Monday, May 11, 2009

Festival season in New Orleans ends, for now

And so another festival season in New Orleans comes to an end, with the grace notes of Tom McDermott and Evan Christopher playing duets on a Sunday afternoon at Snug Harbor, then the New Orleans Leviathan Foxtrot Orchestra performing in the sultry evening for a languid but fully absorbed group of picnicers and dancers. d.b.a. had a good crowd for Coco Robicheaux but you could still move around in the club and order a drink. The tourist-gorged streets of the french quarter have returned to their thoughtful sleepy ways and this ancient city once again starts its unhurried pace. Political infighting over power and money resumes its sordid hold on a city that can express outrage yet returns scoundrels like Ray Nagin to office. Nagin, who will thankfully be unceremoniously dumped before he can do any more damage as mayor (don't give him Michael Bloomberg's phone number) thanks to the term limit law, was once known for the scurrilous race baiting of his second mayoral campaign in which he vowed that New Orleans would be returned to "Chocolate City." The African Americans who voted for this ruse have been the most cruelly served by a mayor whose interest in governing has been markedly devoid of a plan to resurrect any part of the city beyond the tourist and business enclaves. It seems likely that Nagin's ultimate defining statement is that he doesn't remember taking an unethical first class trip to Jamaica with his family in the awful days after Katrina, when the city
hadn't even fully accounted for its dead. It was all "a blur" lied this former CEO, who knows how to manipulate the levers of power to serve his own ends. Clancy Dubos wrote a great editorial about Nagin's character in the current Gambit Weekly, a powerful piece of oratory that will follow Nagin around like a ghost of Christmas past over his last miserable months in office.
The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival was a great success and a credit to the city. Quint Davis and his expert organization has done an amazing job of shepherding some of the city's most vulnerable musical resources in the wake of the flood of 2005. Even if the neighborhoods that nurtured the Mardi Gras Indians and brass band second lines don't survive, they will always be represented in force at the festival. Many of the organizations were so thinned out after the storm that they had share members to help each other out in live performance, just as many of the city's musicians played in numerous local bands during Jazz Fest. An army of reporters descended on New Orleans to document the 40th anniversary of this crucial piece of American history, using every resource at their disposal, from pen and ink to Twitter, to spread the news. At a time when they are fighting what appears to be a losing battle of their own, these reporters deserve credit for the selfless zeal in which they ply their vocation to keep a curious public informed. Be sure to check the future pages of OffBeat for some of the most salient observations on New Orleans culture by a staff that includes yours truly and the inestimable Alex Rawls.

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