Though Carnival doesn’t “officially” start until 12 days before Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras in French), the city’s unofficially-official start is certainly the one-two satirical-parade punch of Krewe du Vieux and Krewedelusion. The bawdy R-rated parades lampoons local, national and even international politics with the addition of jabs at the Olympics-host Russian policy toward gays. With throws ranging from earplugs to liquor, it’s a fun adult night parade in the French Quarter.
This year’s Krewe du Vieux theme was “Where the Vile Things Are” and featured author, historian and wetlands-restoration crusader John Barry as king. The BP oil spill catastrophe continues to inspire satire as do Louisiana politicians Mayor Mitch Landrieu, Senator Mary Landrieu and a “twerking” Governor Bobby Jindal.
Another popular topic for both of this year’s parades was the recent fight over the “noise ordinance” which many locals feels cuts directly at the heart and wallet of local musicians. The conditions at the local jail, gentrification and the influx of “hipsters” were also topics on the chopping block with clever floats like Krewe of sPANk’s “Disney Landreau.”
Owing to the NBA All-Star Game, the streets were packed with tourists in town for the game. They were treated to the Mystic Krewe of Spermes “Spermes Goes Balls Out” float featuring 2 giant basketballs and a giant penis followed by their marchers carrying their traditional sperm-on-a-stick, some painted basketball-orange.
The floats satirizing the Olympics were among my favorites. Drips & Discharges’ “Sphincter Olympics” float featured a giant spinning penis dressed as a sparkly rainbow-boa-wielding figure skater skating for a panel of world leaders. A ball-gagged Putin mounted by a bear topped Mystic Krewe of Inane’s “Winter O’Lymp Dicks” float. The Pizza Sluts pulled a “Ho-Limpix” float and flashed fake genitalia in pizza boxes with signs like, “Blow this Putin.” There were plenty of bands as well including the amazing Stooges Brass Band and recent Red Bull Street Kings winners, Original Pinettes Brass Band.
Some of the people watching the parade with us had never been to any other parade. I can’t imagine how anyone would process this as the first parade they’d ever seen. Krewe Du Vieux is clever and funny but it’s also overt in its attacks and spares no sacred cows. No telling what all those NBA fans made of it. Not realizing Krewedelusion would arrive within minutes, most of them dispersed along with the Bourbon Street crowd.
Now in its 5th year, Krewedelusion is the more chaotic, less well-lit melange of micro-krewes that Krewe du Vieux used to be. Maybe it’s my nostalgia for days when fewer tourists crowded the streets or because they opened the parade with Martin Luther King Jr. Charter School’s marching band, but I enjoyed the smaller parade even more.
The Krewe of King James had us all dancing to James Brown then we were shushed by the “Decibel Deputies.” The Krewe of Goddesses delivered beautiful dancing women and painted bare-breasts. I got a Shrinky Dink throw and a hug from Krewe du Muu Muu Queen Bec Hunter, loved the dancers of Tap Dat and DrumCart’s giant jellyfish. It was a “colorful” way to begin the Carnival season.
As a side note, in 2013 former Mayor Ray Nagin had been indicted on 21 counts the morning of the 2 parades – too late to be included in the roasting. This year, he was found guilty of all but one of those counts – again too late to receive a proper lampooning. Timing is everything.