I think that I may say that an American has not seen the United States until he has seen Mardi Gras in New Orleans.
- Mark Twain
Adventures In: Mardi Gras was directed by Casey Neistat (HBO’s Neistat Brothers, Nike Make It Count Film, and NY Times Op Ed videos). These mini-docs offer a taste of the real New Orleans and Mardi Gras to the uninitiated. The series features music, parades, parties, partyers and some true legends of New Orleans.
When the second lines begin to break, the Mardi Gras Indians unveil their new suits and green, purple and gold flags fly throughout the Crescent City, it can only mean one thing: its Carnival time in New Orleans. Mardi Gras and the Carnival season leading up to it are a site to behold at least once in your lifetime, as the spirit of the season time and again springs a rarefound and merry wave of humanity spanning all ages and backgrounds into a lengthy, communal frenzy of parades, parties, beads, king cakes and crawfish boils. Music fans looking to get their fill can indulge in the sustained period of excellence as the surrounding area is engulfed by the festive sounds of the season both out in the streets and in the clubs.
To fully enjoy Mardi Gras, one must learn to expect and fully embrace the unexpected as a lifetime memory could be waiting around every corner, such as last year on Lundi Gras while waiting out a lengthy gap between the Tucks and Proteus parades, those lucky enough to have a good spot were treated to a funky hour-plus performance by the amazingly polished and surprisingly animated Marine Corp brass band. Like Bonnaroo, there are countless different approaches one can take to craft a very personal and profound cultural experience to their own personal desires. Given the wealth of choices for revelry and serendipitous happenings that make such events worth counting down toward on a yearly basis, Mardi Gras’ influence on Bonnaroo is easily prevalent and it’s no wonder, given Bonnaroo’s well-documented links to the Crescent City, that the festival has decided to create a unique Adventures in Mardi Gras series through its Bonnaroo 365 YouTube channel to highlight a few of the local artists, events, places and experiences that makes Mardi Gras unique.
But the best part about Mardi Gras? Between the hospitality industry, marching bands, parade krewes and revelers, there is almost 100% participation by the city of New Orleans during Carnival. You’d be hard-pressed to find any other American event that inspires such an enthusiastic, wholehearted embrace of something that cripples the city’s normal infrastructure, roads and normative life for such a span. In comparison, there’s the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival, a relatively young descendant tracking its roots back to New Orleans set in the rolling hills of Manchester, TN. Perhaps no other event (now in its 11th year) has been able to recreate, almost out of thin air, such an ephemeral, sensory-overloading utopia that parallels Mardi Gras by providing a round-the-clock entertainment experience for fans willing to dive in headfirst to a sea of humanity hellbent on letting the good times roll. On more than one occasion, most notably for Galactic’s Krewe de Carnivale late night show in 2005, the worlds of Bonnaroo and Mardi Gras have appropriately collided.
Whether you are taking the good road to Manchester or taking a joy ride through the Big Easy during Carnival, from both trips you’ll likely walk away dog-tired, ears ringing and more-likely-than-not with a headache of some varying degree. However, whether you’re looking back on a Mardi Gras or Bonnaroo, if done right, you’ll likely treasure each far apart from most other cultural experiences, knowing that such chances to take such a distant and enjoyable departure from everyday life are few-and-far-between (and almost never this enjoyable). Thanks to Bonnaroo 365, those who haven’t been to Mardi Gras can get a feel for what Carnival is all about and can be when done right. Finally, those of us lucky enough to call New Orleans home can get an brief instillation of that old-time Carnival feeling, despite Mardi Gras 2013 being over eight months away.
Continue below for the four Adventures in Mardi Gras videos, some amazingly entertaining photos from Mardi Gras Day in 2010 and 2012 and brief descriptions of a few notable live music traditions for those considering Mardi Gras in 2013.
Episode 1 – MONK
I haven’t slept since I was 12, the day before Mardi Gras – Big Chief Monk Boudreaux
Mardi Gras Live Music Recommendations
On Thursday night before Mardi Gras Day, George Porter Jr. (The Meters / 7 Walkers / George Porter Jr. and the Runnin’ Pardners/Funky Meters) with Johnny Vidacovich on Thursday at the Maple Leaf Bar, kicking off the weekend. The Trio usually gets grooving through old Meters Mardi Gras songs and it’s a perfect place to roll to after Muses gets done.
- Scott Kushner
Episode 2 – THE CRAWFISH BOIL
A crawfish boil is like a standard New Orleans get together.
Galactic ‘til Mardi Gras Day sunrise at Tipitina’s Uptown on Lundi Gras. The band always reminds fans before the show to bring sunglasses for the morning parade out into the streets following the show as an indicator to the true blue fans in attendance that they need to be ready for a long night at the tail end of Carnival. Costumes abound at this special show and there are generally two speeds with which fans approach the show. First, there are those wise with experience who decide to take it easy on Monday or take an evening nap to save up. Then there are those burning the candle at both ends and on the sides in an effort to soak in one more big full late night of Mardi Gras. Either way, those in the famed venue that night are generally in for something special. This past year Set 3 didn’t start ‘til after 5 a.m. and the guest sit-ins were a who’s who of beloved New Orleans artists including Harry Connick Jr. and Glen David Andrews.
- Wesley Hodges
Episode 3 – FACES OF BOURBON STREET
Recently, Better Than Ezra has started somewhat of a tradition. Now two years going, Krewe of Rocckus already looks to be a mainstay on the Mardi Gras weekend music calendar. The idea behind the shows is to give vistors to the city an introduction to Mardi Gras in a fun and safe manner and a chance for New Orleanians a chance to enjoy the local favorites. What’s more is the fact that each year (thus far), going in order, on their first concert night, BTE has played one of their albums in full. Year one was Deluxe, year two was Friction Baby, and next year, if the tradition continues, will be How Does Your Garden Grow.
- Steven Hatley
Episode 4 – 7:00 AM
On Thursday of Mardi Gras, The Soul Rebels at Le Bon Temps Roule is always a great bet. Following the all-female/local favorite Muses parade, this show is perenially one of the sweatiest, rowdiest and most authentic music scenes you can find during Mardi Gras and an excellent first impression for guests arriving on Thursday night to get the ball rolling. Also, don’t sleep on the always-free shows at The Howlin’ Wolf featuring some of the best local bands. This past year’s Ivan Neville’s Dumpstaphunk show on Sunday night was somethin’ else.
Episode 5 – LOWER 9TH WARD
All Photos courtesy of Marc Pagani Photography
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