Friday night, NOLA Defender, the paper I write for, hosted a Trick or Treme party behind the Hotel Storyville on Esplanade.
The backyard/event area was a wonderland of lit seating areas, food and beverage kiosks, a stage and a wonderful wooden decking area emblazoned with the event banner. There was jambalaya like your mama makes and sauced chicken wings among many savory items, and a chocolate cake decorated with a cemetery complete with an open grave. All of the food and drink goodies were only $3.00. There was even parking provided.
But my favorite attraction was the evening’s entertainment, the Treme Brass Band. A traditional New Orleans brass band, they play many of the same local standards, but they bring a level of confidence and showmanship only decades of experience can bring. Trumpeter and vocalist, Kenneth Terry, came out into the crowd blowing his trumpet into a plunger. He even came down from the stage to sing a few songs with those of us dancing in the grass. Still not sure I could call myself a local, but I did know the words to I Got Loaded when it mattered most.
At 79, “Uncle Lionel” Batiste is an institution, but the cool kind, like Snoop Dogg as a senior citizen banging on an upright bass drum topped with a cymbal. Performing since 11 years old, he made his own drum then used it to stay afloat during the Katrina catastrophe. After the Krewe de Vieux parade this year, that drum was stolen. Local radio station, WWOZ, put out the word and the Gambit featured a story shaming the culprit into returning the instrument, “You do not steal a man’s drum. Especially if he’s still alive and beating it.” The drum was returned within a day.
All this to say that Uncle Lionel totally redefined the drum solo for me. Armed with drum mallets and grinding hips, the solo was characterized by sparseness, well placed thuds punctuating slow rhythmic gyrations. He basically turned the big sphere into a lover – no, a phallus. It was fun, cool and, yes, sexy. Hollywood has Sean Connery, we have Lionel Batiste.
The band got everyone singing along when they played the theme from HBO’s Treme as well as L’il Liza Jane. By then, the crowd had filled in with folks from the neighborhood, including a man dancing on the makeshift grass dance floor on crutches. Naydja CoJoe, who’d help bring down the house a couple weeks ago with Kermit Ruffins and the Barbecue Swingers at Harvest the Music, stopped by and danced one or two songs, filling in background vocals for those of us lucky enough to be near her.
A few of my friends came by bicycle. So many people here travel by bike, more than I’ve seen in any city in the world. I continue to be the target for peer pressure as I prefer walking and usually drive after dark.
There was even a raffle to raise money for the band as well as the New Orleans Musicians’ Clinic which provides health care for musicians with fees set based on their income level. To learn more or donate:
I had a wonderful evening in a beautiful setting with terrific people and I look forward to the next NOLA Defender shindig. The grounds were done up as lovely as any I’d seen for a fun Hollywood party and it was actually fun! The whole event made me proud to work with NOLA Defender.
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