Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Mardi Gras At 18th And Vine!

PLBB in a pre-Mardi Gras rehearsal at the Paul Mesner Puppet Studio

I go back and forth on what I think heaven will be like. Sometimes I think it will be a family reunion, a gathering of loved ones just talking and sharing and laughing without end. Sometimes I think it will be a road trip, like our trip through the southwest last summer. Hours of beautiful scenery on mostly deserted highways. Peaceful and carefree. But last night, I was convinced that heaven was a carnival, as in Mardi Gras carnival.

I went to the Mardi Gras festivities on 18th street, and I had the Time Of My Life. That's when I knew--this is what I'll be doing in the great hereafter.

The whole thing started a little after 9:30, when a lively parade that had been making its way down 18th street from Y J's Snack Bar arrived at the Blue Room, immediately followed by a dancing party, both inside and outside the Blue Room. Revelry ensued. I danced and danced and danced and danced and danced.

For those who might think my enthusiasm was spurred on with the help of some spirit friends, I'll have you know I didn't touch a drop of alcohol or any other mood-altering substances. (Though the air did smell funny now and again and I confess I did breathe in extra hard at those times to see if I could coattail a little second-hand buzz. I couldn't.) No, it was just the music, the costumes, the crowd, and the general joy of partying one's ass off.

As I danced and shimmied and whooped, I knew - This! is what I was meant for. And I realized something. That story Laura always tells about being left in the wood pile by gypsies? WRONG. That was me! I was the one who had been left. It just wasn't as obvious, because I am by nature a shy and introverted type. But within me burbles a free spirit so deep it can only be genetic. And when it rises to the surface, there is no stopping it. It's like letting a genie out of the bottle.

With all due respect to my parents, or that is, those two people who have pretended to be my parents all these years, it is clear to me now that things would have worked out better if I had been taken in by hippies. Then I would have been living the bohemian life that is my birthright, and it would have been an easy transition from the poetry-and-bongos collective of my childhood to a successful career as an avante-garde performing and visual artist. But instead, I was completely removed from my element and raised in a small, midwestern farming community with strong German-Catholic overtones. Oh, the humanity.

While I was revelrying last night, Roger was playing cowbell. He was with the People's Liberation Big Band Mobile Tactical Unit, a specialized subset of the band prepared for swift infiltration of bars and street corners.

 As the crowd danced to another band already staked out in the Blue Room, there came a noise from the entrance, growing steadily louder. Turning our heads, we could see the PLBB Mobile Tactical Unit banner raised high, pushing its way into the room, followed by a string of PLBB musicians, who were blowing on horns and banging drums. The PLBB Mobile Tactical Unit interrupted the other band, and then after only a few seconds of confusion, the two bands began playing together.

The video above shows the PLBB Mobile Tactical Unit rehearsing one of the tunes, "Fat Man," at the Paul Mesner Puppet Studio, which is their rehearsal space. As a rehearsal clip, it does not adequately convey the power or magic of the music when it is pounding your chest from two feet away, and you are swaying in a crowd of be-jeweled, be-tassled, face-painted freaks. But at least you get a little taste. You can see Roger playing cowbell in this video. The leader of the band, Brad Cox, can be seen playing tambourine.

And though you can't see them clearly, I like to point out that those colored objects on the wall in the room are actually puppets.       

For a bigger screen of the video, here's the link to the website:

Fat Man:


  1. That was one heck of a party. I wonder where those people are and where we can find them again.

  2. uh -no. you are not going to try to horn in and USURP my birthrite. USURP i say!! because GYPSIES do not have blue eyes. so you just go on and dream your gypsy dreams. i have the blood coursing through my veins. and that is all.

  3. You always do cool things. You didn't tell me you went to the ballet too. I probably didn't give you a chance :( . Was this the band you saw?

  4. Yes, this is the People's Liberation Big Band Mobile Tactical Unit. Which means, for example, that Roger just played cow bell, since you can't push a piano down the street. They marched into the Blue Room, then they played with the other band already there, THEN they went outside and played in the street for another 30 minutes or so. It was awesome.