Charlie and Ringo.

A moment of silence, please.

Rest in Peace, Charlie Watts.


The waiting…

Everyone knows that it’s the high school bands that I like best when they roll during a Mardi Gras parade. The floats are fine. The Rolling Elvi are fun. The motorcycle riders are fun.

But, the marching bands. That’s the thing for me. They combine three wonderful elements. Music. Energy, And, color.

If there was going to be a Mardi Gras parade season this year my plan was to focus on just high school marching bands. I was actually going to reach out to some of the schools so that I could have a little more leeway on the streets.

As always, my trade would be my pictures. Since mostly high school students and parents are their photographers I’m guessing mine would be a few notches above the usual work. Who knows? One of the parents could be a retired National Geographic photographer.

That said, it’s a good thing most of the public versions of Mardi Gras have been shut down. A scientific analysis was released today. It looks like one carrier infected 50,000 people during Mardi Gras 2020. Not directly, but one person infected another and so on.

We were blamed for the surge last March even though we didn’t even know there was a virus. While it seems extreme, I’m glad the mayor is taking such a hard line this year.

Yesterday, she had a group of Big Chiefs on the podium with her. Each one of them implored the Indian community not to come out so that they would be alive to roll next year.

It’s serious.

So.

Tourists stay home. There won’t be much for you to do anyway. You won’t be allowed on the famous Bourbon Street unless you live there. If you gather illegally you could be fined or you could serve jail time. You don’t want that. We don’t want that.

There is the Jefferson Parish issue. I’ll discuss that tomorrow.

Semi-monochrome. That’s what I’ll call this picture. As I said a few days ago, I let the picture guide me in post production. All I want to do is print them down a bit.

As I wrote on the left side, I like high school marching bands.

I work hard to photograph them. One year, two high schools were rehearsing ten feet from each other. A battle of the bands broke out. The drum majors were prancing in each other’s faces. They gave no ground. They held no quarter.

But, just like a good sporting match, when they were done they broke apart and shook hands.

I’ll look in my daybooks and find the year. If I can, I’ll publish some of the files from that night. I won’t tone them down. I’ll light up the page with them.

Stay safe. Stay strong. Stay mighty. Wear your mask. Wash your hands. Keep your distance. Look after each other. Listen to all the high school marching band music.


On the way.

Yes. A New Orleans thing.

Where else do you see a musician walking on city streets carrying his instrument? A drum and a cymbal. This is about as New Orleans as it comes. It happens all over the city. This picture could only get better if he was carrying a horn. A trumpet or a trombone.

This picture was made on both of our ways to someplace else during the Super Sunday events.

There is one more New Orleans thing to this picture. I would never make fun of anybody. But, it speaks to the city as being one of the most unhealthy cities in the country. We drink too much. (I don’t drink.) We eat too much. We eat too much of the wrong things.

For instance, for Catholics, it is the Lenten Season. A lot of fish is eaten everywhere in the city. It’s not broiled, or poached or boiled. (For crawfish.)

Oh no.

It is deep-fried. Along with everything else on the plate. A typical meal might include deep-fried shrimp, deep-fried catfish, french fries and hush puppies. You could eat that every day of Lent. Forty days, forty pounds.

I’m not a deep-fried eater. Nobody in this house is. The most we usually eat is fried chicken. We may eat that every six months or so. Sure it is good, but we’d like to live a little healthier lives.

The picture. When I say on our ways to some place else, I mean on Super Sunday. Often locals take side streets when we can, rather than fight the crowds. I saw him coming. I stopped and started following him with my camera. You can see the progression in my RAW files. As he got closer I smiled and said, “Carrying musical instruments in the street is sort of a New Orleans thing.” He laughed. We talked for a minute and that was that. F 5.6 and be there.


Workingman’s cross.

For Christians today is Easter Sunday. For Jewish people it is the second day of Passover. For those who believe in other ways, they may stop to honor Jesus’ rebirth, but for them it is mostly about spring. More rebirth.

I’m spiritual, but not particularly religious. Yes, it’s true. I am a baptized Catholic and I attended Catholic grade and high schools, but that’s where it stops. Something must have happened a long time ago to make me stop and wonder.

For those of you who have been reading Storyteller for any length of time you know that I believe that, “The work is the prayer.” That came from two sources. A Buddhist monk who I happened to be talking to on a trip to Thailand said that to me. And, while reading that the Benedictine monks were the first digital scribes so many years ago when we were still using floppy discs and didn’t have scanners,  I came upon this. A monk was asked how he could reconcile his spiritual beliefs with secular work and he replied, “The work is the prayer.”  I thought, at the time, “If it’s good enough for two religions, it’s good enough for me.”

Anyway.

For many holidays, I struggle to find a picture. No, that’s not entirely correct. I struggle to find a different picture. The usual picture for Easter is a cross at dawn. I’ve done it. You’ve done it. The guy over standing over there did it.  This year it fell into my lap. It is a living example of  the saying that guides my photographic endeavours, “Don’t take the picture, let the picture take you.”

A cross.

One that is worn on the sweat stained shirt of a brass band member. A drummer to be exact. When I was photographing the Original OTC Steppers last Sunday, I saw this guy wearing the cross. I followed him to a bit of commotion on the parade’s break. Turns out another guy had a little too much to drink and fell on the ground. The drummer wearing the cross picked him up, talked to him for a minute and asked for medical assistance. An NOPD officer came over, looked at the situation and called for the EMTs. Our street cops are great. He could have made a big deal out of it. He didn’t.

I thought about it for a minute and made pictures of the drummer’s cross. The one that you are looking at. Seemed like the right thing to do. There’s an old Leon Russell song that talks about what I saw. He sang that when you saw some straggly, beat up old dude wandering down the street, you’d better treat him well because, “He might be the Prince of Peace returning.” I can hear Leon’s gruff old voice singing it now. In my head.

It’s not all as heavy as that. One of my neighbors posted something on Facebook about Easter that said something like, “It’s not only about the eggs, it’s also about the season of the lamb.” I immediately thought, “Mmmmm, seasoned lamb on the grill.” She’ll kill me for that one. Oh well. That’s how my mind works.

The picture. I already told you about it. But, it did do one thing for me. It helped me to let myself off the hook. I’ve been thinking about the cemetery picture at sunset. The one I made on St. Joseph’s Night. I was thinking I should have saved it for today. But, luck or fate was with me. Again.

One more thing.

Happy Easter. Happy Passover. Happy Spring.


Bling on the scene.
Bling on the scene.

Second lines and drums.

The tuba may start it, but the drums fill it. And, help to set the pace. Speaking of pace, I’m a little late today. I got really jammed up. Between some major dental work, finishing the technical issues of this computer that concluded with a power loss in the city so I had to redo everything, and taking pictures, time slipped away.

But.

I got it done. All of it.

Of course that means, you’ll see two posts within about 18 hours of each other. Hopefully, you’ll like that.

This is another view from the Undefeated Divas second line. Check out all the sticks. This guy is prepared. Break one or drop one and he can just keep going. Sort of like me. I hope to never drop one, but cameras do break. I usually work with two. Same bodies. But, very different lenses. One is wide. The other is longer, for tighter work. If something should happen to one camera, I still can work with the other. That’s very old school thinking. Only a few people work with more than one camera these days.

The picture. Wide lens. Probably f 5.6 at about 500th of a second. It’s the backlighting that caught my eye. It created a very nice rim light around just about all of the subject. If I had used a longer lens, the picture would have been a little more graphic.

 

 


Drummer waiting.
Drummer waiting.

On the edges.

Y’all know that I like to nibble around the edges of an event. Especially second line parades. I think that’s where some of the best pictures are found. The moments are different. They aren’t necessarily the “decisive moments.” They are just little slices.

Of life.

For this particular second line — Lady Jetsetters — working this way was a good idea. The parade, the first line itself, was made up of five people plus the brass band. A little, tiny parade. But, the band was the Stooges. That’s enough right there. Yes, eventually other people joined them at stops along the way. But, I dropped out by then. Remember, I was fighting something like a cold.

Anyway.

You know how I took these pictures. I like to work close. Engage my subjects. Oh, and one more thing. Pay attention to the tuba picture. Find the photographer. Twice. This picture is my idea of a selfie.


Walking the Quarter
Walking the Quarter

“Dis ain’t dat.”

This is not a neighborhood second line. This is a French Quarter second line.

The difference?

Oh, there’s a lot of differences. If you’ve followed Storyteller for any length of time, you see two differences right off. No matter. Often brass bands are cobbled together from whatever musicians are available. This one is led by The Storyville Stompers.

Nooooo… they aren’t related to Storyteller. The wonderful blog site. Heh!

They honor an old neighborhood located in Treme. It was a legal “sporting” district. Eventually, like in 1917, the US Navy had it closed down after twenty years of operation. It was a public health hazard, the navy said. Or, something like that. The army agreed.  That may have been one of the few times that the army and navy agreed on anything.

But.

It gave birth to jazz. Louis Armstrong cut his chops there. Buddy Bolden, Jelly Roll Morton and King Oliver too. Those were just a few. Photographer E. J. Bellocq lived and worked there. Maybe you saw his story in the movie, “Pretty Baby.”

Well, I got side tracked. That’s not so unusual.

Anyway.

I have a couple of friends who work in the Quarter. They tell me that there are somewhere around  20 or 25 second lines per day there. Most of them are part of wedding packages. Others are part of corporate packages. You know, come to New Orleans for a convention and see the “real” New Orleans at night. Like that.

They are short parades, led by the musicians. The musicians are usually followed by the wedding party or folks following along from some corporate function. It rolls through a few streets, usually in a very short walk. That’s it. It’s really different from a neighborhood second line, which is led by the social club or krewe hosting it, the other clubs who are paying their respects, the marching band and finally everybody else — spectators who participate — that form what is really the “second line.” These parades ramble though a neighborhood on a predetermined route, but they can last for miles with people dropping in and out along the way.

Big difference.

From my viewpoint, there are other differences. A neighborhood parade is planned for almost a year. I know a week or two in advance. Everybody does. A French Quarter parade, may be planned in accordance with the customer’s wishes, but I never know about them. If I photograph one it is because I was strolling around and happened to stumble upon it. Like the one in the picture.

One more thing. Even though my friends think these French Quarter parades are kind of overdone and not really authentic, I respectfully disagree. First, the French Quarter is a neighborhood. Different from most neighborhoods in America. But, still it’s a neighborhood. Second, with so many musicians struggling to earn a living at least the guys playing for the twenty or so parades per day are making some money. Music is art. All art is important. But, so is putting food on the table.


A light tight.
A light tight.

A little more from last Sunday’s second lines. A little more music. A little more brass. Toot, toot, toot. Honk, honk, honk. And, some rat-tat-tat on the snare drums.

I’d like to tell you that next up will be some more pictures from the parades. But, I’ve got all kinds of pictures to show you. From all sorts of places. Besides, the second line for this coming Sunday has been cancelled. And for now, the schedule shows just two more parades until the close of the second line season when the weather turns way too hot and way too wet. I’ve got to schedule these things a little so you can see more from the streets. Of course, on Saturday, there is the jazz funeral for Trumpet Black. But, I have to think about that. Of course I want to pay my respects. Of course the work is the prayer. But, it’s been a couple of weird weeks and I’m not so sure that I’m really up for it. Of course, at the last-minute I’ll start walking on the ceiling and just go…

Lots of brass.
Lots of brass.

Drummer in a crowd.
Drummer in a crowd.


Behind the Curtain.
Behind the Curtain.

I hope this works. I hope that you get it. I hope that you can even see it.

After all, a drummer photographed behind a screen while he’s hitting the cymbal may not be the most understandable picture in the world. But, just as Storyteller is, it’s an experiment. I like the colors. I like the intent. I’m just not sure…

So, you tell me.

I took the picture at the Central City Festival that I mentioned for the past couple of days. Usually, when I photograph events like this one I do my best not to just document stuff. I try to spin the picture a little. I try to show you something a little different. That’s what I did with this one…