NOLA Memories by Urania Mylonas
Wed, Feb 16, 2005:
The prospect of performing in four parades, each averaging about 4.5 miles, seemed daunting, to say the least. My fellow Colorguard/Pleasure Society co-horts, Sandra on hoops, Jean and Wendy Subzero dancing and doing acrobatics, and Veronica and me on baton, came up with choreography and different "walks," we could use for the duration of the parades. This was a lot of freaking exercise! But I was also wondering how on earth the band could play, and play well, for that long. But play they did. They don't call HMB the hardest working marching band in the, er, marching band world for nothing.
The first parade, Krewe of Excalibur, was in a town called Metairie. Metairie is the largest suburb of the Greater New Orleans Metropolitan area. The name comes from a French language term for a tenant farm which paid the landlord with a share of the produce ( sharecropping ), as this was the main activity of the area in the early 19th century. As my friend, a Louisiana native, said, "I try not to tell people I'm from Metairie."
But Metairie wasn't that bad! As a matter of fact, they loved the HMB. Despite it being a wicked cold night, we bravely marched, danced and played through the streets of Metairie, pausing to drink in the adulation from the crowds. Sandra was working that hoop like no other, and the people loved her. Jean's smile lit up the night and Veronica's baton made the little girls (and boys) on the sidelines dizzy. There were many beautiful moments during this parade, such as when Sandra pointed up to the trees, whose branches sparkled with hundreds of beads, illuminated by the lamposts. It was really breathtaking. Probably the best compliment I've ever heard came from a guy who said, "You guys remind me of a John Waters film." The parade organizers actually called Samantha the next day and invited us to do another parade, but we were already booked.
The next day brought us Uptown to Le Krewe d'Etat. We got really good beads at this one. There was an illuminated glass block engraved with the Krewe d'Etat logo. Again, we were received warmly, and we played, danced and flirted with the crowds. At one point, the band played Blue Pepper and we broke into our choreography, done up by the divine Miss Veronica. Wendy Subzero did some daredevel acrobatics and we dubbed her our "Ninja Colorguard." It was a huge hit. The song, the dancing, everything. The band was playing really well. So well that even the silence smiled! What a night!
Our third parade was Krewe of Tucks, also Uptown. There is a kind of quiet beauty about a parade whose theme is the toilet. I especially loved the beads with the monk holding a plunger. I actually gave my first set of those beads to a child whose mother thanked my profusely as tears welled up in her eyes. I did manage to get another set towards, the er, end.
I forget which night we did the Hi-Ho Lounge gig (saturday or sunday). In any case, it was great! The Hi-Ho is a colorful, grungy place that reminded me of Rubulad. There were amazing Cirkus kids there and some familiar faces from the End of the World Circus, including the formidable Pierre Pressure. The HMB rocked hard that night, and my friend, Michael Deas, a saint in the Church of Stop Shopping, and fabulous NOLA artist, was blown away by the band. "You guys have incredible stage presence," he said. Neither Veronica or I brought our batons that night, but we managed to find a pipe in the street and we gave informal baton twirling lessons and a brief show. I know we taught some folks to twirl that night, even though our baton wasn't "regulation."
The last parade on our "work" list was Krewe of Thoth, the longest parade in our schedule, at a whopping six miles! Panorama Marching Band was also in this parade, and they sounded great. One of our hosts, Ben Schenk, is in Panorama, as was Patrick. I believe it was at this parade that John "The Bone" Barker discovered the "four drinks for four dollars" special at the bar on the corner of Magazine and Napolean. This was an enormous help to us all, as we were in dire need of hydration. "Why can't they have bars like this on EVERY corner?" Barker was heard lamenting in between sips of Kamikazes.
The next day found us at the Krewe du Poux parade, an unpermitted, raucous parade filled with crazy Cirkus kids. Sandra and I almost didn't make it to this one because we couldn't get past Canal street to our hotel. She and I had been helping our friend Michael build his "Johnny Carson in Heaven" costume and had lost track of time. Michael saved the day by lending Sandra a gorgeous pirate shirt, vest and belt, and we transformed her into a gorgeous, goth pirate. That night there was an eerie mist in the streets and if you looked behind you, the band was coming out of the mist, kind of like that movie "The Fog," only without the homicidal pirates. We wound up at the Dragon's Den, where the HMB played for a bit. At one point, a cop on a motorcycle barreled through, got off his bike, ran after someone, spun them around, and then got back onto his bike. I leave this here for your perusal, as I cannot explain it. Afterwards we wished our friend Doris a very happy birthday and went upstairs to hear the great band Radio Fantastique. We ended the evening at the wonderful Cafe Brazil, owned by the mysterious Adeh. The As Is Orchestra was playing that night, and I've never danced quite so feverishly.
Mardis Gras day found the HMB at the Societe of St. Anne parade, a colorful, over the top affair filled with gorgeous people. My friend Donald told me "Whatever you do, you absolutely must go to the St. Anne parade." Donald is a member of the Radical Fairies. I loved the costumes in this parade. There was Dick Cheney in prison garb, beautiful carnival girls, an ethereal jellyfish, and more. Johnny Carson was even floating among the crowds! We made our way through the French Quarter, drunk on the colorfully costumed crowds around us, and they were drunk on us! "I love you HMB," someone called out.
We will definitely be back.