The 101 Runners, ostensibly the world’s only current and costumed Mardi Gras Indian band, played at legendary club Tipitina’s a couple nights before the High Holy New Orleans Holiday. Under the majestic portrait of Professor Longhair onstage, they commenced to playin’ bout sewing costumes and meeting rival spyboys in the street.
101 Runners at Tip’s … The sound? Somewhere between North Mississippi trance blues and the celebratory chanting of freed slaves honoring their intrepid Native American swamp-guides with Creole rhythms and call-and-response repetition. Nothing like it on Earth
Read a detailed history of the influence of Mardi Gras Indians on New Orleans musical culture here. Fun fact: “Iko Iko” is the world’s most recognizable song written in and for Mardi Gras Indian culture. And if you’ve ever listened to the Meters, you already know what Indian rhythms sound like after a generous helping of rum and marijuana (one supposes).
Mardi Gras morning, by 6am, it’s on and cooking. Those of us who New Orleans Bounced until the wee hours and THEN took someone to the airport just had to suck it up, park on the rumored corner of Indian activity, and sneak a 5-minute nap, until …
“COME OUT COME OUT COME OUT!” … wha? is somebody already drunk, yelling in the street? … No, it’s THIS GUY
The first confrontation. Or maybe it was a greeting. They seemed to be in the same tribe. Or affiliated. Dunno; we hadn’t found coffee yet
You know you’ve got a fantabulous costume on your hands when it takes up more than one folding table
It’s interesting to note that a common defense mechanism, within the wild kingdom of animals and people, is to make oneself appear HUGE, with special flair
Big Queen, mouthy and beautiful, reigns from the stoop
After some traditional Indian songs and accompaniment, we were off through the streets, looking for other tribes. We found one
“Waaah! I’m the spyboy they talk about!” … “I’m brand new, I’m brand new. Lookout, I’m brand new.” (Etc. Posturing, which did NOT lead to any violence. Mess up dem feathers? F dat.)
here’s where we, as outsiders, start to see how hard it is to capture the action with all dem feathers in da way
Marrrrrrrrrdi gras. sorry, couldn’t resist
Click over to this Youtube that also does its best at trying to trap the essence of a wild street gathering of proud outcasts in double-door-sized costumes. Really tho, you just gotta be there.
everybody’s into it
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