Wednesday, February 16, 2011

NOLA 2011 Scott Cohen's Manly Diary... you do that voodoo so well...

Bourbon St., Decatur, Royal, Esplanade, Chartres, Dauphine, St. Louis, St. Peters, Basin, Rampart...
The French Quarter.  It took some time but the music rose to a crescendo that deafened the lost soul living within.  How could it not?  

As I walked the streets of the Quarter, day in and day out, the beauty of this city claimed its victory over me.  Under what seemed to be a full moon I walked Bourbon St., a frightful conglomeration of haunted corners, modern sleaze and drunken revelry.  Awesome.   As I passed St. Peter's St. a marching band of young kids paraded down the street stopping traffic and tourists.  A transvestite taking a break from a Gentleman's Club, threw down her cigarette and decided to control the upset motorists from driving into this improvisational moment.  A hundred kids, at least.  Bass drums, tympani, flutes, trumpets, baritones, tubas, marching and playing as if it was just any other monday night.  Where did they come from?  Where were they going? It didn't matter really, it was pure heaven to this outsider.

The Quarter is filled with these moments.  Appearing from nowhere, music rises above the politics and turmoil of the time.  There are no budget cuts, no protests, or war.  There is only the limit to which you place on yourself to enjoy, participate or inevitably live in the French Quarter.   

The music that is coming out of here now is so interesting.  The recession has placed a greater emphasis on young muscians coming here and forming bands with ukelele's, guitar, banjo, washboard, dancers, bass, and singers. They play music from the 1920's and 1930's.  So many young, with diry faces, fingers and barefeet, wearing newsboy caps and suspenders, singing songs that talk about hardtimes and struggle.  Appalachian tunes that now carry such weight.   Some are playing blues or ragtime with clarinet, improvised drumsets, harmonicas, electric guitars. Every corner, every street boasts a new duo, trio, band or solo player.  The talent is mesmerizing, the individuality is inspiring.


The music is New Orleans.  There is no other city in the world that this exists, like this.  There is no other city in the world where you can dance and sing in the street and not be admonished for your behavior or judged or criticized for your choices.  It is as close to a democracy, a musical democracy that we could possibly come to.  All is accepted, nothing is the same, and every note is loved.  The music rises above all else.  The music is King.  And New Orleans its providence.