Gustov's dampening of the first day of the RNC was not the only impact New Orleans and Louisiana had on Republicans in St. Paul on Monday.
Jam-balaya: Louisiana musicians unite to save the coastal wetlands at the best RNC party of the week
By KARL BREMER 9/3/08 7:16 AM
Louisiana guitarist Tab Benoit had a reason for a heightened sense of urgency in his plea to save his state’s coastal wetlands Monday night at First Avenue in Minneapolis. Earlier that day, Hurricane Gustav made landfall less than 20 miles from Benoit’s hometown of Houma.
“It’s hard for me to be here,” Benoit told the crowd gathered for the New Orleans All-Star Jam-Balaya, an RNC-related $500/ticket benefit for the Gulf Coast rebuilding effort. “But the coast of Louisiana is washing away at the rate of an acre an hour, and we cannot just sit in neutral.”
Benoit headlined the event with his Voice of the Wetlands AllStars, an amalgamation of some of the cream of Louisiana musicians united for the cause that included Cyril Neville (vocals and percussion), Anders Osborne (guitar), George Porter Jr. (bass), Johnny Vidacovich (drums), Jumpin’ Johnny Sansone (harp and accordion), Big Chief Monk Boudreaux (vocals and tambourine), and Waylon Thibodeaux (fiddle).
But it didn’t stop there. Pile on outstanding performances by the Soul Rebels Brass Band, the Wild Tchoupotoulas Mardi Gras Indians, Donald Harrison Jr. (alto sax), Marcia Ball (piano), Leo Nocentelli (guitar), Big Sam Williams (trombone), Kirk Joseph (sousaphone), Henry Butler (piano), Amanda Shaw (fiddle), James "Trombone Shorty" Andrews (trumpet) and Marva Wright (vocals), and this thing looked like a day at the New Orleans Jazz Fest all on one stage.
The five-hour star-studded lineup of Louisiana musicians was sponsored by the Friends of New Orleans with the help of a host of lobbying and music groups, including the Tipitina’s Foundation. A similar event was held in Denver during the Democratic National Conventional.
In addition to the musical entertainment, attendees dined on complimentary seafood gumbo, red beans and rice with andouille sausage, barbecued shrimp, salad and bananas foster.
Even with the abundance of talent on stage, the Republican- and lobbyist-dominated crowd was reluctant to take to the dance floor—no more than 50 were out there at any one time—despite repeated urging from the musicians. A handful ventured out to get down with the Wild Tchoupotoulas, resplendent in their elaborate feather-and-bead costumes. And a couple of brief second-line parades erupted when the music proved too irresistible to sit still. By the end of the marathon evening, about the only ones left were media, musicians and other assorted music fans.
That didn’t stop the musicians on stage from tearing it up, though.
The Voice of the Wetlands, anchored by the precision rhythm section of Porter and Vidacovich, smoked through much of their fine release by the same name and were joined by the other musicians throughout their set.
The Soul Rebels opened, providing the accompaniment for the Wild Tchoupotoulas’ eye candy as they swirled and strutted about the room. Donald Harrison Jr. was joined by a band of talented New Orleans music students, Big Sam Williams and Cyril Neville in a wide-ranging set of jazz, blues and funk. Leo Nocentelli of the original Meters brought his trademark guitar pyrotechnics to the mix. Henry Butler and Marcia Ball took turns beating the ivory off the keys, with Ball also rendering an emotional take on Randy Newman’s “Louisiana 1927.” Young fiddle firebrand Amanda Shaw held her own with Cajun fiddle master Waylon Thibodeaux. And in the finale featuring almost everyone on stage, Marva Wright filled out the roster of guests with a taste of her big, powerful voice on the Neville Brothers’ arrangement of Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come.”
If RNC revelers had to party while Gustav raged, this was the place they could do it this week and still bring their conscience along.
(there are some nice photos along with the article which I quoted above)
I couldn't help but notice that some song choices, such as "Louisiana 1927" and "A Change Is Gonna Come", could be considered rather ironic for a Republican crowd.
Of course, the overall theme was to raise awareness of the alarming disappearance of Louisiana's coastal wetlands, and not Katrina's Federally-assisted body blow to the city of New Orleans.
However - I can only hope that some of the Republicans in attendance arrived in St. Paul with the "why should we spend any money on rebuilding New Orleans?" mindset, and that direct exposure to some of the world's finest food and music that can be found nowhere else gave them something to think about.
It sounds like quite a party, and I'm pretty jealous - I'm a fan of most of these musicians, and a big fan
of about a third of them. And I surely do love
me some red beans and rice with andouille sausage!