Sunday, February 26, 2006

Drums outside, must be Mardi Gras

The sound of drums, cymbals and horns brought me and most of my neighbors out of our houses Saturday afternoon as the 9th Ward Marching Band passed down Royal Street in the Bywater.

I'd heard about the band for years, but this was my first chance to see it.

Made up of 65 locals (all adults), the band reflects the eccentric, eclectic and Bohemian nature of the neighborhood.

The 10-year-old group (their web site here) includes such local icons as inventor/organist and band director Mr. Quintron, his puppeteer sidekick and "gun girl" Miss Pussycat and various other members know by such aliases as MC Trachiotomy, Kid Calculator and The Black Dwarf, along with a group of former Rummel High School horn players who add a higher level of credibility to the seemingly haphazard emsemble.

The band's repetoire for Mardi Gras 2006 includes "Love is Like Oxygen," "House of the Rising Sun," and an appropriately timed version of the Scorpion's 80's headbanger classic "Rock You like a Hurricane."

The members managed to rehearse three times a week for the last two months even though many of them were dealing with homes that were destroyed or damaged by Katrina. The group's web site features a photo of Miss Pussycat lovingly drying drenched band uniforms in the back of the group's "lodge" a few days after the storm.

Neighborhood groups such as this one are common for Mardi Gras. It's one of the elements of the celebration that gets missed by most visitors who spend the holiday fighting thick crowds in the French Quarter and along Canal Street.

You can catch the 9th Ward Marching Band on Lundi Gras (Monday) in the Krewe of Proteus parade which rolls Uptown (route map) starting at 5:15 p.m. Watch for the band's "Team Gong" which gets struck only a few times during a parade.

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