galactic then hijacked their stage back and proceeded to uncork a colossal, three-set performance that went until 7 a.m. Culling from their now-vast catalogue of genre-bending compositions, the funk got deep and dark as the crowd bathed in their patented crunk gumbo, with “Boe Money” ably assisting throughout. Mixing in covers from Rakim to Zeppelin and featuring cameos from John Gros, Denson, Trixzey Slaughter, Cyril Neville and more, this was a gluttonously N’awlinz rager. Stanton Moore‘s punishing drums stoked the patented swamp-funk rumble, and bassist Robert Mercurio, guitarist Jeff Raines and sax/harp man Ben Ellman channeled the “Who dat?” mayhem into feverish pitches. Staggering out of Tip’s alongside the band, crew, staff and revelers bound for the 8 a.m. Zulu parade was a surreal experience, even for the Crescent City.
The spirit of New Orleans’ carnival music is caught not with a $30 ticket to Tip’s or Howlin’ Wolf, but for free out in front Handa Wanda’s bar room at 2nd and Dryades Streets on Mardi Gras Day. Tucked within Central City, this is the Mardi Gras of legends like Professor Longhair, James Booker and the Nevilles.
Post-Zulu, around 1 p.m., we went to check and pay respect to the Mardi Gras Indian Chiefs, strutting in their suits to drum circle beats with family, friends and plates of barbeque. This year, as they do each year, the Indians donned the fruits of each year’s labor: Hand sewn suits and headdresses, some weighing more than fifty pounds with feathers, fabrics and intricate beadwork illustrations. There, in a crowd of mostly city locals, we enjoyed the peak of the day – some no-frills booty shaking among neighborhood royalty.
Additional reporting by Jessica Dore
JamBase | Louisiana
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