Sunday night prior to the Convention kickoff, the group "Friends of New Orleans" hosted the "New Orleans All-Star Jam-Balaya" at the Fillmore Auditorium with music — and food — that positively rocked. The former featured Allen Toussaint, Oscar perennial Randy Newman, guitarist Walter "Wolfman" Washington, trumpeter Terence Blanchard, String Cheese Incident keyboardist Kyle Hollingsworth, guitarist Leo Nocentelli, drummer Zigaboo Modeliste, trumpeter James Andrews, trombonists Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews and "Big" Sam Williams and saxophonist Donald Harrison Jr.; the latter featured shrimp po' boys, red beans and rice, crawfish monica, crab cakes, lots of veggies for the water-starved (altitude!), and lots of desserts for the sugar-starved (cookies! brownies! Oh dear Lord, BANANAS FOSTER!). Plus it was done up Nawlins' style, with beads and boas and Mardi Gras eyemasks. It was a feast for the senses.
It was also quite a counterpoint to the reason New Orleans needs friends in the first place: Hurricane Katrina. In less than a week it will be three years since it made landfall, wreaking devastation on that city and the Gulf Coast. What followed — as if you need reminding — was a completely separate tragedy of man-made origins (including, as FONO host Harry Shearer
has often pointed out, the levee construction itself and the failure of the authorities to heed the warnings of experts, like the NOLA Times-Picayune, that the next "big one" would be a disaster).
Three years later — and the first Convention later — Katrina can sometimes feel like a footnote....which is why New Orleans really needs friends right now. So far it's not really been a huge issue at this convention (or really in this election, though it has certainly come up); witness Jason Linkins' report from yesterday's Big Tent panel on the subject called "Left Behind." Even with high-profile political champions like Shearer and James Carville, both deeply connected to the region, and scores of media in attendance, it remains to be seen if at this DNC — and in the next administration — New Orleans has the friends that it needs.
In the meantime, a far more extensive (and musically-appreciative) report of the event is here; photos are below, plus a video of Randy Newman and Terence Blanchard playing Fats Domino's "Blue Monday"; alas, my battery ran out before I could capture the next song, which was the still-tearjerking "Louisiana 1927."
p.s. There will also be an event next week at the RNC. That one should maybe be a tad more fraught, considering which party was in power during Katrina and how colossally badly they completely fumbled the job.
View from the VIP floor, whoo! Apparently Louisiana Gov. Mitch Landrieu and Veep contender Kathleen Sebelius were up there, and also on the floor cutting a run. Wow, if only she'd done that during the response to the State of the Union.
New York's intrepid Intelligencer reporter Jada Yuan questions Harry Shearer about stuff that will probably appear excerpted and in bolded quotes above a smiling picture of him, possibly having nothing to do with the event. Maybe about "Gossip Girl."