Thirteen years since Hurricane Katrina destroyed the lives of over a thousand New Orleans residents, scattering survivors throughout the country. And yet, based on our abysmal response to the damage wrought by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, we’ve learned little. Get this year’s annual Katrina recognition dedicated to Puerto Rico started.
Shamarr Allen creates the intensity of a hurricane with the opening track of this show “Katrina and the Flood.” It’s become almost a tradition to play that song as well as Marva Wright’s heart-wrenching “The Levee is Breaking Down” which comes off her post-Katrina album, After the Levees Broke.
This year’s show features the KAOS premiere of “You and Me” a song written to dramatize the story of Tim Bruneau, a New Orleans police officer who was working when the levees broke. Bruneau found the body of 23-year-old Marie Latino after the hurricane had passed but before the city had started to flood. After several attempts to have the body picked up, he put her in the back seat of his car. But after failing to find a hospital to take the body, he was ordered to “undo” what he did. He placed Latino’s body in a body bag and returned it to where he found, where it floated on flood waters until it was picked up a few days later. The song is poignant and haunting. An autopsy later revealed that she had been shot instead of killed by the storm as originally believed.
Sonny Landreth song “Blue Tarp Blues” references President George Bush’s famous looking out from Air Force One and Marcia Ball sings Randy Newman’s ode to the 1927 Louisiana flood. I finish the show with Dee-1 and Shamarr Allen singing about the BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico titled “Sorry Ain’t Enough No More.”
Our pleasant summers typically create a musical wave of touring performers in our region. Today’s show explores the music of performers from New Orleans (and Lafayette) who will be touring our area soon. And there’s a bumper crop so start listening while I tell you more about upcoming shows.
Delfeayo Marsalis, Dr. John and Donald Harrison Jr. get us started. And sadly, these performers will not be playing our area any time soon.
However, Quintron, an eclectic organist and inventor from New Orleans, will do shows in Portland and Seattle and is rumored (from a reliable source) that he will be performing in Olympia most likely on July 5. He does an instrumental version of Ernie K-Doe’s New Orleans hit “Certain Girl.” I also play Ernie K-Doe’s “Here Come the Girls” because Ernie is the patron saint of my show and this blog, and he has a connection with Quintron.
Albanie Falleta, a solo swing guitarist and vocalists, will be at Traditions Cafe in Olympia on June 24. Originally from Monroe, Louisiana but now living in New Orleans, Falleta has performed at Traditions before and has been building a devoted local following. Her “Black Coffee Blues” kick off the second full set of this show.
Grammy Winner Rebirth Brass Band returns to Seattle for two shows at the Tractor Tavern (“Why Your Feet Hurt”) and Big Sam’s Funky Nation (“Hard to Handle”) will grace Mississippi Studios in Portland the Nectar Lounge in Seattle.
Helen Gillet, a cellist from Belgium who relocated to New Orleans about 15 years ago, will be performing in Olympia in July. And Davis Rogan, who performed in Olympia this February just booked a return engagement here for mid-August. You’ll hear examples of their music as well as others playing in the area, including Pine Leaf Boys, Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Better than Ezra, Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys, The Revivalists and Marc Broussard. It’s a great line up and you can see when and where they’re playing on my concert page.
I love this version by Debbie Davis and the Mesmerizers with the sousaphone bass line handled by her husband Matt Perrine. Matt shows up later in the show with his own project, Matt Perrine and Sunflower City. Yes, its a sunny day but the song, originally recorded by the Kinks, seems to capture Amazon’s petulant response to the city’s modest attempt to try to get the $700 billion company to take some responsibility for the housing shortages in Seattle.
Enough politics, let’s talk immigration instead. Anders Osborne moved to New Orleans as youth from Uddevalla, Sweden. Today, he turned 52 and I play his song “My Old Heart.” The Dirty Bourbon River Show’s “Ruffian Since Birth” provides a nice follow up to Osborne’s number
Diablo’s Horns offers a silly take on addiction (and seasonal allergies) in their song “The Sneeze” and The Crooked Vines heat things up with “Organ Holler.” I’m almost done with my sequential march through Marcia Ball’s latest release Shine Bright and perhaps my favorite surprise in this show was finding Bon Bon Vivant’s latest release and playing “Dust.”
Another fun discovery is Mary Flower’s “Main Street Blues” which features Dr. Michael White (clarinet), Washboard Chaz and Matt Perrine (sousaphone). Thanks for listening. Don’t forget to subscribe. Cheers.
The 10-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina affords us the opportunity to remember and reflect on how devastating nature can be when compounded by human failure.
As often happens, the poor, elderly and vulnerable populations suffered disproportionately because of their inability to get out of harms way and the paucity of their personal resources to recover afterwards.
Sadly, that seems to be a worldwide characteristic. But what Katrina revealed was that a country that could deliver troops anywhere in the world within two days could not come to the rescue of one of its most culturally rich cities and its residents. And the residents that suffered the most were poor.
I love my country and as a 30-year state employee, I believe in the positive power of government. But local, state and federal governments failed in Hurricane Katrina, from insufficient evacuation efforts, to the negligence in building and maintaining the levee system, to the limp rescue and recovery efforts and insufficient relief and restoration programs that followed.
Like most folks who witnessed from afar, I was alarmed and shamed by the failure to evacuate the city’s low-income, elderly and vulnerable population. Roughly 100,000 people were left behind, stranded in a flooded city, fleeing like rats to the Superdome, Convention Center, bridges and rooftops, stuck there for days in insufferable heat with little food and water. Roughly 1,800 residents died.
I had planned to visit my sister that fall. She had moved back to New Orleans from the Northwest the year before. I already had my plane ticket when on that Sunday morning in late August I watched Mayor Ray Nagin on national television urge the city’s evacuation with the words: “We’re facing the storm most of us have feared.”
I was out of town, watching the TV at a hotel. When I got home later that day, a phone message from my sister said she was going to hunker down and stay in the city. I wouldn’t hear her voice again for over a month.
Her message had been left on Saturday night. Nagin’s announcement was made Sunday morning. The hurricane made landfall near New Orleans on Monday morning, August 29, and by Tuesday 80 percent of the city was underwater.
My sister did eventually evacuate. Unlike many of the residents who were left behind, Katie had a car and the financial means to buy gas and survive the many months of uncertainty that followed. She was lucky yet she suffered so much personal anguish and loss that I doubt she will ever live again near the hurricane zone.
I rebooked my flight for Jazz Fest that April which did occur and reignited my love for New Orleans culture. My sister gave me the devastation tour of St. Bernard Parish and the Lower Ninth ward, both areas completely submerged by what is now recognized as one of the worst civil engineering failures in U.S. history.
There are a great many things the city and its residents can take pride in achieving over the decade. The city took a death blow and got up off the mat and survived–perhaps even thrived. New Orleans is a wonderful place to visit and live in. But it has changed.
Maybe some of the changes are good, maybe not. But Katrina, like the 1927 flood and Hurricane Betsy, has left its mark.
Kenneth Jackson wasn’t quite old enough when it mattered, and I could tell how much he wish he had been. (You can play the show with his interview including music from the Dew Drop era while finishing this short article.)
During the mid-20th Century, the Dew Drop Inn rocked New Orleans, making musical history and forging a special place in the hearts of all the musicians and fans that were lucky enough (and had IDs) to have been there.
“I never was really old enough to enjoy the shows and everything. You know I would kind of sneak in whenever I was down here late and had to bring somebody something but they would run me from out of there,” said Jackson as we toured the fabled nightclub, hotel, and restaurant.
If love could rebuild the Dew Drop Inn, Jackson would have enough to build it twice over. His affection for the shuttered double-storefront on LaSalle Street is almost as obvious as his love for the man who started it all, his grandfather, Frank Painia.
As detailed in my previous post, Painia built a key piece of music industry infrastructure during the New Orleans R&B golden age. But when Painia died in 1972, the music at the Dew Drop Inn stopped as well. The family retained and operated the business, primarily as a hotel, until Hurricane Katrina.
The flood mess has been cleaned out. Artifacts have been saved. Some framing and some new wiring has been done. Also, the building has a temporary facade that highlights the history contained with in. But its not yet ready to be open to the public.
Jackson envisions a day when folks can come back to the Dew Drop and get a meal, catch a show, even spend the night or host a party. He thinks the time is right. Nearby streets like Freret and O.C. Haley are undergoing a renaissance of new business and renovation.
Across the street from the Dew Drop, the infamous “Magnolia,” a crime-ridden housing project that also was home to hip hop artists Lil Wayne, Juvenile, Jay Electronica and Magnolia Shorty, is gone. In its place is a lower density, stylish new development called Harmony Oaks that provides a mix of market rate rentals and public housing.
One of the groups to spearhead the community’s revitalization, Harmony Neighborhood Development, is working with Jackson and his family to secure the funding necessary to get renovations started. But all the pieces have yet to come together.
Tulane University’s School of Architecture has weighed in with plans and archival assistance. And there’s a wealth of love and affection for restoring the business by New Orleans musicians, young and old.
There may be a day soon when Kenneth Jackson will be able to enjoy a club performance at the Dew Drop Inn. After all, while its possible to be too young to party at the Dew Drop Inn, you’re never too old.