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

June 20, 2010

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 nola.com 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.

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11 Comments
  1. June 20, 2010 10:16 am

    u prob. right about the music but we’ve been through alot and this is just another cog we’ll get over…..

  2. June 20, 2010 11:06 am

    Thanks for linking to the articles I wrote on this issue at blogofneworleans.com for Gambit. There’s also a piece co-written by Will Covielo and I in today’s paper rounding up the story so far. And that power tools angle is interesting. Perhaps the brass band will end up swapping their trombones and tubas out for electric drills at 8pm!

  3. June 20, 2010 12:38 pm

    Welcome to Back Of Town, Matt! Didn’t know you now live in New Orleans. Well, welcome there, too!

  4. samjasper permalink
    June 20, 2010 12:43 pm

    Actually, Matt, some of out there considered having everyone bring their lawnmowers and leaf blowers (which I believe are specifically mentioned in the ordinance) and having us all crank them up for two hours.

    I have the wording of that ordinance around here somewhere. I’ll see if I can track it down for you.

  5. samjasper permalink
    June 20, 2010 12:48 pm

    Matt, it’s these two ordinances that were cited. I’ll try to find the wording. But here’s the numbers: “Sec. 30-1456. Use of Bourbon Street restricted” and “Sec. 66-205. Persons playing musical instruments in public rights of way.”

  6. June 20, 2010 3:36 pm

    … and now, on the day of the Treme finale, it’s announced that the Mother-in-Law is closing for good in a couple of weeks.

    Running out of tears for this poor place, Louisiana and New Orleans.

  7. samjasper permalink
    June 20, 2010 4:25 pm

    Oh that’s just terrible news. No wonder when I just called them they sounded so down. I am planning on watching the Treme finale there tonight. I thought it only right to watch the finale with the Emperor of the Universe.

  8. June 20, 2010 7:01 pm

    Tremendous kudos to local NOLA bloggers and friends of music Lisa Palumbo and Sam Jasper for all their efforts to keep the beat on the street. Your tireless efforts are not unnoticed.

  9. liprap permalink
    June 20, 2010 11:03 pm

    Those ordinances are in another Blog of N.O. post I linked to at Humid City. And if nobody comes out with their leaf blowers and their John Deeres after eight, I’m really gonna be disappointed.

  10. dukachop permalink
    June 21, 2010 6:43 pm

    This quote is from The Wall Street Journal, June 19, page W3
    Quarter-page color ad:

    “Right now in New Orleans, there’s a brass band playing on Bourbon and a jazz combo playing on the corner. Right now. New Orleans is, well, New Orleans. Visit neworleansinfo.com for Spicy Summer Deals. Hotel rates from $79*”

    “on Bourbon”
    “on the corner”

    The web address listed is the New Orleans Convention & Visitors Bureau site.

    Perhaps the Mayor should get with the NOPD and explain the economic engine driving the local economy. The Quarter is often referred to as an “Adult Disneyland”. At least Disneyland pays their musicians. The city and the NOCVB should be subsidizing these young musicians, not harassing them.

    To quote Big Chief Tootie Montana before he collapsed in Council chambers five years ago: “This has got to stop!”

  11. June 22, 2010 3:16 am

    Thanks, Mark.

    Dukachop, that is truly priceless! Is there any way you can snap a picture of that or scan it or get it to us somehow? If you are on Facebook, you can join the page “Don’t Stop the Music. Let New Orleans Street Musicians Play.” Images can be posted there and my contact info is available as well. I’m working on a regular web page, too, but it’s just me and my messed up Mac (my fault, not the Mac’s) right now, so it’s taking me a while to get it done. In any case, it would be great to have a picture of that ad.

    Since Treme’s first season is over, maybe readers of this blog would be interested in keeping up with what’s happening on the front line of this battle. I know Sam can take care of that. (What would I/we do without Sam?) There have been so many articles and news pieces published already and we plan to keep this on the front burner at full boil.

    Thanks to all of you who have supported the effort to keep the music on our streets.

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