Saturday, January 30, 2010

Carnival time once more

Yet again, the timing of the Krewe du Vieux carnival in New Orleans - the beginning of the pre-Mardi Gras parade season - has caught me out.

Since it's tied to Easter, and thus calculated on the lunar calendar, it usually coincides more or less with the Chinese Spring Festival. But..... well, this year the Chinese calendar had got so out of whack with the solar year that they had to insert an intercalary month to get back in sync, and so.... Spring Festival is nearly a month later than you'd expect this year, in mid-February.

Whereas Krewe du Vieux rolls...... tonight.

Over the past week, I had been starting to noodle around with the idea of taking a brief break over there. When I found out yesterday that I had barely 24 hours left, I thought of attempting an impulsive last-minute dash to try to get there. Unfortunately, the new Homeland Security regime rather militates against such spontaneity - even if I could have found a flight that would get me there in time (would probably have had to change at O'Hare, and maybe another hub as well), I don't think I would have been able to get through the advance visa waiver clearance. Drat!

This year's theme is All Fired Up! (they suffered an electrical fire last summer at the 'Den of Muses', the Krewe's warehouse HQ where all the floats are constructed). I dread to think what they might do with that!

As I've recounted before, the Krewe du Vieux is much the most fun of the N'Awlins carnival parades: the only one that's really an 'old school' bawdy romp, and the only one that's small enough to be able to follow a route through the narrow streets of the Marigny and the French Quarter. Things will be kicking off shortly, with the various sub-krewes assembling at their favourite taverns for a leisurely buffet lunch and a few hours of preliminary drinking to the accompaniment of their 'second line' band (each of the 17 sub-krewes has its own small marching jazz band to lead it on the road). Then, towards the end of the afternoon, they'll start swaggering and swaying through the streets: 17 drunken mini-parades converging on the early evening rendezvous at the Den of Muses - where there'll be more food and more drinking for a couple of hours until it gets dark. Then the main parade rolls - for what, about one-and-a-half or two hours, starting in the Marigny and working its way right through the heart of the Quarter, to finish at a big theatre on Elysian Fields..... where, around 9 or 9.30 or 10, the post-parade concert - the infamous Krewe du Vieux Do (pron. Kroo d'Voo Doo - geddit?) - will get under way with a review of the sub-krewes' marching bands, and then (at 11, or maybe getting nearer to midnight) one or two kicking local bands.

And this year - oh, my good god! - the King of the Carnival is........
Dr John!!!

You could knock me down with a feather. I mean, they've had some fairly notable local celebrities agree to be their figurehead in the past, but..... Dr John??!! The man is a legend, a giant of the local music scene. I would happily have blown a big chunk of my meagre savings for a chance to see him again (and, maybe, K du V being the intimate, booze-soaked kind of event that it is..... to meet him in person!!). I am so bummed about this. I wonder if he'll play The Do as well - he's not listed, but.... well, I imagine it might be difficult to keep him away from the stage. (I saw him play a dozen years ago, at The Forum in Camden Town, when he was in rather poor health - and he had to be physically restrained from playing more encores; he just didn't want to leave his piano, and eventually his daughter had to lead him off stage for his own good. That was one of the best shows I've ever seen in my life. There might be more technically virtuosic pianists out there, but the Doctor just oozes music - he's one of those guys that gives the impression he can nail anything he wants to do on the keyboard, and make it look effortless, unpremeditated, joyous.)

And then, of course, local team The Saints have surprised and delighted everyone by battling through to the Superbowl next week. Man, this would be a good week to be in New Orleans! (Just as well The 'Bowl isn't this week: the Krewe du Vieux Doo being what it is - an outrageous dancing-in-the-aisles, quaffing from hip-flasks, partying-till-the-wee-small-hours affair - some people would be struggling to get up in time for the game.) I am so bummed not to be there.

It's now 5 or 6 years since I last made it to Krewe du Vieux - I am so overdue. NEXT YEAR!!!

Oh well, at least we can enjoy a little of the Great Man (and a few other people you might recognise) in the comfort of our homes. Here's his classic N'Awlins party song, Iko Iko.

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