[Last week, FMC wrapped up our sixth Artist Activism Camp in New Orleans, where we hung out with a buncha incredible musicians and talked about ways they can work for positive social change in their lives and careers. As always, there was an incredible show to benefit NOLA do-gooders Sweet Home New Orleans. We wanted to give our readers a bit more flavor — mmm, tastes like gumbo! — so we asked our Events Coordinator (and AAC vet), Chhaya Kapadia, to give us a behind-the-scenes report.]
Back from New Orleans trip #6 and I'm happy to report that the city felt more refreshed this time. As I've mentioned in previous posts at my personal site, I was there to hang out with a smart, thoughtful, committed group of musicians to talk about about activism for a few days, after which the artists all put on a fantastic group rock show at One Eyed Jacks.
I know it's easy to forget about New Orleans when it's been nearly five years since Hurricane Katrina and there have been earthquakes in Haiti, Chile, Iran, Pakistan, and China, a tsunami in Southeast Asia — not to mention all the smaller and man-made disasters that don't inspire telethons. But New Orleans belongs to all of us: the music community and America. It's the birthplace of so much American music and we stand to lose a part of what makes us unique if we let it slip away for lack of effort.
My first trip to New Orleans — just a year after the storm — was so devastating it was hard to imagine the sky over the city ever having been bright. I'm sure it must have been sunny for some of the time I was there, but my memories of that trip look like this.
This time around I could see progress. Brad Pitt's and Global Green's houses don't look as lonely as they did last time. There is, of course, still plenty to do and there's plenty of anger that it remains undone. A lot of New Orleans natives are living in Houston and elsewhere. The economic downturn has no doubt slowed down the recovery process. Still, there were also fewer houses with spray paint on them, more traffic, more people out, the sounds of construction, and more of a feeling of normalcy and hope all around.
So what did we get up to?
Our opening night party at Mother-in-Law Lounge had the best pick-up band of all time, featuring George Porter, Jr. from the Meters, Terrence Higgins from Rebirth Brass Band, three members of Bonerama, keyboardist Brian Coogan, a crawfish boil and lots of dancing.
Other highlights: meeting David Montana, the Second Chief of the Yellow Pocahontas tribe (read more — my photos were taken with permission), visiting Ronald Lewis and a Mardi Gras Indian and Social Aid & Pleasure Club Museum called The House of Dance & Feathers. Oh, and some po-boys, of course!
Leah Chase made the best dinner I've ever had at the legendary Dooky Chase restaurant. From there the night segued into wild dancing to the Stooges Brass Band (listen here) at the Hi-Ho Lounge and a nightcap of beignets and coffee at Cafe du Monde.
All in all, an amazing trip. When can we go back?