Mardi Gras Indians, street dancing, hot grilling and tight community on Super Sunday in Central City (photos)

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Thousands flocked to Central City for Super Sunday, the annual gathering of the Mardi Gras Indians sporting the new suits they debuted on Mardi Gras last month, this time on Sunday (March 19) as a part of St. Joseph’s Day at the epicenter intersection of Washington Avenue and LaSalle Street. Photographers amateur and pro jammed streets, sidewalks and stoops jockeying for position for a snap at a festival that turned into an almost informal parade up LaSalle Street.

It was a delight to watch Chief Howard Miller and Queen Rukiya Brown of the Creole Wild West make their entrance, taking time for residents and especially children to get some quality for a few photos and, in one instance, explain the tradition and culture.

There were some pretty wild sights aside from the Indians, including rows of food trucks cranking out soul food and drinks, residents forming impromptu dance parties, NOPD officers and residents  riding on horseback — and one bizarre instance, an entire group of people riding in what appeared to be a makeshift party bus in the form of an open-air U-Haul van.

PODCAST: Sean Johnson performs “I Will Rise Again” as Wild Lotus Band gears up for 6th Annual New Orleans Sacred Music Festival

Wild Lotus Band

6TH ANNUAL NEW ORLEANS SACRED MUSIC FESTIVAL
WHAT: Nearly 20 artists performing a range of spiritual music, with additional activities
WHEN: Sat. (March 11), 10 a.m.-10 p.m.
WHERE: New Orleans Healing Center, 2372 St. Claude Ave.
ADMISSION: Free
MORE INFO: Visit Facebook event page

The idea was to conduct a brief interview with Wild Lotus Yoga’s Sean Johnson about the 6th Annual New Orleans Sacred Music Festival on Saturday (March 11) at the New Orleans Healing Center. (Johnson co-founded the festival along with Sallie Ann Glassman.) And then Johnson would perform a tune from the Wild Lotus Band’s 2014 CD, “Unity.” But then full band wasn’t yet available, and so Johnson did the next best thing, and gathered a bunch of about 10 friends in a semi-circle to help lend their voices to a song that Johnson says is tailor-made for a call-and-response engagement with the audience on Saturday.

The song, “I Will Rise Again,” which Johnson wrote in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, includes an invocation of the Hindu mantra, “Om Namah Shivaya,” which, Johnson noted, speaks to the power of transformation. Recording the rehearsed version of the song was so fun, the moment so peaceful, it felt more appropriate to focus the podcast interview planned for Saturday’s episode of “PopSmart NOLA” (3 p.m.-4 p.m., WHIV 102.3 FM) on the song alone and how it spoke to some of the “volunteer” singers in the semi-circle.

Johnson also spoke to the song’s potential, as well as that of the festival itself, with some additional insight from some of the volunteer singers and festival co-coordinator Brandon Curran.

“It’s intentionally participatory,” Johnson explained. “And whenever we play, the whole room is a choir. … There’s so much freedom for folks to just really connect to their own heart and sing from that place.”

The New Orleans Sacred Music Festival spans the spectrum of the city’s spiritual communities, with nods towards Western Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Japanese drumming and much more. Check out the lineup below. There also will be rituals, art and altars, crafts, food, prayers, and workshops, according to its Facebook event page. Curran noted that the festival is in its second year without charging an admission fee, thanks to underwriting support from the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation, Call and Response Foundation and Wild Lotus Yoga.

LINEUP
*Deacon John Moore Spirituals
*Mantra Rock with Sean Johnson And The Wild Lotus Band
*Rasta Reggae by Ben Hunter
*Vodou Ceremony with La Source Ancienne
*Tibetan Buddhist Chants and Dance by Tsering Phuntsok
*Japanese Taiko Drumming by Mayumi Shara & MaDeTo with James Singleton
*Big Chief Gerald Page and the Great Spirit Warriors Black Masking Indians
*Poetry with Chuck Perkins and Claudia Copeland
*Jewish Cantorial singing by Enzo Ashar
*African drumming with the Djakpa Ewe Ensemble
*Moroccan Gnawa music
*M’uu T’uu Pueblo Indian Hoop Dancers
*Tarantella Dance with Alessandra Belloni
*Storytelling with Kalpana
*Liturgical Dance with the Chosen Vessels Dance and Performing Arts, INC
*Hip Hop with Sonny D
*Muslim Call to Prayer
*Hindu Fire Sacrifice with Yogindra Vandana Dasa
And more!

Hosts include;
*Kelly Osbourne
*Morgan Molthrop
*Rockin’ Ron Phillips

Japan Fest at NOMA creates its own drum beat (photos)

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Had a nice time with friends and kids at the very kid-friendly 22nd annual Japan Fest at the New Orleans Museum of Art on Saturday (Oct. 8). The event included activities and food both inside and outside of NOMA, including a separate area of food and craft activities inside the The Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden.

The festival included regular performances by Houston’s  Kaminari Taiko Drummers at the beginning, middle and end of the day. Elsewhere guests had access to traditional dance groups, tours of our Japanese art collection, martial arts demonstrations, a fashion show (featuring lots of anime/cosplay action), and Japanese food.

The event provided a big dress-up opportunity, and while I missed the fashion show, there were lots of folks traditional kimonos, Pokemon costumes, and other anime figures.

The festival was organized by NOMA in collaboration with the Consulate General of Japan in Nashville and the Japan Club in New Orleans, featuring 30 community groups and presenters.

Michael DeMocker of NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune has great shots of the main performances here.

Also, check out the NOMA photo gallery from the 2015 fest.

The woman behind the coolest kiss at Southern Decadence

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Photo by @carrotellis

At first it seemed like a lark of a moment, an image I saw on Instagram and happened to “repost” using an app, of two women sharing a kiss in front of a bunch of religious protestors during the festivities of the 45th annual Southern Decadence celebration in the French Quarter. (This also was the same day of the grand marshal’s walking parade.)

Little did Jordan, the woman pictured at right, know that a playful moment with her roommate would have a little viral moment, garnering more than 200 “likes” on Instagram as well as several shares (including by me). Jordan (she preferred to use only her first name) is a master’s student at a Philadelphia school, hoping to become a physician’s assistant, and currently is doing a women’s health rotation in Mississippi. So this really was a bit of a happy coincidence. Here Jordan responds to a few emailed questions about the moment.

What brought you down to Southern Decadence on Saturday?
I’m currently on my women’s health rotation in Mississippi; I’ll be here in the South for five weeks total. This was our only long weekend, so my roommate and I planned a trip to (New Orleans) without even thinking about it, and my boyfriend flew down from Baltimore and met us. So it was totally serendipitous that we happened upon this goldmine of a festival.

How did that photo come about?
After a glorious brunch and a few mimosas, we followed the trail of glitter and assless chaps making our way to the parade. Before the parade even started, we saw a crowd of people, heard some yelling, and realized what was going on. After watching the protesters for a little while we were about to leave because we didn’t want to feed into the negativity and give them what they wanted. But then we thought maybe we’d just be bold and remind them why they wasted their time on “the Lord’s day” to bully strangers. We walked right up in the cleared street, right next to the police officers trying to maintain the peace, and kissed like we hadn’t seen each other in years.

I am in the photo, kissing my roommate, a dear friend of mine. We are just two like-minded women who believe in sexual fluidity, and refuse to fight anger with more anger. We didn’t want to yell at them, we just wanted to show them that their presence was meaningless, that their attempts at intimidation were not going to work. One of the more ironic parts of the story is that the shot was taken by my loving, male partner of two and a half years.

What was the reaction of the protesters? Onlookers?
The protesters seemed confused, and just tried yelling about how disgusting we were. They repeatedly condemned us, saying that we’re “gonna burn in hell” and my friend calmly responded,“Well, at least I’ll be with her.” And aside from a few giggles, those were the only words either of us said. The onlookers cheered and drowned out the negativity, someone with a bullhorn was taunting them asking why they liked watching it if it was such a sin, and a woman came up and “beaded” us before we walked off hand in hand. Continue reading

45th annual Southern Decadence grand marshal walking parade in photos

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Had a blast attending and shooting the grand marshal walking parade for the 45th annual Southern Decadence festival that originated at the Golden Lantern and wound up at the intersection of Bourbon and St. Ann streets.

I previewed the weekend for the New Orleans Advocate, and there are still some parties left to consider as the festivities conclude Sunday night and Monday morning (as noted here).

You can find some other quick snaps from the festival I shot on my phone, over on my Instagram account.

More cool Southern Decadence events that didn’t make the Advocate story

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While the New Orleans Advocate ran my perfectly adequate round-up of familiar and offbeat events for the 45th annual Southern Decadence weekend, there’s sooo much more that could’ve gotten in there.

That said, here’s that more part, including some really offbeat stuff:

Decadence ExtravaGAYnza featuring Violet Chachki
Fri. (Sept. 2)
Masquerade, Harrah’s New Orleans Casino
No cover
That Advocate roundup includes Atlanta drag queen Violet Chachki’s appearance at Bella Blue’s New Orleans School of Burlesque, but there are key omissions, including her appearance on Saturday at Bella’s “Dirty Dime Peepshow” Saturday night (Sept. 3) as well as this fun Decadence-themed show. So the Season 7 winner of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” has a chance to own the evening on this one. More acts will perform as well.

Glitter Tits Is a Drag: Southern Decadence Addition
Sat. (Sept. 3), 10 p.m.
Sidney’s Saloon
$5 cover “(with drag/androg/glitter/costume/weird)”
$10 cover (“basic”)
You should go to this party that’s moved over from the Voodoo Lounge if for no other reason the creators make the weirdest-ass videos in the New Orleans social-media world (and that’s saying something). But yes, as one can glean from the dress-code possibilities, this party is about as genre- and gender-bending as Decadence gets (although “CREAM” is in the ballpark, too). Music will be provided by DJ Rusty Lazer and DJ Nice Rack. (Pro tip: Bring and/or wear glitter, because you are probably going to be wearing it by the end of the evening anyway, one way or another.)

Horse Meat Disco
Sat. (Sept. 3), 10 p.m.
Ace Hotel
$20
The folks at Club A present the New Orleans debut of popular British disco party DJs with a mix of “underground disco, Italo and rarities that have been rocking crowds from their base in Vauxhall, London, to dance floors worldwide since 2009.”

Am I missing something? (Or at least something that’s at a club not already listed in the Advocate story — for fairness?) Holler at me at dlsnola@gmail.com and I’ll add to the roundup.

BONUS CONTENT FOR BONUS CONTENT — Check out the trailer for the pilot of “Atlanta’s a Drag,” starring Violet Chachki.

LUNA Fete: What to expect the second time around (Nov. 29-Dec. 5)

As I noted in my New Orleans Advocate piece that appears in Sunday’s edition, LUNE Fete has ambitions that go beyond giving people a visual thrill when it sets up around the city Nov. 29-Dec. 5. In this, the event’s second go-round, organizers from the Arts Council of New Orleans hope to repeat some of that downtown dazzle but also hopes to expand beyond Lafayette Square.

Jen Lewin’s “The Pool” will move the eye candy from the facade of Gallier Hall to the grounds of Lafayette Square, where visitors can get all interactive with the series of glowing, colorful circles sensitive to the touch.

And then there’s Los Angeles-based artist Miwa Matreyek‘s presentation of two of her projected animation performances, “Myth and Infrastructure” and “This World Made Itself,” at the CAC. (Check out her TED Talk here.) As she told me in the Advocate piece:

Magic and transformation are what I’d like audiences to experience. Because what I do falls between two distinct mediums, I often perform at film and theater festivals, and at science museums and planetariums. So to perform for a wider audience that’s not specific to a film festival or dance event or a science event will be pretty exciting for me. It’s not that different from a magic-lantern or shadow-puppet show.”

But then there’s the really ambitious effort over at the recently opened Ashé Power House Theater, whose facade will place hose to another projection that’s a project completely by international Portuguese arts collective OCUBO and New Orleans’ own Terrance Osborne along with private school St. Martin’s and Ashé’s Kuumba Institute.

Outgoing ACNO head Kim Cook sees projection mapping as a way to also connect the dots when it comes to lighting and public safety and hopes LUNA Fete can start a dialogue about making the city a safer place to navigate on foot at night.

I’m not sure how that all will play out, but I do know that last year’s LUNA Fete did a masterful job of tapping into a familiar vibe by bringing crowds to an area (Lafayette Square) revered as a favored Mardi Gras parade viewing spot, at a time in between Thanksgiving and Christmas when the shopping season is just kicking into high gear. Cook also hopes this event will not only bringing together older New Orleanians with one of its hippest recent migrants (the tech sector) while building this into something huge by the time the New Orleans centennial rolls around in 2018. Again, not sure how that will happen, but it sure is fun to watch New Orleanians come together to be dazzled.

Let’s just hope no one brings their own brand of fireworks to the show. We’ve had enough of that already.