Sunday, June 20, 2010

No Street Music in New Orleans? That CAN'T Be True.

Believe it. It could be true very shortly if the current ordinance isn't changed and fast.

Brass bands, and other street musicians have been informed in the last two weeks that they must stop playing by 8PM. To Be Continued Brass Band, at Bourbon and Canal, Young Fellaz, at Frenchmen and Chartres, and Little People, at Royal and Toulouse, were all visited by police this week. It's not just brass bands being targeted, it's all those wonderful musicians whose notes carry over our heads as we walk down Royal Street or Decatur Street at night. It's even the ones who aren't so great but they try.

We're also wondering how this ordinance is going to affect impromptu second lines that routinely wander with costumed revellers through the Marigny, or even the bike in movies at Architect Alley. The other night I cruised Royal, Chartres and Decatur on my bike to see who was still out. I found some very cute young tourists, slightly drunk but having a wonderful time, on Chartres about a block upriver from the Ursulines Convent. There were six or eight of them, singing at the top of their lungs (and there are great acoustics on that block!). Unfortunately they were singing Journey's "Don't Stop Believing." I am in hopes that this is not the only evening street music we'll be hearing down the road as that song has popped up unwanted in my internal jukebox at inopportune times. (Wait, for that song I'm not sure there IS an opportune time.)

I find it incredibly ironic that yesterday on CNN, I found this article about HBO's Treme and the producers' use of great New Orleans music in the show, including the fact that they record much of the music live, as it's played in the streets. The very thing this show depicts so well may not exist for visitors who, after watching the show, decide to come down and see for themselves.

The press has been covering the issue, thankfully, here, (the first article on was the top most commented on article for a couple of days), here, (the Gambit has several pieces on Blog of New Orleans this week), and here. Glen David Andrews led a second line around Jackson Square and promises to fight the ordinance. A Facebook page, begun Tuesday night in the wee hours of the morning out of outrage, called Don't Stop the Music. Let New Orleans Street Musicians Play, has reached 9000+ supporters in under five days. The people behind this page are hoping to get the ordinance changed, an ordinance by the way, that was created in 1956 and allows power tools and lawnmowers to run until 10PM while shutting down musicians at 8PM. (Powertools also have an earlier starting time allowance, go figure.)

As we watch the issues that were so much a part of our lives post-Federal Flood so well depicted in Treme, and now we deal with an oil spill of, as Creighton Burnette would say, "of epic proportions" that threatens an entire way of life and has tourists afraid to eat our seafood, we take a little solace in the fact that we can still walk out the front door and find music instead of an Appleby's next to a Long John Silver's.

So while we are watching HBO's Treme's final episode tonight, pay attention to all those scenes of musicians playing the music that sustains us. If this ordinance stands, it may be the only place to see it: on television.


kk said...

what is new orleans without street performers?

angie dean said...

Last year, (Halloween 2009) my husband & i took a vacation to NOLA.
We saw To Be Continued on Canal & was one of the high points of our vacation!! Awesome group of musicians, and we went back for Jazzfest 2010,saw them again on thursday nite & got one of their CD's.
If ordinances stop the street musicians, a part of her soul will be taken away & won't be the same.


9th Ward Studios said...

Is this ordinance still in effect, or has it been repealed. This seems "not in the spirit of New Orleans" to me.