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MAX Band

June 10, 2010

MAX Band

The chatter this week in the BoTerati back channels has been about how larger themes are more important than minutiae, so getting nit-picky at this particular moment is kinda sorta ironic lame of me, but I can’t help it.

In last week’s episode, we saw the St. Augustine Marching 100 parading with Zulu. Makes sense, since St. Aug is a traditional highlight of many Mardi Gras parades; they’ve marched in Zulu every year for decades.

Every year except one.

In 2006, with not enough kids back, three traditionally-black Catholic high schools — St. Mary’s, St. Augustine, and Xavier Prep — merged together to form the MAX School in order to give their kids a school to come back to, in the hopes that the three schools would be able to re-open the following year. And that Mardi Gras, less than eight weeks after the school opened, they fielded the MAX Band. Uniforms and instruments had been lost in the flood so they marched with donated horns and matching t-shirts and rain gear.

This doesn’t take away from the show one whit; it’s just a glitch. I only mention it because it’s an important detail that shouldn’t be lost in the historic record. The MAX Band was loved by all; they were a symbol of defiance, making a strong statement that the music and the culture would come back by any means necessary.

  1. Anita permalink
    June 10, 2010 10:33 am

    Perfect pitch, here. I don’t care a whit about the truthiness of details in the show in this instance; what is important is to remember that they did that and how much we loved them for it.

  2. Eric Overmyer permalink
    June 10, 2010 11:13 am

    dear ray — I knew someone would bite us on the ass on that one. We shot that scene at the real Zulu 2010 and we were stuck with the shot because it was the only decent shot of Ladonna and her family — but I knew St Aug didn’t march that year. We recreated some things for Mardi Gras Day 2006, but other things we had to steal from 2010 and cut around as many anachronisms as we could. And we just couldn’t recreate any of the parades, given our production constraints. But we had to have a little Zulu, so…
    anyway, thanks for understanding…

  3. June 10, 2010 11:20 am

    America needs it some Zulu.

  4. Eric Overmyer permalink
    June 10, 2010 11:20 am

    and by the way, great observation and great picture. I wish we could have done the MAX marching band

  5. June 10, 2010 11:49 am

    Thanks, Eric. I figured it was a case of having to choose between real-Zulu-with-wrong-band or fake-Zulu-with-right-band. And it was by no means a clunker; I watched the episode twice and noticed St. Aug both times, but the fact that they didn’t march that year didn’t occur to me til this morning when I ran across an old blog post that reminded me about the MAX Band.

    The picture is indeed great; I swiped it from Maitri’s Flickr stream. I can only imagine the kid looking at the camera is thinking “who is that crazy person and why is she crying?”

  6. June 10, 2010 12:24 pm

    Thought that picture looked familiar. Until you said something, I thought you and I were standing next to one another watching that parade and didn’t know it.

    Yeah, even in Holy 2006, the band kids were ever kids and rolled their eyes at the lady who fawned over them as she took their pictures.

  7. June 10, 2010 3:07 pm

    I knew there must have been reasons that you didn’t shoot any more main parades on Mardi Gras Day. I loved the Mardi Gras episode. The characters seem to have really developed. I’m from New Orleans, but live in LA now.

    I love the city and really miss it. I hope to bring my Mom back home for a visit in the next few months.

    Thanks so much for your attention to detail and love for the city in TREME.

  8. Scott Harney permalink
    June 10, 2010 3:31 pm

    My wife and I both commented on the lack of the MAX band. That seemed to bring up more emotions for people watching the parades when they came through. Y’all covered it pretty well with the intro soon to the episode with the returnee from Lakeview.

  9. bayoucreole permalink
    June 10, 2010 5:48 pm

    Ok folks, that band wasn’t St. Aug’s band…it’s Sophie B. Wright school on Napoleon Ave.
    If you look at it again, you will see that, that band has BLACK helmets, Aug has gold helmets with a purple plume sticking out. Also, the colors of the uniform is blue and gold, St. Aug is purple and gold.
    Don’t know why they didn’t put the MAX band in the clip they should have.
    From a woman whose husband, brother and son are purple knights and marched in the band…I can spot a Marching 100 at 100 paces 🙂

  10. June 10, 2010 6:13 pm

    For anyone who can pause it while watching…if you go to 23:33 and pause, you can see S.B.Wright written on the arm of the uniform at the top.

  11. June 10, 2010 6:41 pm

    Thanks for that, bayoucreole. I thought those unis looked like S.B. Wright’s. They played at Touro Synagogue’s JazzFest Shabbat this year and nearly blew the roof off the sanctuary. The helmets might have thrown some people off.

    And it would have been good to get the MAX together for old times’ sake.

  12. virgotex permalink*
    June 10, 2010 9:13 pm

    From a woman whose husband, brother and son are purple knights and marched in the band…I can spot a Marching 100 at 100 paces

    Maitri? Raynola? What say ye to this nice lady?

  13. June 10, 2010 9:31 pm

    Guess they didn’t “reband” MAX for this clip because, as Eric said earlier, they filmed at real Zulu 2010 and wanted it to be as authentic (and I figure least disruptive) as possible. Real parade or remake of 2006? It’s a tossup for sure.

    Other than that, I’d have to watch the ep again to look at the uniforms but will take your word on Sophie B Wright because I am not a crazy band nerd like some of y’all.

  14. doctorj2u permalink
    June 10, 2010 10:07 pm

    Thank you Ray. I was thinking when I saw the St.Aug clip. “Wasn’t that when the only band around was Max?” I remember it because it was so odd and hurtful that there were no school bands in New Orleans anymore. The bands, with their heavy brass sounds and throbbing beat, have always been my favorite part of Carnival. I was beginning to doubt my memory. ” Maybe by then they had other bands?” Thanks for confirming to me senility has not quite made its way to my mind yet. LOL!

  15. June 10, 2010 10:33 pm

    Damn. You’re right, blue jackets and black helmets. I need to adjust the hue on my old-as-hell TV, I guess.

    Thanks, bayoucreole, that was indeed Sophie B. Wright.

    So did they march in 2006? I know the school was open and I know the band was back by that summer because I saw them at the Tips Foundation thing in August.

    If they marched in 2006, then you can bite back, Eric, and I’ll go crawl away some where.

  16. June 11, 2010 12:40 am

    During the first weekend of parades in 2006, two of the NOPD working our corner had some connection or rooting interest in Xavier Prep and St. Mary’s. Every time the MAX band passed gave them a new opportunity to talk shit to one another about which school was carrying the other. One of them would continually say “Sounds like a Xaaaavier Prep band to me”.

    I don’t have anything that competes with Maitri’s picture but here some shots I got that weekend anyway.

    MAX Band

    And here is some poorly handled and grainy video that still manages to sound pretty good.

  17. bayoucreole permalink
    June 11, 2010 4:31 am

    @ Maitri, guilty as charged. I’m a bandhead. I think NOLA is the only place where being in the high school band is the “cool thing” to do. It goes down hard and heavy in front of Tips every year.
    @Virgotex, What say ye to this nice lady? That’s sexy. Imma have to get my hubby to start talking to me like that 😉
    I love you guys over here.

    @Ray, Aug marched with the MAX Band Carnival 2006. The school reopened August 2006. Carnival 2007 was the first time they marched as the Marching 100 again.

    Just a tidbit for you all…Aug alternates between Zulu and Rex every year. Last Carnival they were in Zulu so,this one coming up they’ll be in Rex. They’ve been in Rex since the 60’s and then Zulu wanted them so, to accommodate both Krewes, they switch up every year.

  18. June 11, 2010 7:38 am

    bayoucreole, welcome aboard!

    I’ve a drummer husband who played snare drums in high school and a ton of musician friends who grew up in band (think it’s cool elsewhere in the nation, too). So, there’s all kinds of mad love and respect for NOLA and outside-NOLA high school and college marching bands here, but man, I don’t know how someone can carry an instrument and march for miles while playing it. That takes a certain je ne sais quoi, which I lack.

  19. liprap permalink
    June 11, 2010 7:43 am

    I’m on the verge of bandheadedness, myself, having married a former bandmember of his high school band back in San Jose. It’s so easy to do in this town. Besides, I think Southern University’s version of “Do Whatcha Wanna” nearly upstaged Drew Brees in Bacchus for me this year.

  20. June 11, 2010 9:10 am

    I used to think I was a serious bandhead too, which is why making a mistake like this is kinda embarrassing. I marched with Edna Karr when they were still a Jr. High, and although I ended up going to Franklin (which had only concert band), I almost considered staying in Algiers and going to O. Perry Walker just because of the band. Thanks again, bayoucreole. And awesome video Jeffrey, I love the lady in the crowd next to you yelling, “Thank you! That’s right, represent!”

  21. June 11, 2010 9:28 am

    The other thing it would have been interesting to see would have been the Zulu from Africa who rode in full tribal warrior costume, but you can’t have everything. That was a big moment for me in that parade.

    Another very emotional moment for me was in 2007 the Chalmette Owls marched.

    My daughter complained that “it didn’t look like Mardi Gras” but for her Mardi Gras is teenagers hanging in their usual spots at the Uptown parades, not downtown. I wonder how trained people are by film and TV to expect to see your stock parade. I hope that folks like that came away thinking, “oh, here’s another whole side of Mardi Gras.”

  22. June 11, 2010 11:18 am

    This clip is great! I know so many of these kids personally that, it just takes my breath away when I see this.

  23. virgotex permalink*
    June 11, 2010 12:23 pm

    Down in texas we call ’em band queers, and was I ever the ultimate marching band queer. Literally.

    Taught me most of what I know about the important things of life.

  24. samjasper permalink
    June 11, 2010 4:35 pm

    Maitri, somewhere I have pics of those kids too. And yes, I was crying when I took them. I was hoarse for days from screaming to encourage them. It meant so much to see them. It also meant a lot that those bands, normally all wanting to be the best band in town, worked together. Those kids were a symbol of our hope that year, hope that we could all cooperate as well as they had and we wanted to let them know we appreciated it. There were comparatively so few people along the route that year. We got whole bags of Krewe d’Etat blinky skulls, my daughter got tons of coconuts (and did NOT share!). I think we filled seven giant bead bags that year just because the krewes who were out were tossing everything out to those who were at the parades.

    If I’m not getting my years mixed up, that was the year Zulu had some amazing guys from Africa along with them. I have pics of them somewhere too. I remember watching their faces. They had clearly never seen anything like our Mardi Gras. Folks were leaning over barricades hollering thank you to them at the top of their lungs. Of course we spent a lot of that time saying thank you to every tourist we encountered. I still do. Habit after five years. Thanks for visiting New Orleans. Thanks for coming down. We appreciate it.

    This episode hit home on so many levels. I’m on my third watching and still seeing stuff I missed the first two times around.

  25. samjasper permalink
    June 11, 2010 4:42 pm

    Wow. Yes. Look how sparse that crowd was. Along with thanking the kids as they go by, having had a daughter in drill team for many years, I always thank the parents who are going along with those kids every year. It’s tough. I look at them in this clip and am just amazed. How many of those parents were walking along with those kids, thinking about their homes, their futures, their insurance companies. Makes that clip all the more amazing.

  26. June 11, 2010 4:50 pm

    A couple of African Zulus in Zulu pics here:

    African Zulus march in the Zulu parade

    And I know what you mean about seeing the kids and the band parents and being amazed. Same with Chalmette High; when they marched by the crowd clapped like it was a bunch of WWII Vets. If seeing a marching band made up entirely of homeless kids doesn’t pull at your heart, you haven’t got one.

  27. Anita permalink
    June 11, 2010 5:58 pm

    I’ve tried to read what people from other places are writing about this episode and most of them were pleased with what they saw, although most didn’t know what to call it. I think it did work to convey how we do Mardi Gras, especially how much it is a family thing.

    I loved the way that seeing the characters do their rounds on Mardi Gras moved their individual stories forward. We see Davis, careless iconoclast and scalawag that he presents himself as, acting as the fair haired boy at his family’s traditional Mardi Gras party and then behaving as a perfect gentlemen while squiring Annie around the rest of the day. He was not lying when, in conversation with his mother, he alluded to spending his whole life working to construct a persona that, in effect, denied his multitudinous privilege, which is why it was so much fun to see him being sweet and considerate all day. I suspect that he and Sonny were both following “do what you wanna” with the result that, when Davis lets his guard down, he acts out his inner angel while an uninhibited Sonny is frightening to behold.


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