Thursday, July 29, 2010
The Rock and Roll Hotel hosts a very special Benefit for the Restoration of the Gulf Coast this evening. "Heal, Baby, Heal" boasts the talents of Typefighter, Drop Electric, DJ Smudge, and Laughing Man in an effort to raise some much needed cash for those affected by the disastrous BP oil spill in the region.
DC's independent record stores have also risen to the occasion, donating a myriad of store credits redeemable by a few very lucky raffle winners. We'd like to thank Som Records, Crooked Beat Records, and Red Onion Records and Books for their generous support of this very worthwhile cause and event.
Event organizers Lisa Reed and Ian Graham spent a bit of time in Louisiana post-spill and have taken the time to give us a first-hand account of the region in advance of tonight's benefit. —Ed.
Ian and I had been planning to visit my family on the Mississippi for the 4th of July before any of this happened (they live about a quarter mile from the beach). So following the oil spill it was decent timing for us to go down there so we could really get a sense of the gravity of the situation. Also, Ian hadn’t been to the Deep South since before he could remember. So boiled crab legs and New Orleans jazz were definitely in order for him.
We weren’t sure what to expect. I had heard that my family had suffered some headaches since the spill, depending on the ocean wind that day. There had also been dead dolphins washing up on islands, like Ship Island, a childhood vacation area for me. They had ceased fishing in the area about a couple days before we got there, so the coast was just starting to feel the real economic impact of the situation.
This is right before we rode "The Orbiter." Afterwards, Ian thought he might die. Even later, after more rides, he thought he did.
What hit us when we first got there were the clean-up areas and campgrounds set up along the main interstate next to the beach. So there were clean-up crews in orange vests on one side of the road, and on the other side there were still slabs of concrete from the houses that had been washed away from Katrina, and a decent amount of reconstruction going on.
This is still difficult to see when I go back to visit, as I had the initial misfortune of moving to Long Beach, Miss., about two weeks before Katrina in 2005. I went to one day of classes at the University of Southern Mississippi. They canceled next day’s schedule because of the impending hurricane, so I went out that night to a bar called the Firedog followed by the Waffle House. I stumbled in during the wee hours of the morning to find my mom packing two guinea pigs, a rabbit, cat and dog into the back of our Volvo station wagon. Once we returned from evacuation, both the bar and the Waffle House had washed away. I had been working at a bar/wings place/car wash (yes, those places do exist), and the car wash had completely blown away. The school that I had been to was in shambles, so I stayed for a couple weeks more before I moved an hour and a half north to go to USM in Hattiesburg.
Jazz! In New Orleans!
It’s very relevant to bring up Hurricane Katrina, because it’s just another factor that has contributed to the more heightened economic situation down south during the recession, which we can expect to see get far worse in coming days. But the people’s spirits still have proven resilient and hopeful, as they have been pushing through hard to get past the challenges presented by the hurricane, even to this day.
However, despite the oil spill, we had no problem finding entertainment:
Bay St. Louis Crab Fest: My father told me they were still able to do fishing from Lake Pontchartrain, La., when we got there (it became contaminated later in July). So the city had stocked up on an awesome amount of crabs. Ian killed some crab legs with my dad. He’s a natural. (Ian: The beer helped. If you get a chance, try Lazy Magnolia on a sunny summer day. It also helps if you have fresh boiled crabs to eat with it.)
Ian and Jay (Lisa's dad) shuck crabs at the Bay St Louis Crab Festival
Gulfport Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo: This is the fishing event for 4th of July weekend on the Mississippi coast - a big deal, with the fishing competition, bands, and carnival rides. Unfortunately, this year the rodeo competition had been reduced from a tent full of huge fish to a couple of tables. Most of the divisions had been canceled, due to the oil. Even with the sad situation, we went and looked at the fish they had, and one of the fisherman was picking up different catches and showing them to us. The large mouth bass scared me. We went on three carnival rides in a half hour, Ian got sick from them. (Ian: I had been drinking all day, I was dehyrdated, I was about to pass out.) Ok, dehydration …and the Gravitron. We never made it to the Tilt-a-Whirl, unfortunately.
Lisa shucked the day away too
New Orleans, Lousiana: I was really excited to take Ian here, as it’s such a beautiful, colorful, interesting city. Unfortunately, destruction by Katrina is still highly visible, especially in the poorer areas of town. (Ian: It looked like a war zone. There were entire commercial and industrial complexes that were simply abandoned.) First we stopped at the Redfish Grill on Bourbon Street. This place is serious with their seafood. (Ian: I ate way too much, but I couldn’t stop. Alligator gumbo is amazing.)
We stopped in Preservation jazz club for a set, then headed over to Pat O’s. After an hour in the piano bar, we decided karaoke at the Cat’s Meow was a good idea. By my 4th Hurricane and 6th drink, Run DMC sounded like a good performance pick for me and Ian. (Ian: We didn’t know any of the lyrics, just the chorus. It was a trainwreck.). After wowing the crowd (from our memory), we headed out and I forgot I had a purse, and haven’t seen it since (Ian: Eff you, guy in Chicago, or Atlanta, or wherever it was you said you were from. You’re a jerk.). The next time I’ll take Ian to some other great spots in NOLA. There is so much more to New Orleans and the New Orleans people than Bourbon Street. It only seemed right to make Ian witness it once.
All in all, our trip was very bittersweet for me. It’s hard to see a place I’m so attached to getting hit with one misfortune after another. With the case of Hurricane Katrina, it came and went within several hours. With the oil spill, the damage is going to continue until there is no more oil in the water. What’s also very damaging to the Gulf Coast in general is the halt in the tourist industry. Even before it was unsafe to eat the food there, business had slowed a great deal. I’ve never liked the casinos in Mississippi, but right now I think they are one of the stronger points of the Gulf’s economy.
Floating construction platforms are building a new bridge across Lake Pontchartrain in Louisiana. The previous bridge (seen in the picture) was covered in water and heavily damaged during Hurricane Katrina.
When people ask how they can help, I might encourage them to visit the coast, contribute to the economy, get to know the awesome people there, and bring back stories.
I just hope that people realize we need their support in the south right now. Forget about the politics, forget about the finger pointing – because nothing’s getting better while we do that. Continue to put pressure on the government and BP to fix this sickening mess, but put more effort in opening your hearts and lending a hand to a part of our country that has contributed so much culturally to this country, like, I don’t know… rock ‘n roll…
“That Mississippi sound, that Delta sound is in them old records. You can hear it all the way through.” —Muddy Waters
Posted by Jon at 10:24 AM