Yesterday was the Babylon parade, and it was such a huge, crowded frat party that no one saw the actual parade unless they were there holding a spot at six in the morning (kind of like busking on Royal Street these days). So today, which here in NOLA is Lundi Gras, I'm going to write about the marching bands of the New Orleans Mardi Gras parades.
In smaller parades, the brass bands are "second line" bands, pro and semi-pro brass players who play for parties, parades and funerals in the city. They have a repertoire of Mardi Gras songs like Mardi Gras Mumbo, Mardi Gras March, and of course, When The Saints Go Marching In. But in our larger parades, the music is provided by New Orleans high school marching bands.
Now in most places, the words 'band geek' evoke snickers, pity, and jokes from a series of comedy movies. Visions of fat kids in glasses who wish they played football but instead play the tuba fill one's mind. Well here in New Orleans, it just ain't like that. As this superb Washington Post article on Mardi Gras myths and truths points out (PLEASE read it!!): "... the real stars of the parades are the marching bands. In New Orleans high schools, playing in band makes you one of the coolest kids in class. Seeing our school marching bands perform during Mardi Gras — something they train for all year — is a thrill."
During the parades, there is a bit of an informal competition among marching bands and their adjunct dancers, majors and majorettes, flag twirlers, baton twirlers, etc. to outshine each other. This is New Orleans, so these kids are some of the best budding musicians on Earth! If you ain't from here, you cannot imagine the elation one feels upon hearing these bands. And the dancers, majorettes and baton twirlers put on a huge show. In a city where gangs and crime are still fairly present to all of us, we take enormous pride in seeing these kids proudly displaying their talent, grace, beauty and hard work for huge parade crowds.
Here are some photos taken over the last few parade days:
From Mardi Gras in New Orleans, this is Kenny Klein explaining it all!!! Happy Lundi Gras. See you tomorrow!