Mardi Gras was wet this year. And cold. Everyone I know looked at the weather forecasts the night of Lundi Gras and said "there go MY costume plans." It was an eerie, sad feeling as we went to bed on Lundi Gras (well, those of us who went to bed) dreading the following day.
I had planned to get up early and go see Zulu, a parade which rolls through the Treme and Central City on Mardi Gras morning. Zulu celebrates Bback culture, and their prized throws are hand decorated coconuts. But when I woke up at 7 a.m., and heard the patter of rain outside, the loud patter of relentless rain, I went back to sleep. Bad plan, as it turns out. The rain kept a lot of people in bed: Zulu rolled as planned, and while most years the majority of spectators go home coconutless, because so few people showed this year, everyone there got a coconut. My friend Natalie got eight coconuts. Eight!
By noon my girlfriend and I decided to wade down to the Marigny and see what was going on. Lauren was planning on a mostly naked costume, and of course that was not a great idea in forty-degree weather. But she came up with some great make-up, put on her purple wig, and off we went.
To our pleasant surprise, the rain did not stop Mardi Gras. The place was not as crowded as on sunny years, but people were there, having fun. I decided this would be a good opportunity to look at how Mardi Gras usually goes in the Marigny and the French Quarter, and how it went on rainy Mardi Gras 2014...
As we usually do, we followed the crowds (such as they were) along Royal Street, from the Marigny, to Frenchmen Street.
Above and below, the walk from the Marigny to Frenchmen last year, the way it usually looks...
MG 2014. Fewer people, and those there carrying raincoats and umbrellas, but people arrived just the same.
Usually dance parties erupt at every corner of Frenchmen Street on Mardi Gras. Brass bands play, or people bring wheeled, home made, ornate rolling stereos systems. Costumed revelers gather at each corner to dance, drink and party.
Above and below, dance parties last year at sunny Mardi Gras 2013. Burlesque celebrity Ginger Schweikert (with balloons) enjoys the MG revels, dancing to a brass band.
This year, when we got to Frenchmen, there were no crowds dancing. People in costumes strolled down the street, or gathered beneath balcony overhangs (which line most of Frenchmen Street). Cars were able to drive up the street, something that never happens on sunny MG. I shot some of the colorful revelers along rainy Frenchmen:
Most people who visit New Orleans on Mardi Gras, or see it only in the news, are not aware of how locals celebrate. For instance, locals NEVER go to Bourbon Street on MG: that's for the tourists. Last year, when I posted my photos of MG on my personal blog (here), I received this comment: "Thank you. I had never been interested in experiencing Mardi Gras before. Drinking and flashing boobs? Meh. But Art and Music??!? *Now* I'm interested. Every one of these individuals was a walking art expression."
Art and music, dancing and friendships, (and drinking), even in the rain, is the way locals do Mardi Gras. A walk down Frenchmen Street is all you need to see that!
Costumed revelers stay semi-dry by partying beneath the balcony overhangs that line Frenchmen Street.
Because of the rain, people sought out bars and clubs along Frenchmen. I'm sure the bars made a lot more on this rainy MG than they do on sunny Mardi Gras! Lauren and I needed coffee, and we joined our friend Anna in a very crowded Mona's, our local Mediterranean restaurant.
To one side of our table were mustachioed women...
To the other, a woman who proudly displayed the coconut she'd been thrown at Zulu.
Why didn't I wake up?
Bars along Frenchmen Street thrive on Mardi Gras. Above, street-facing MG liquor sales at Maison, a club on Frenchmen: below, crowds enter Maison to dance to a brass band.
As I do each year, I strolled down Frenchmen to Decatur, and up Decatur to the French Quarter.
I kept running into this colorful bunch all the way along Decatur. They were headed to Sydney's, a local liquor store, and probably the cheapest liquor in town. This is a good way to travel on Mardi Gras, by the way.
When I got to Decatur, I finally found a dance party! Saint Anne's parade, which rolls from the Marigny to the French Quarter, had reached the end of its route and simply devolved into a brass band party. My band mate and friend, Paul Edmonds, who plays bass for me, played drums with the band.
Paul Edmonds is the drummer in Saints gear. He put the fanatical in Saints fan.
Musicians for Saint Anne's play weird home made brass instruments, which they play with the Krewe De Suess parade band, who march with Krewe DeLusion.
I mentioned that locals never go to Bourbon Street on MG. That's for tourists... Bourbon is a mess on Mardi Gras! Women flash their boobs (locals who do mostly naked costumes treat nudity in a much healthier, sex positive way, in my experience), men flash their whatever, born-again Christian evangelists scream into bull horns to save tourist's souls. Who needs that?! So I have this guilty pleasure: every year I play a little game with myself on Mardi Gras. I dare myself to last ten minutes on Bourbon Street. Just ten minutes...
A local Unicorn in a revealing costume, MG 2012: in my opinion, beautiful, classy and sex-positive: this is how locals treat revealing costumes.
That's my dare. Just ten minutes on Bourbon Street. I have never made it the full ten minutes.
We now return to your regularly scheduled locals Mardi Gras, already in progress...
My friend and one-time housemate, Burlesque artist Ruby Rage, (in gold hat) was on Frenchmen Street with her boyfriend Jack and some other burlesque girls.
When I returned to Frenchmen Street in late afternoon, despite the rain, dance parties had begun to gather on street corners, dancing to rolling sound machines.
On my way home I ran into my friend, drummer Boyanna Treyanova. We talked about the rainy weather, and she commented, "We'll talk about this day for years! Everyone will say 'remember when it rained on Mardi Gras?'" She's right. Soggy as it was, this will be a Mardi Gras to remember: the day everyone at Zulu got a coconut (why didn't I wake up??), the day Saint Anne's became a dance party in the rain, and the day we all did Mardi Gras despite what the Gods had to throw at us.
All photos by Kenny Klein. To see all of the 90 or so pictures I shot at soggy Mardi Gras 2014, look at my blog here
To see my coverage of last year's sunny, dry Mardi Gras, look here
Visit my web site anytime, kennyklein.net. . .
As I was about to leave Frenchmen Street, I ran into this Australian couple, in New Orleans for the first time. He had proposed to her on their trip here. What a way to spend a proposal honeymoon!