Last week, I attended the last My Darlin’ New Orleans event thrown by the producers of HBO’s Treme. It was bittersweet as it means the show will end next season. Our city is the better for the jobs the production created, the peek it gave others into our unique local culture and the light it shined on the Mardi Gras Indians and a little known parade called Krewe Du Vieux. Among the many amazing performances that night was Al Johnson singing his classic It’s Carnival Time.
The song had been stuck in my head ever since watching 3 floats pass by that morning. The next day, brass bands kept passing the house, practicing for the upcoming parades. Every store has stocked up on King Cake and parade schedules. Bleachers are being constructed and with the Saints’ season over, the city has exchanged many black and gold decorations for purple, green and gold. Soon people will bead their fence lines and clean out the costume shops. It’s Carnival Time and everybody’s having fun!
The first parade to roll after Katrina was the funny and irreverent R-rated Krewe Du Vieux. Many in the media questioned whether it was “appropriate” to parade amid such horrible devastation but the Krewe knew their obligation to the city, “Preserve our culture and heritage first, and the recovery will follow.” Krewe Du Vieux is also the first parade I attended after moving here in 2009. I didn’t really understand most of the local and political satire but it was clearly a fun way to deal with frustration.
This year, the crowd grew yet again. You might think that all of the national attention to this parade might tame their expression but, if anything, the parade seems to be getting more graphic and cutting every year. Though there was plenty of criticism to go around (much for the Times-Picayune newspaper), the biggest butt of the jokes this year was certainly NFL head Roger Goodell. Former Mayor Ray Nagin had been indicted on 21 counts that morning, too late to be included in the roasting.
The theme this year was Krewe Du Vieux Comes Early and executive director of the New Orleans Musicians’ Clinic, Bethany Bultman, served as Queen. Along with some of the best brass bands around, DancingMan504 and fun costumes were the shocking floats including an Energizer bunny sporting a giant penis for Krewe of Lewd’s “Keeps Cumming” float and Krewe of Inane’s Roger Goodell clutching a Lombardi Trophy while climbing out of (or being swallowed by?) a giant steaming vagina labeled, “Super Hole XLVAG.” My favorite float was porn-free but no less visually shocking – Governor Bobby Jindal pushing a granny into a gator’s mouth on Krewe of T.O.K.I.N.’s “TOKIN Rolls with Yamama Care.”
One of the best parts of these adult-themed parades is the music. Bands for Krewe du Vieux included Langiappe, Pinettes, Kinfolk, TBC, New Birth, Jazzmen, Bone Tone, Young Fellaz, Paulin Bros, Baby Boyz Brass Band, Stooges Brass Band, One Mind, Panorama, The Tornados, Free Agents, Treme Brass Band, Egg Yolk Jubilee, Hot 8 Brass Band, Jack Brass and Down and Dirty. Many of them play Jazz Fest and other large shows and festivals.
Krewe Delusion followed with more off-kilter fun. Cheeky Blakk served as their first Queen. The parade featured fewer floats and more drumming groups than brass bands. Though my personal highlight was hugging a few friends from Krewe of Bananas, I suspect the crowd favorite was the Krewe of Goddeses, many of whom sported actual boobs rather than the papier mache ones of Krewe du Vieux.
As Drumcart ended the parade, I squealed with delight that the Mardi Gras season has arrived! It’s Carnival Time and everybody’s having fun. For more history and stories and videos, visit the 2010, 2011 and 2012 posts for Krewe Du Vieux and Krewe Delusion.
Please forgive my confusion, I mistakenly thought Krewe du Vieux ended with Spermes so a few of the final features of that parade are seen on the Krewe Delusion video.