As I mentioned a few weeks ago, one of the most delightful things about this city is how all of the people decorate their houses in various forms of self expression. Well, apparently the city has a burgeoning population of tree people. I spotted them a few weeks apart, both Uptown.
Last Saturday, some friends and went down to Frenchman St. In addition to some of the usual stops for good music (Spotted Cat, Three Muses, Cafe Negril) we saw a performance by the Sweet Street Symphony on the street. I can’t find too much about them on the internet, but their sounds is a raucous mix of roots, jazz and folks. I would recommend them to any fans of the Squirrel Nut Zippers.
A song or two in, a woman on a tambourine walked up and took over the show. She played along with the band, joining in on some of the lyrics of the traditional songs. Her energy was electric–it was impossible to keep your eyes off of her.
My friend whispered to me, “I think that’s Ms. Rosie, this woman who just goes around and plays tambourine randomly with musicians.” “How New Orleanian,” I thought to myself. I found an article about her in the Gambit, from 2008, and while it doesn’t say that she crashes shows without being invited, it did mention that she used to play with all the acts in the Gospel tent at Jazz Fest, but “her flair and enthusiasm actually got her kicked out.” Apparently she was stealing the attention!
Throughout the rest of Sweet Street Symphony’s performance, I studied the tension between Ms. Rosie and the band. Did they want her to go away? The band was trying to get the audience to sing along, but we couldn’t here her over Ms. Rosie’s tambourine. I wondered if the crowd lingered because of her presence. Ms. Rosie was pulling people from the crowd and giving them the tambourine, or inviting them slap it on her bottom.The woman on washboard was giving Ms. Rosie a look, but was it a glare? Or a curious gaze? It was hard to tell.
All in all, it made me smile. I discovered two very different New Orleans talents and had an “Only in New Orleans,” moment.
Here is a clip I found of Ms. Rosie. It’s better than the one I shot on Frenchman.
Today is the official start of the Saints regular season. As I’ve written before, New Orleanians are very into their Saints. This expression of love comes in many forms. Bumper stickers, tshirts, songs… and cupcakes? I never thought I’d be turned off by a baked good, but there’s something about black and gold that does not translate to vanilla frosting. At two different grocery stores I’ve photographed Saints cupcakes, but I bet there are more around the city! The “black” icing makes the cupcakes look dusty, and the “gold” looks more like old milk. A friend suggested that New Orleans grocery stores use vanilla frosting with black and gold sprinkles for a more appetizing treat.
Black and Gold to the Superbowl. Black and Gold to the grocery store? No.
After six years away from New Orleans, I’m moving back. I’m eager to be part of the community–a community that seems to prioritize relationships and quality of life. As soon as I switch my driver’s license, sign a lease and register to vote, I’ll kind of be a resident in the city.
But that won’t make me a New Orleanian—at least in the eyes of those claim that title.
I hope to use this blog as a place to explore city identity and digest my experiences rediscovering New Orleans. What does it mean to be a New Orleanian? And how do you become a New Orleanian?
I’m kind of new to the city… but I’m kind of not.