HBO’s Treme is back with new opening credits, some new cast members and the same great music. The story has moved forward to 14 months after Katrina left the region in ruin. I guess I’m glad people are seeing how little was done to step in and help the city, to hear that 85% of the remaining residents were on medication for depression and related disorders. Though it’s a downer to watch it play out again, it’s nice to know how far the city will come in the years leading to the present.
It was upsetting to see all the random and unnecessary violence people endured and to hear the teenage radical rant about living with the National Guard. I know it makes for good TV to focus on the dramatic and the city certainly had more than its fair share at the time, but there were a few things they left out. First, Jazz Fest went on as planned that year. The music lived on in more than just a symbolic way. Jazz Fest is big business and business was good despite all the hell. Nearly 350,000 people attended the festival which amounts to 50,000 less than the year before but the festival was also shorter in 2006. Attendance has been increasing since, surpassing 400,000 in 2009.
Far more noteworthy was the Saints – Falcons game in October, just before the premiere episode of Treme is to have taken place. In their first game in the newly re-roofed Superdome after it housed thousands of stranded citizens during the storm, new team member Drew Brees passed for 191 yards bringing home a 23-3 win. It was rookie coach Sean Payton’s first season and third straight win (no losses). Even Falcons coach Jim Mora Jr. appreciated what the win did for the city. Like the Hornets almost being lost to the city this year due in part to the BP gusher’s impact on locals wealthy enough to own a team, the Saints had almost left the city after Katrina but returned to the Dome to remake the building’s history. Yes, Khandi Alexander’s Ladonna mentions that year’s first round draft choice Reggie Bush, but the episode took place in November during the most successful season in the history of the franchise. They went on to the NFC Championship for the first time.
I say all this not to pick on a show that has clearly endeavored to represent this city accurately and with heart, but because they can’t cover every story and I wouldn’t want to neglect the story of how tied this city’s rebirth is to the rebirth of the Saints. The city unites for many things. Mardi Gras is an excellent example of a citywide event. But I was here for the Saints Super Bowl win and I can say that I’ve never witnessed nor been privileged enough to be a part of something as solidifying as the city’s love for the Saints. I can only imagine what it was like to see the team born anew and the Dome refurbished and celebrate victory after victory after surviving the Katrina debacle. I hope the show represents the city cloaked in black and gold and hooked to TV’s, spirits high with a team’s rebirth leading the way for the city’s.
The episode’s music was wonderful with a little something for everyone including jazz, rap and even bounce. Last season, I was still so new to the sound of this city. Some of the songs were as familiar as the lullabies my mother sang me but some were downright foreign to me. When I attended French Quarter Fest this year, I noticed that I knew the words to dozens of local hits. Watching Treme last year, I recognized Kermit Ruffins, Dr. John and other more famous faces but this year, I knew most of the musicians and bands on sight having attended many of their shows.
I recognized Tommy Malone from day 2 of FQFest. I’ve seen Bonerama (named for their many trombones) several times including day 1 of FQFest, last year’s Oyster Festival and FQFest 2010. I saw Galactic at the last Wednesday at the Square last year and have since claimed one of their songs as a favorite. Baby Boyz Brass Band played the corner of Bourbon and Canal when I moved here and have since paraded with Krewe de Vieux, played this year’s FQFest (though I didn’t catch them), and are scheduled to play Jazz Fest.
As a side note, in the episode, Baby Boyz played in front of Muriel’s on Jackson Square, a favorite restaurant of mine since first moving here. I ate there last weekend with friends from Connecticut and we all had our fill of lump crab meat, tender white fish and insanely good bread pudding. I’d already fallen in love with the lunch menu, waited in extra long lines at FQFest 2 years running to get the crawfish goat cheeses crepes, but I’d yet to sample the supper menu. The prix fixe menu was a great deal with amazing 3 course meals for $31.95.
Last but not least, John Boutte, who was featured several times on the episode and originated The Treme Song, was one of the many wonderful artists to play last year’s free concert, Threadhead Thursday. His voice is as gentle and bold as his smile. Seeing him got me excited for this year’s Threadhead Thursday which leads the way for Jazz Fest. This Thursday, the beautiful Botanical Gardens of City Park will once again host many of the talented musicians who record on the post-Katrina rebuilding label, Threadhead Records. From 6pm to 11pm, Shamarr Allen and the Underdawgs, Paul Sanchez & the Rolling Road Show, The New Orleans Nightcrawlers, The Alex McMurray Band and Ensemble Fatien will all play surrounded by the beauty and fragrance of the lush flowers – for FREE! Watching Treme is fun but living in the city it tries so hard and so well to replicate and illuminate is like heaven on Earth.